Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Raphaella caught me on my way out this morning and contributed (again) to my lateness at work. What kept me at her door way after when I should have left was the gorgeous, warm, tomato-ey scent wafting by.

"You're not making sauce, are you? Smells like sauce. Gosh it smells good."

"No. Not sauce. I wanted to make pizza but Rosie said she wanted soup, so I'm making lentil soup. You want some? I'll save you some. You have to come over and get it, though." (She drives a hard bargain.)

"Of course I do, and I'll be over tonight. Promise."

Got home at a bit past six and heard the yell out the window: "Get over here!"

Dropped my bag on the grass, hopped over to her patio and let myself in.

"Sit down. You gonna eat with us tonight? Rosie'll be down in a minute."

"Raphaella, I'm tired. They kicked my ass again today. I just want to go to bed."

"Not before you eat," and she started ladling soup into a tupperware. "I warmed it up for you, so eat it before you go to sleep. You go to sleep, then you wake up too late to eat, and you get a stomach ache."

"No, really, I'm tired. I want to sleep first."

"Sleep first? fa'un culo.* Rosie's here, eat with her." The soup went from tupperware to bowl, cheese and bread (pocket bread and Jew'sh bread - pumpernickel, as she calls it) came out.

After dinner, Rosie asked me, "Did Ma tell you what she asked me this morning?"


"Didn't you tell her, Ma? Bev, she wanted to buy a new dress and shoes."

"What's wrong with that?"

"I got up in the middle of the night and decided I better get what I want for when I'm buried now. Jesus Christ knows what the kids'll dress me in." (I snorted.)

"Is there something you should be telling us?"

Rosie sighed. "She was getting more tests back from the quack**, and she thought that this time would be it."

Was really hard to keep from choking, but I held it in. "Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go, so that's good planning on her part. Raphaella: I can only assume you're not gonna want to get buried the dress you're wearing right now, right?"

I pointed to her muu muu, a pretty one with a navy blue background and pink and red flowers. If ever I find myself wearing muu muus, I want one like hers.

"No, 'course not."

"Well, then, get yourself something bang-up and some heels like you wore when you were younger. Oh yeah, and be damn sure you will me your housedress. I love that thing. However, I do get the feeling you're going to be around for a while, as the Good Lord isn't through with tormenting you. I know for damn sure that I'm not. That's why I signed another lease with Luc'. To give you another year of hell. You're not going to deny me that, are you? How fair would it be for you to die off on me now when I have a whole 'nother year to go?"

Raphaella laughed; Rosie just shook her head at us like she usually does.

"Bev, you're gonna get all my clothes, you know. I told the kids."

"Well, good. I need a few old lady dresses, as I'm just about an old lady myself. Do you know what a pani is? That's a Polish old lady. It's what I'm going to be. Someone has to keep up the tradition of harassing the neighbors and getting in everybody's business. Might as well be me."

At that point we were both roaring and Rosie even started to chuckle.

After I got up to leave, Raphaella pulled out a tin with six blueberry muffins. "Here, take one. I made them from the blueberries from Maine." She pulled one out of its cup still warm and wrapped it in a napkin. "Eat it hot, it's better."

"Can I save it for breakfast? I really want to go to bed and dream about it."

"Do what you want: it's a free country."

As I headed out the door, Rosie told me that she was actually going to call me last night because her mom was having a hard time breathing. Just as she was trying to decide between yelling for me and calling 911, stuff got better. I told her to call me whenever she needed to, that I was a light sleeper anyway, and that if anything happened, we'd take care of Raphaella. She patted me on the shoulder and thanked me, calling me the younger sister she never had. I slung my bag over my shoulders, took my breakfast with me and got outside just in time to catch last bits of red peeking out from under Royal Blue.


* This is Raphaella's stock phrase. It means, literally, "do a butt." Figuratively it has a variety of meanings ranging from 'f#ck you' to 'yeah, right.' The Polish equivalent that I use an awful lot is k'dupjasc (pardon the spelling) - a vulgar term to express something like "my aunt Tilly."

** Her doctor's not very good: in the time I've been here, she's been misdiagnosed as having a bunch of different cancers and endocrine disorders...our goal is to convince her to get a referral from one of her specialists for someone else.

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