I have an elegant tea yesterday, for my receptionist.
She is surviving lung cancer so far. She is diagnosed right as the clinic is closing, February 2020. I go off to work in the next county and get my weird pneumonia in five weeks. She starts chemotherapy.
She is older than me, in her mid to late 70s. She worked in hotels before she came to work with me. She finds medicine pretty weird. People are sick and/or addicted to drugs and/or just coming in for routine checks. You get to know them. It is different from the hotel trade.
She is very very tough and independent. She lived in Alaska for years. Her brother still lives there. B and I both offered to drive her to chemo or radiation, but she did it herself. Her brother came from Alaska for the worst of it. I am glad.
We played music in clinic because the walls were not quite soundproof enough in the exam rooms. One day she plays whale songs from the internet. I overhear her talking to a patient. "Whale songs." she says, "Yes, they are whale songs." Pause. "Well, Dr. O insists on whale songs. You know how employers are." Her voice is confiding, silly employers. I laughed myself silly and then sang along with the whales. When she gets off the phone I threaten to insist on whale songs.
For the tea, I get out the silver and the fine china. I do not feel up to baking gluten free mysteries, so we have tiny dill pickles and olives, sharp cheddar cheese served with the knife presented to my maternal grandfather and engraved, gluten free crackers, and oranges and blueberries in the covered bowl that I have never used before.
She has mango ginger herbal tea. I have jasmine green tea.
We talk and laugh. Her unemployment has run out. She is now living on social security and it is not quite enough. Or just barely is. We still have a little clinic work to do, but not much.
So I ask if she will help format a book of my poems to submit to the local small poetry press. I hate that sort of thing and she could use the money.
Yes, she says, pleased. She can do that.