I left Baltimore with relief. (But then I always leave my jobs with relief. Always something better around the bend.) I was tired of the heat and humidity and tired of my case load: all nursing homes. I’d been switched to it several months before I left. All the nursing homes except the large Jewish one were depressing. I was too busy at the Jewish home to get depressed.
The social worker always arranged for me to have a good lunch with him before I saw any clients. There was so much going on, workers coming and going, activities scheduled. Many of the women and men there were still able to participate in Bingo, singing or cards or what have you. Since the social worker knew who I was supposed to see, I hardly had to work at all. And the job came with a car.
I had a new roommate in the Spring: Charlotte. She was married to a guy who was serving in the army in Korea. They’d make an arrangement by mail to talk on the phone on a Sunday. Charlotte, who was somewhat nervous, was always both relieved to hear her husband’s voice and distressed again to realize he was fighting a war and could be injured at any time.
After hearing about her family, I suspected she’d married to get away from them. As a teenager she’d had ulcers from the formal mealtimes where her brother and his wife fought every day with chilling good manners.
When I left, I’d made a date with Charlotte. I borrowed my Dad’s car and drive down on a Friday to get all the stuff I’d accumulated over the year I’d been there. She came back with me that night, sharing the driving. She found my parents’ house to be heaven: no formality, no arguments, no frosty silences.
She cried when she had to leave.