The Untimely Death of Mileva Or Some Things Cannot be Avoided
She had been run down, in the street near the school that she had been wandering around for her entire life. Though one family fed her, all the children at that elementary school loved her. They chased her and pet her and each one knew beyond doubt that they were her actual favorite kid. Though Milevas’ social influence was far reaching, I had surprisingly never heard of her until the day of her untimely demise.
It was my first day working for a new family. Two lawyers who were raising their kids a few blocks from the fated school. I had been to the house once before for a brief interview. Today was two weeks later and I stood waiting for the youngest to come crashing out of the double doors at the end of the hallway that led to his classroom.
It was his birthday. Ty was turning 10. That was all I knew. I did not know if he knew I would be meeting him, or if he was going to be sensitive about a stranger picking him up on his birthday. I was just beginning to wonder if the birthday cake was part of my job expectation when he came out, said a casual Hi and stood to wait with me for his sister Tara to get off the bus from middle school.
Once she did, the three of us walked toward their house. I prayed on that walk that my future work would not leave my future kids with a stranger for their birthdays. The kids were easy, they talked about sports and showed me a synchronized dance they had created for times when they had to pee really really super extra bad.
We had not been in the house for more than five minutes when the house phone went off. Tara had it picked up before the end of the first ring as any self respecting, almost teen, would. “Oh No!” she exclaimed. “That’s awful!” she sent wide eyed looks back and forth between Ty and I. “What can I do?….. 4 o clock….yeah we will be there…..okay….oh hang in there….bye.”
“Oh my God Ty! That was Lindsay. Mileva is dead!”
“I know that Tara,” Ty rolled his eyes. “Everyone at school knew, it happened this morning.”
“Well,” said Tara as she showed me where Ty had learned his eye roll from, “Lindsay didn’t know. Her family didn’t want her to be upset at school so they waited for her to come home!”
I quickly learned that Mileva was a famous cat. The school considered her theirs though she ate and came in at night with Lindsay and her Dad. Lindsay’s small family was having a service for the cat at 4 pm in the garden of the school. That was ten minutes from now. I remembered how insistent their Mom had been about me enforcing their homework schedule….but this was serious. How often was Mileva Maric run down in your neighborhood? How often did your best friend call for this kind of support?
Tara thought we should take Lindsay an oreo. “We better take her two Tar…I mean loosing a cat is devastating.” I smiled a little at how Ty had switched gears into sweetness as we prepared to leave for the funeral.
“Let’s take a candle.” Tara had extracted two mini snack bags from a drawer in the kitchen. In one was three oreos. In the other she placed a half burned candle and a lighter. On the walk to the school we each picked a small bouquet for the sad occasion. When we got to the school we waited on the swings. When Lindsay came up and we were introduced I shook her small hand and said, “I am sorry for your loss.”
Her whole family appeared from a couple of different directions and we headed for the garden. It was a beautiful service; Lindsay’s Dad spoke about Mileva. As he did, his rather large Harley riding body shook with free sobs. His two teen-age sons watched him cry as though it were not unusual and also not pathetic. How beautiful to see him that way and to see him showing his sons a possibility of manhood that could save the world.
As we went to leave the two 12 year old girls turned to Ty. “Oh my God Ty. Mileva died on your birthday!” They both looked horrified at the realization but behind it was a glimmer of satisfaction at having found something to bother him about.
I saw Ty’s shoulders sink, “You’re right. Oh no. Why did she have to die on my birthday?”
It had been such a whirlwind afternoon that I must not have put on the verbal filter I usually wear when I am with kids whose opinion of me pays my water bill. I reached and put my arms around his shoulders and said, “Don’t worry Ty, someone dies on everybody’s birthday.”
The girls were aghast, Ty actually looked relieved and I wondered if I would get called back to watch them again. If not, I suppose the truth had been worth it.