Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)
TITLE: Tuesdays as Scheduled
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Grace’s golden lab followed her down the stairs and waited patiently for her to feed poplar shards into the embers of the wood stove’s empty belly. In this weather, the stove was the first to eat.
Toby briefly nuzzled at her breast and licked her neck before he begged to be let out to attend to his own morning routine. Grace retied her thermal knit robe, pressing it into the contours of her cooled body. She shuffled to the kitchen and poured a cup of steaming coffee. She said a silent “thank you” to the husband who prepared it for the wife who was not a morning person.
She entered the sun room which was not living up to its name. She set her coffee down and snuggled into the cushions of the overstuffed sofa, letting her terrycloth slippers fall to the carpet. She opened her day-timer to figure out if she had the minutes to prepare a meal for Mrs. Gordon. The church secretary had e-mailed her last night because the eighty-three year old widow had tripped and sprained her ankle and because no one makes chicken like you, Grace.
Tuesdays were busy. This was when she scheduled appointments which allowed Mondays to getting her toes wet in the week. Today, she had to take the car in for an oil change at ten before meeting her husband for lunch at twelve. At six she would be teaching an class from her home. Did that give her enough time to make and deliver rosemary chicken, mashed potatoes and a salad to Mrs. Gordon? Mrs. Gordon was a talker.
Grace decided that indeed, she had time—she would make the time and she would firmly (but kindly) tell Mrs. Gordon she couldn’t stay to visit.
Grace felt her face frowning.
Sometimes she resented being expected to volunteer because she wasn’t employed. “Ask Grace to do it!—she won’t mind,” or, “Grace, you do it—you’re so good at that kind of thing.” The patronizing tones rankled her spirit. She put down her calendar and picked up her coffee, cupping it between her hands. Over the years, she had shed a fair number of tears on the broad shoulders of a bewildered husband.
She rose from the couch (the caffeine having done its job) and resolutely began that which would see her to the successful completion of her tasks.
Grace looked at her watch; it was just past five thirty and she had about a seven minute drive. She picked up the box packed with Mrs. Gordon’s dinner. She would have to hurry. The phone rang. Of course the phone would have to ring now. She scooted the box back on the counter and answered on the third ring.
“Hello, Mrs. Sandling?”
“Yes, this is she.” Grace could not place the voice. She watched Toby snuggle closer to the woodstove. She shivered.
“This is Dr. Stevens.”
“Mrs. Sandling, I have the results of your annual mammogram, and there is a shadow present indicating there we need to look further.”
Grace made the appointment for the following Tuesday. She slid the box in the passenger side of her Ford and drove to Mrs. Gordon’s thinking of her mother and grandmother and aunt—and now her.
Mrs. Gordon called, “Come on in.” before Grace knocked. She balanced the box on her hip and opened the squeaky door of a 1950’s salt box house. Mrs. Gordon’s slim figure was reclining in a worn checkered chair next to a radiating space heater. Her silver hair was pulled back softly in a low bun. “Thank you so much, Grace. I surely do appreciate your taking the time to do bring me something to eat.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. . . I just wish I could stay, but I can’t.”
“I understand—life’s so busy these days. You just get going to where you need to be off to.” Mrs. Gordon looked up into her face and reached out to squeeze Grace’s hand. “How are you doin’? Everything okay?”
Driving home over an hour later, she felt for the first time that her servant’s heart was a gift from God, instead of a gift to Him. And for all the talking in which Mrs. Gordon excelled, she also managed to be a compassionate listener and hearty embracer.
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