Sunday, May 15, 2011

In Memory of Ann


fotos taken at Fiesta

I just attended a memorial service for my former co-worker Ann. Her ashes were spread off the pier at her longtime beautiful waterfront residence she shared with a few roommates. The pastor encouraged those in attendance to share personal memories, as a way to heal, and a few people did. However, since I'm not big on public speaking, I thought I would share my memories here instead.

I worked with Ann at RoomStore Furniture. We were among the salespeople. She was an older member of the main clique of 'em and I really wanted her to like me. And I think she did, with one particular memory as evidence. I remember telling Ann that I liked her earrings one day, and maybe it was slow and I saw how they caught the light; I gave her a second compliment on them. With that, she promptly took them off and gave them to me. I protested because in recent memory she forgot to wear earrings one day, so off she went to the dollar store next door and bought a pair just so she didn't have to go without a day. Despite my protest, she insisted I have them. (In my minimalist efforts, I have since donated them. The right decision at the time, but also a shame now...)

She was British (imagine a British accent saying "from Yorkshire" here) and very frank. Most of the time she was a serious woman, but I also remember her laugh, a fit of giggles really. She was fiercely independent and stubbornly took risks despite what anyone else thought and had the subsequent stories ...and I admired her for it.

I only worked there for the year of 2007. That was the height of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and we were only on commission so I eventually left for a job where I actually got paid. We didn't have many customers buying furniture for houses they couldn't really afford, so our team of about a dozen salespeople spent most of many, many days talking and telling jokes. All the jokes I tell (and can't tell!) are from them.

Anyway, Ann had amazing stories. Like at age 20, much to her parents dismay and bewilderment, she ran off to America alone. Every time she returned to England, she rebeled by returning to America. She became a longtime nanny to four children. One day the father asked her to waitress a private formal dinner. Ann agreed. Imagine her surpise when the President of Mexico was one of the guests! A bit nervous, she managed to not mess up the whole meal, until the after dinner coffee when she accidentally spilled a tray full of cups of coffee all over the President! Isn't that quite the story? She also loved Victorian literature. Apparently the protagonists often go on safari. So she too went to Kenya to waitress at a hotel for awhile to be there and have a safari of her own. I would love to have stories like that, something like that anyway!

To further occupy her time at work, she read and solved crossword puzzles. I can still picture her seated at her desk in her gray jacket, glasses down her nose, head bent over a crossword puzzle within her portfolio in her lap. I remember her asking me for the artist Matisse's first name since back then I was in between art history programs. H-E-N-R-I. She would talk about her lovely garden which snaked around the house. Plus her pond that the current residents are keeping up in her honor.

Since I started in January, I heard about "Fiesta" at work for months, until it finally took place later in the summer. By that time, I so wanted to go! I think I've gone a few times since. "Fiesta" is Spanish for "party" and it's called that because Ann's roommate G is Colombian. It's a big party including lots of latinos. This truly is the party of the year! I want to throw a legendary party once  in my life and so far Fiesta is the best example, the best party I've ever attended. It's at that stunningly beautiful waterfront house, in the backyard, between a boat full of wine, beer and Colombian firewater and the regulation bocce ball court. It's a cookout and fun with my hilarious co-workers. I thoroughly enjoy myself. I usually have a designated driver or someone pick me up. Since G is a nurse, she collects medical supplies and donations to benefit the impoverished children of Colombia. In fact, one year admission was a bottle of vitamins. She normally conducts a silent auction of handmade Colombian goods. The best thing being a colorful hammock.

The memorial service was on this very lawn and on the pier. A pastor stood in front of us and spoke. A few people also spoke up. It was fun to hear about Ann's early family life. Even though the temperature was only in the mid-seventies, I felt very warm in the sun in my black outfit and had actually started to black out, I unfortunately was nearly ready to faint when the people surrounding me noticed how pale I was, maybe after I dropped my program. One of the very hospitable roommates let me sit down in the house and gave me some water. I was so angry at myself, that I could not remain standing outside! Hm, oh well... I only missed a reading and a prayer, came back out the minute I stopped sweating profusely. Everyone was asking me if I was okay, which you know is sweet but simply unwanted attention. I do not handle the heat well. I'll be sure to tell my doctor at my next physical. (I have health insurance as of June 1st!) I wonder if, despite having a huge family history of high blood pressure, I suffer from it being too low... I also have to have my car's air conditioning fixed! People could potentially die from heatstroke. Anyway, I was teary throughout. It was small and intimate, so sad, and she was only 68. I remember her turning 65, retirement age, back in 2007 so that was three and a half years ago.

I'll miss you Ann! I'll try and live a life of beauty and adventure too, even if I'm stubborn in the process!

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