UNITED STATES—Agnes had the idea that we could share the apartment. We could get cable TV and it wouldn’t be so lonely, and she could bring her furniture. She had nice furniture, fruitwood. It reminded me of Rancho Grande where we liked to go on margarita Fridays.

“It will be fun,” Agnes said.

It was fun for a while, and then quickly it wasn’t. The first three months went fine, but it went real bad soon.

Agnes was a lab technician, so she had a good job. But she started getting migraine headaches and lower back pain. She started having it more and more. And one morning, her face was all pinched together. Just looking at that face you felt her pain. I told her, I said, Agnes, you don’t have to suffer, you know, you can call in and not go into work today.

I told her if she was in pain, she didn’t have to go in. It was like a huge discovery, her whole face lit up. She made the call, passed on the message to a secretary, and breathed a sigh of relief.

That was the start. After that, Agnes started taking muscle relaxers and lay in bed all day. Watching cable TV. She didn’t want to go out. She started getting up late and didn’t change her clothes. In the beginning, she’d shower, get dressed and go out to the living room, but after a while even that stopped.

There were a couple times I got her to go to Taco Bell, which was across the street, but already it was like pulling teeth. She said it feels good to get out. I was encouraged when she said that. I thought she was getting better. One night she had me bring her the TV control and glasses of ice. She was staying in the bedroom now.

I never know anybody who liked ice so much as Agnes. I started keeping big bags of ice in the fridge. The bags hogged all the space. I couldn’t keep any more frozen dinners in there.

Then I started seeing empty bottles around the bottom of the bed. She had me go out and pick her prescriptions up from the pharmacy and then stop by the liquor store. She was taking those muscle relaxers. I said, Agnes, I said you shouldn’t be taking those muscle relaxers and drinking at the same time. You could be taking years off your life.

“I have enough years so I wouldn’t mind if someone took a few off,” she could be funny. And then I felt OK, like maybe I’d been harsh on Agnes.

She wanted me to do her laundry. And I said, Agnes, I’m not your maid. I’m not going to do your laundry. Then I don’t know how it happened. Suddenly, I found myself doing the laundry for her. It was going against what I told her, and that feels ugly, when you say no and mean no, and somebody doesn’t listen.

Pretty soon I found myself going to the fluff & fold around the corner. It made me think twice when I saw what it was costing me in time and money, but Agnes needed clean clothes if she was going to get her life back together. I handed the bag of freshly laundered clothes back to her, putting on a smile that felt real to me.

Right away Agnes scowled at it and said, “You don’t know how to fold shirts. Didn’t your mother teach you ever?”

to be continued…

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Hollywood humorist Grady Miller grew up in the heart of Steinbeck Country on the Central California coast. More Bombeck than Steinbeck, Grady Miller has been compared to T.C. Boyle, Joel Stein, and Voltaire. He briefly attended Columbia University in New York and came to Los Angeles to study filmmaking, but discovered literature instead, in T.C. Boyle’s fiction writing workshop at USC. In addition to A Very Grady Christmas, he has written the humorous diet book, Lighten Up Now: The Grady Diet and the popular humor collection, Late Bloomer (both on Amazon). His humor column, Miller Time, appears weekly in The Canyon News (www.canyon-news.com)