Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mrs. Davenport

While I was in college I worked several jobs so I could have some spending money.  I waited tables at a pizza joint next to campus.  I helped my brother clean a dentist office an evening or two a week.  I worked for Mr. and Mrs. Prevost, a socially prominent couple in Greenville, South Carolina.  Mr. Prevost had earned his fortune in real estate, and I cleaned their house, maintained their yard, polished silver, and decorated their Christmas tree every year.  I also worked at their daughter’s home on Saturdays, maintaining her yard, which was usually good for about five hours of work.  One of my most memorable jobs though was taking care of Mrs. Davenport.

I don’t know exactly how old she was, but I think she was probably in her 80’s.  She was a widow and lived alone in a nice little house in Greenville.  She had been quite the socialite in her day.  She was prim and proper, and always very polite.  But she was losing her eyesight, and that was a source of great frustration for her.  I would go to her house once a week and drive her to the beauty salon so she could get her hair done.  While she was there, I would take her linens to the cleaners and pick up a fresh set.  I would go back to her house and clean, then go pick her up from her hair appointment and take her back home.  She would always want me to sit and talk with her awhile.  She would tell me the same stories every week about her young adult grandchildren as though I knew them.  She loved her granddaughter, who was a student at Clemson, but she was afraid that she was partying too much.  Sometimes she would pick up a book or a Bible and try to read, but would become frustrated, so I would read to her for a little bit.

She loved to talk about the Clemson Tigers.  Her knowledge of football was limited, but she always seemed to know what was going on.  It was funny to hear this little sweet lady talk about those “damn Gamecocks”, but she was a die hard Clemson fan.  She always wanted to know about my sweet Cheri.  She would say “What’s her name?  Cherry?  Cheryl?”  I would remind her it was Cheri.  She would then confirm that was right, and tell me she knew that.  Then she would lament the fact that she was losing her memory, and tell me how proud she was to be in “high society” in her younger days.  She would say, “Oh, you should have seen my husband and me back then!”

When it was time to leave, she would always pay me for more time than I worked, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  Then she would ask me when I was coming back, and I would remind her that I would be there the next week.  That always made her happy.

When I graduated, I handed the job over to a friend, a grad student who lived in town.  I’m sure she took great care of her.  It’s funny how often I remember her even now.  She was a special lady, and it was a joy to be her companion and helper.

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