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71 12 ~ Gina Gina reached into the fur-trimmed sleeve of her coat for her tissue, blew her nose again, and lowered her head into the cradle of her arms on the steering wheel. She looked up at the coughing sound of Emily’s engine cutting off. Two decades of working as a nurse, so why was she so walloped by this patient’s death? Sure, she’d been taking care of Max for over a year of chemo. Then there was hospice, with the intense family interactions over the final days of his dying. Like his great-granddaughter from Iowa who wouldn’t leave Max’s bedside for the last week, and wouldn’t stop staring at Gina either. The girl took every small opportunity to touch Gina’s arm or hand, like she had never felt dark skin before. So it was doubly odd how comfortable Gina was with the gathering of Max’s family. They all talked at the same time, their loud voices peppered with Yiddish phrases. They reminded her of her own family back home in Jamaica, their musical patois just as exuberant and chaotic. “Gina?” Emily peered into the window. “What’s wrong?” Gina started snuffling again. “Max died this morning.” “I’m so sorry. Come in.” Settled on the loveseat, Gina listened to the comforting sounds of Emily making tea in the kitchen. She had never seen the sun porch, never been deeper inside Emily’s home than the living room. She could see why Emily would like this cozy cocoon of a room, even if it was a little nippy for Gina’s blood. She adjusted the quilt around her shoulders. “I have to keep an eye out for Zoe’s bus.” Emily put a tray with an earthenware teapot and two mugs on the wobbly table by the window. “Tell me about Max.” Gina felt her eyes start to flood. “What’s to tell? His family was with him. He was comfortable, dozing mostly, but aware. About an hour before he died, he opened his eyes and looked around and said he was ready to go.” 72 ~ House Arrest Emily squeezed Gina’s hand. “And then, damned if he didn’t get this funny look on his dear shriveled face and told us to all listen up. He announced that he was still a dues-paying member of the American Communist Party and proud of it.” Gina made a noise that sounded like half laugh, half choke. “I never knew that. His daughter rolled her eyes, but no one else reacted. Then he closed his eyes and didn’t wake up again.” “You really loved him. I’m glad you could be there.” Gina watched her friend’s long face dissolve into an unfocused expression and wondered what Emily was thinking about. Gina blew her nose again. “Who would have thought I would cry for an old white Jewish guy with hair sprouting out of his ears.” She glanced quickly at Emily, but she didn’t look offended. “A commie, no less.” “You’ve taken care of him a long time.” “That was the only humane thing Marge ever did, to let me continue with him, even when hospice started. Of course, if she had ever noticed how much I liked the guy, she would have changed my assignment just to vex me.” “We’re lucky she’s so clueless.” “It’s crazy, but Max reminds me of my Granny Teisha,” Gina said. It was odd that she had never mentioned Granny to Emily. “She pretty much raised me and my brothers.” “What about your parents?” Emily poured tea into their mugs. “They worked in a resort in Ocho Rios, so we stayed in the village with Granny Teisha. Whenever we left the house, she made us wear thick, ugly sandals cut from old tires. Of course, we immediately took them off, hid them under a bush, and ran off into the woods barefoot.” Gina smiled. “Inevitably, one of us would step on broken glass or a sharp stone in the river, and limp home bleeding. Granny Teisha would bandage our wounds, look up at the heavens and wonder out loud how come the sandal wasn’t cut, just the foot. We kids would laugh and hug her, before running off again. That’s how Max’s family treated him. Ignoring his decrees and loving him to pieces.” Emily sounded wistful. “I wish I’d had brothers or sisters.” “You were...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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