I’ll never forget the day I moved back to Americus. It was the day before Valentine’s Day, 1989. It was a horrible day.
Well the move went okay. We got everything out of the truck and into the house, without much trouble. The telephone man was right on time, so I could have my private line hooked up the day I moved back. That was imperative. Our friend Darryl scraped his truck on the oak tree by the drive. That was a bummer. But it got fixed when he got back. All in all, the move went okay.
The horrible part was saying goodbye to my babies. Why Valentine’s Day? What god of wisdom told me to move on Valentine’s Day? Not that it really mattered. Any day would have been a bad day to separate from the ones you love. But when you’re as sentimental as we could be, the Valentine’s Day date didn’t help.
Marjorie was staying in our townhouse, in Woodstock, Georgia., until the end of the lease, and I didn’t want her to stay alone. So Tequie, my loyal pup of nine years, went with her. I will always remember seeing them drive away in that big red truck: Marjorie waving, with Tequie in her lap, both looking as if I may never see them again. I cried and cried, then went into the house, and cried and cried … I was probably still crying when they had gotten back to Atlanta, dropped off the truck, had dinner and washed the dishes. It was horrible.
Marjorie called me when she got there, then again before bed. I think we talked most of the night. This was only a precursor of things to come. Ma Bell® was soon to become our biggest creditor and would remain as such for many months to come. The pain in our hearts was so deep! In the four years that we had been together, we had never been apart for more than a few days. We were now facing months apart, and I wondered in my heart if she would really ever join me.
I had purposely not asked Marjorie to join me, believing that it was far too much to ask of her. But she chose to join me. I still find that remarkable.
The phone brought us as close as we could be. Without it, I don’t think either one of us would have made it. But we did.
When I awoke the next morning, the bags under my eyes were almost as heavy as my heart. It was Valentine’s Day, a Tuesday, so Willie would be in shortly. Willie had come to work for GaSara when I was still in diapers. She had become GaSara’s greatest ally, even if Grandma never understood that. And she was, by far, my greatest ally when I was a child and things would get crazy between GaSara and me. I was looking forward to seeing Willie. Gosh, I loved that lady! And I know she loved Marjorie and Tequie. So, I felt as though she would understand some of my sadness, if I talked with her about it. GaSara really didn’t – never did, I thought. As I had imagined, Willie was there, with love and support and understanding.
One would think that on my first day here I would begin to unpack. But, there was no time for that. It would be weeks before that could happen. I had come to help GaSara, and that began on day one.
In all of my life, I have never known any woman as independent and self-sufficient as GaSara always was. The reason I had decided to come back to Americus to help her was that it was becoming increasingly clear that she just wasn’t able to keep up with things, as she always had in the past. Being the most independent, self-reliant, capable, and proud woman I have ever known, it became a commitment, from the start, to help her maintain as much independence and self-control as was possible, for as long as possible. She deserved that. She had earned that. And, as far as she was concerned, she had that and always would.
On that first day there, the priority was her taxes. April 15 was looming. Bless her heart. She had receipts, old checks, check stubs, and other paper work, all over the house. In the living room, she had the card table set-up. What used to be reserved solely for the Bridge games with the girls, was covered with papers, some dating as far back as 1984.
The breakfast room had become a second office, with checks and stubs piled up from three years of bill paying. Old tax forms were there, too. I guessed they were there for comparison. The desk in her bedroom was laden with dividend check stubs and there was page after page of figures she had made, to try and determine her income.
Besides feeling overwhelmed, I felt so proud of her. I was impressed with the way she had worked so hard, to do that which she had done most every year of her life. That is, prepare the information needed for her accountant to do her taxes. As I looked at the figures she had so diligently recorded, I was reminded of the way in which she had always handled her business. Adding machines never could take the place of good figures on paper. I laughed to myself as it occurred to me that I keep my records just the way she always did. To this day, I only use a calculator occasionally, to check my own figures. GaSara was always good with figures, down to the penny.
I was very proud, as I reminisced. But while at the same time my heart was swelling with pride, it was heavy and sad. As I looked through the many pages of figures, I soon realized that not a lot of what I saw made any sense. Well, it made sense, but it was very confusing, at best. In most cases, it was clear to me what she was trying to derive from her figures, but it was also clear that she was just not able to find the answers. There were many pages, filled with the same groups of figures, written over and over again, sometimes carrying the same total and about as often not. My heart sank, as I thought of how relentlessly she must have worked, taxing her brain to its maximum, only to keep coming up with different answers. I could tell that she really could not decide which was the right answer. There were so many.
“Imagine the frustration she must be feeling,” I thought.
Even worse than seeing she was having problems with her figures was the realization that most of the figures she was working with weren’t even relevant. After I had sat down to decide `what was real and what was Memorex®,’ it soon became clear that she had no idea what she needed to prepare her taxes. She had been adding figures from those stubs and records from years back. She had taken the time to total up every check stub she had written over the last two years. She had spent many hours, of many days, desperately trying to do her taxes, the way she had done them for so many years in the past, completely and accurately to the last detail. But this year, she had failed. It broke my heart to see it.
I called her accountant, Judy, to see what she needed for the job. She quickly gave me the information I needed, and then told me she was glad I was here. She told me GaSara had been in her office a dozen times since the first of the year, bringing her papers and asking her questions. She had called even more often. Judy was very kind, and made it clear that she didn’t mind GaSara calling on her. She was quite concerned for GaSara. She was glad I was here. So was I.
The taxes were filed in about two weeks. They could have been handled the day I visited Judy, were it not for two duplicate forms we had to replace because they had been lost.
GaSara told me she thought I was, “smart as a whip.”
“Those damn tax forms are a pain in the ass every year,” I told her. “They ought to give you a tax break just to get them filed right!”
“You’re right about that!” she said.
We laughed, and then she said, “It’s terrible to get old.”
“I’m sorry, GaSara,” I told her. And I truly felt her pain.