Monday, April 23, 2007

Who knows what tomorrow holds?

Apparently not me.

At least, I didn't know what today held. If I'd known, I would have stayed in bed, and not come out.

I was awakened at the lovely hour of O'dark Thirty, by the gracious driver of a garbage truck in the bank parking lot behind my house. Slamming down a Dumpster.

Lovely, lovely sound, especially at that hour.

After tossing and turning for a while, I decided to get up. It was before 6 a.m.

I then received a phone call from a family member, wherein said family member dissolved into tears, and I had no comfort for him. So I said nothing, but I felt terrible.

All this before I got to work.

Shortly after I arrived, our office manager came into my office and asked me if I knew a Renee Martin.

Of course I did - she worked at the paper when I started. She was the graphic artist, and it was her departure for Alabama that opened the door for Amanda.

I loved me some Renee.

I even made a song about her - to the tune of "The Cat Came Back." She'd worked at the paper as page editor several years before, and had quit in a dispute with the editor. Then, when she moved back to town, she came back and asked for a job. (Same editor, but both had cooled down by then). She became the graphic artist. So, whenever we'd talk about her leaving and coming back, I'd sing "Renee came back" for her.

So, so silly. But I think she liked it.

Back to the present:

Faye says, "Did anyone tell you she passed away?"


That was the last thing I'd expected to hear.

Renee was only 42. Her husband had tried to wake her about 4 a.m. (I think he was on his way to work) and couldn't rouse her. She'd been gone about two hours, by the coroner's estimate.

Her younger son, who is about 10 years old, was sleeping in the bed with her.

Other than the fact that she smoked, Renee was in good health. An autopsy is being performed, and I hope it will bring us all some answers.

I'm still in shock. I was the only one in the office at the time who'd worked with Renee. The other person left there who knew her, Shirley, was at the hospital with her husband. I felt very, very alone, because there was no one to reminisce with.

I called the other three girls who had worked with us during that time.

When Shirley came back, she put her "I know everyone in the county" skills to good use to find out what was going on. We spent a good bit of today on the phone, relaying what we were learning.

I was emotionally drained by the end of the day.

Then something funny happened. I had to cover something after hours. It reminded me of something about Renee, and I had to laugh.

She was TERRIFIED of being in the building alone. And her job before she left the first time, Page Editor, required her to come up on Saturdays during football season and put in the games from the night before. Alone.

She dragged her older son with her, or in a pinch, she'd call one of her coworkers.

What was her problem?

She was afraid of ghosts. One ghost in particular. The ghost of Grandpa Lee, the former owner/editor who'd died at his desk (in my office!) in the early 1970's. There was no window into the office at the time, and he was there for several hours before someone found him.

As far as I knew, Renee never met the elder Mr. Lee. It was the principal of the thing.

One of my favorite stories came to my memory, and I talked to LaJuan (another former coworker) about it when we met at Walmart tonight.

An advertiser had sent inserts, and they weren't boxed or bundled. When the truck driver opened the door, they flew all over the parking lot.

Jay (our editor at the time, and grandson of Grandpa Lee), LaJuan, and Renee were charged with retrieving the papers.

In the parking lot, there is a brass pipe with a cap that says "Lee." We don't know why - it's possible it's meant to signify who the property belonged to.

Anyway, LaJuan pointed it out to Renee, who'd never seen it before. They asked Jay what it was about.

Never one to miss an opportunity to get Renee's goat, he calmly said, "That's where Grandpa Lee's ashes are buried."

Renee hightailed it back into the building, and didn't come out again for a very long time. She was a fearful girl.

She was so afraid of the dentist, she'd call ahead to reserve the room she thought had the "good gas." Then, she'd bum a Valium off her mother. And go home and take a Loritab.

Like I said, terrified.

Tonight, I held Anna Marie just a little tighter when I hugged her goodnight.

And tomorrow, when I go back to work, I'll remember Renee and her fears - of being alone in our building, of the dentist, of just about everything.

I only hope that when I'm gone, I'll leave behind something for people to laugh at as they remember me.

(Stop it. I said after I'm gone.)


Paige said...

I'm so sorry. I hope that you do remember the good times with Renee, and send a nice card to her family.

Melissa said...

Thanks Paige. Yes, I need to send a card. We're sending flowers from the office - it all seems so odd!

Shirley talked to her husband this morning, and he said that if there was something "obvious" from the autopsy we'd know today, but otherwise it could be months - I guess if they have to wait for a tox screen.

It's a wonder she lasted this long though - she had a HUGE pouf of bangs, and sprayed it with hairspray before each time she went out to smoke. We kept telling her that one day the spray would still be wet, and she'd light up, and her whole head would go into flames!

Valerie said...

holy AquaNet, Batgirl! she inhaled too much hairspray!

(made ya laugh)'s horrible when someone that young dies that unexpectedly. although i know it's hell for everyone behind, i gotta say that's how i want to go. quick. no lingering. just go to sleep and wake up in heaven.

Susie Q said...

I am with Val...but even though it is not a bad way to go, she was far too young and oh that poor young son.
I am so sorry your day turned this way Melissa. BUt if I can leave behind some people who remember me with laughter and smiles I will have done okay...I am betting that Renee is up there grinning at your reminices now...maybe she is even swapping stories with Grandpa Lee....


Melissa said...

Sue, we talked yesterday about how she probably isn't afraid of Grandpa Lee anymore!

She also used to fall asleep at her desk. When we'd wake her up, she'd sit up and say "In Jesus' name, amen." Trying to convince us she'd been praying!

doodlebugmom said...

Aw, so sad. Sorry for the loss of your friend.