It happens often, around the same time and usually on a Sunday night, reminding me that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Placing one’s trash curbside is usually an uneventful experience. So why at times does this mundane task have my heart fluttering and memories flashing across my mind?
It’s because of Edna.
We’d been summer neighbors for seven years prior. But when I arrived lock, stock and barrel, we became bosom buddies.
Edna was sporting 90 when I arrived on Cape Cod with all my wears and woes. Limited family, friends far and wide, and a life, I would slowly discover, that would be changed to unrecognizable proportions.
When summer was on things were good. Streets were filled with life, laughter and seasonal traffic. But when summer was gone it was just Edna and me at the dead end of a street and the dead end of our lives. Hers literally, mine figuratively.
So we bonded. Over award shows’ red carpets, belly laughs, barrels and muffins. Edna loved her muffins. They were a staple in her diet and a constant on her counter. Sometimes we’d share one over afternoon tea and girl talk. Other times Edna would share one as a thank you for some simple task I’d performed.
I’m not sure when it happened but eventually I found myself dragging my weekly waste to the curbside, followed by retrieving Edna’s to do the same. Her barrel was light weight, dark blue and unknowingly about to have a lasting effect on my life.
I tried tending to the trash without disturbing Edna but she often appeared at the garage door beckoning me in for a muffin upon completion of my dirty deed. It wasn’t a tit for tat type thing. It was a private entree Edna and I savored.
I was trash girl and she was muffin lady, mutually agreed upon nicknames. It was the lighter side of a failing memory as “trash girl” was Edna’s way of finding me amidst the fog of dementia.
Edna lived alone yet fearless. She loved her independence but appreciated knowing I was around. So I checked her nightly making sure she was tucked in and locked down. And truth be told, she was doing more for me than I for her.
Four years into our foray found my life moving forward and Edna’s into assisted living. We locked eyes, swallowed hard and bravely held back the threat of tears.
Ninety miles apart but joined at the heart. I would visit her whenever I was in her part of the world and, of course, bring muffins. We would sit and reminisce over the good times, a period Edna captioned “that chapter in my life”, the kind you can never reread.
Sometimes I would arrive unannounced, surprisingly knocking Edna off her walker in the hallways of her new home. Sometimes I’d call with a heads up. This was one of those times. I was planning a Thanksgiving visit and dialed that familiar number to let Edna know I was en route with muffins and memories.
“The number you have dialed . . . is no longer in service.”
I collapsed at the harsh sound of reality. I knew Edna was gone. An online search sent a spear through my soul. Edna had been gone a month.
Flashing memories turned into flashing regrets for how busy I’d become and how sporadic were my visits. I locked eyes in the memory of my mind with “that chapter in my life” but I wasn’t bravely holding back tears. Not this time. My tear-soaked face was the only consolation I had for the empty echo in my heart.
So now when I get that curbside funny feeling I know it’s Edna saying hello. And I retreat into the house, enjoy a muffin and take comfort knowing Edna’s spirit is with me in this “chapter of my life”.