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We Are So Busy

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 07, 2014

From the Relief Society Magazine, March 1949 –

We Are So Busy

By Sylvia Probst Young

Instead of closing her house, as she usually did when she went to California, Emily Woodrow left it in the care of a nephew and his wife from Indiana. The young man, a college professor, had accepted an offer to teach at our university for the summer, and Emily was delighted.

“I’m so happy to have someone in the place for the summer,”she told me.  “I never have liked closing it up, but I didn’t like renting to strangers. Of course, you could almost call Tom a stranger. I haven’t seen him since he was a high school boy and I don’t know anything at all about his wife. But I hope you’ll call on them, Kate. Salt Lake will be new to them and I know they will appreciate having a good neighbor like you.”

They will probably have plenty of things to do, and enough interests of their own not to need a middle aged neighbor, I thought. But I promised Emily that I would call on them. She and I have lived side by side for almost thirty years, and during these years we have come to be good neighbors, although not exactly intimate friends.

I really intended to run in on Emily’s tenants right after their arrival, but I was so busy with one thing or another that I didn’t find an opportunity to do so until almost two weeks after they had come. I felt rather guilty because I had always prided myself on being friendly. Still the fact that they were from the East rather worried me. I had always associated people from the East with sophistication which, after all, is quite foolish, as I discovered that morning when I went to call. They were very natural and friendly, not sophisticated at all.

Tom Hadfield himself answered the door. He was a tall, thin man, with eyeglasses, and hair that was definitely slipping. Not exactly good looking, clean looking would fit him better, and intelligent, the kind of man one would have pointed out as a professor.

“Come in,” he said warmly. “I believe you are the neighbor Aunt Emily told us about, Mrs. Crandall?

“Yes. I meant to run over ever since you came,” I told him, “but it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day.”

“How well I know that. This morning I didn’t have a class, but here I am correcting papers. Lucille,” he turned to the woman sitting on the divan, “this is Mrs. Crandall.”

Lucille Hadfield smiled brightly. “It was so nice of you to come. Sit down, Mrs. Crandall, and visit with us.”

It seemed to me she radiated charm, and I liked her instantly. She was an attractive girl, in her early thirties I judged, one who belonged to that class of women referred to as “types”: not beautiful, but distinctively striking. Tall, too, with an abundance of dark brown hair, which she wore in a large bun at the nape of her neck. Her skin was sun-tanned and flawless, and her eyes, deep brown.

“It’s a lovely morning, isn’t it? I think we’re going to like your city. We’ve never been here before. I mean, I haven’t. Tom was here once when he was a child.”

“Things have changed a great deal since then,” I told her. “I think our biggest changes have come since the war.”

We got started on the war then. Mr. Hadfield had been in the navy and since my Bob had been in the navy, too, we had a common interest. From the war we went to economics. It was the subject nearest his heart since he taught it. Mrs. Hadfield added her share to the conversation in a way which indicated that she, also, was educated.

They asked me all about the city. Especially they were interested in Temple Square.

“Your Tabernacle organ,” Mrs. Hadfield asked, “would there be any chance to hear it? I play the organ a little myself, so I’m partial to organ music.”

I was very happy to tell her about the organ recital every day at noon.”I’ll tell you what,” I volunteered, “if you like, I’ll go with you some day. Maybe I can show you a few things that you might not see if you went alone.”

“Would you? Oh, I’d love that. I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Both of them invited us to come again soon and I assured them that I would.

Crossing the yard to our house, I decided that I would try to find a day next week to go to the organ recital with Lucille Hadfield, but I didn’t. Very suddenly Margey and Brad decided to get married in July instead of waiting until September. There were so many things for me to attend to, as there always are for a bride’s mother no matter how simple the wedding may be.

The days slipped by. I saw my neighbor quite often during the afternoons sitting in Emily’s hammock in the backyard. Always she was just sitting, not reading, not sewing, just sitting. And always I was surprised, she had impressed me as being so full of energy that I couldn’t associate idleness with her. A few times I stopped by the fence and talked to her, and she seemed so interested in whatever I had to say. I apologized for not having had a chance to go to town with her.

She was very understanding. “I know all about weddings,” she told me. “We had three in the family last summer. Actually we were a little tired of them before it was all over.”

“I should think so. Well, it’s over now and I won’t be so busy. Why don’t we plan to go to the recital this Wednesday, or maybe you’ve already gone.”

“No, I haven’t. I’ll be looking forward to Wednesday, then.”

“Good. We can go to lunch after and make a day of it, if you’d like.”

But on Tuesday night Dan’s sister Beth came in from St. George. It was always nice to have Beth and since she came so seldom I did like to spend the time with her while she was here. Much as I hated to disappoint Lucille Hadfield, I just couldn’t go.

“Of course. I understand perfectly,” she answered when I called her. “Don’t worry about me. I can go just anytime.”

“I’m surprised Lucille hasn’t become discouraged and gone by herself,” I told Beth as I hung up the phone.

“She probably has,” Beth replied. “I wouldn’t be concerned about it. She probably goes to town every day, with nothing at all to do. I don’t imagine that she is too lonesome.”

“I guess not, but I am going to spend an afternoon in town with her before she leaves to go home since I suggested it.”

It was my turn to entertain my club on the first Thursday in August and I decided to ask Lucille Hadfield to come. Although I had invited her over repeatedly a special invitation would make her know that I was sincere in my efforts to be friendly.

“This is Kate Crandall,” I said when she answered the phone.

“Oh, hello,” her voice was sunny. “It’s nice to hear from you. Did you have a nice visit with your sister-in-law?”

“Yes, I did. You see, I was reared in the country, too, and she brings me up to date on rural things.”

“I’m rural-minded, too. Most of the time I find the city rather dull.”

“Well, it can be. What I called for is to ask you to come to my club on Thursday afternoon if you will. It’s here at my house. There are about a dozen of us. It isn’t a card club, more of an art club. Sometimes we sew or have a book report. This time we are having a lesson on stencil painting. Have you ever done any?”

“No-no, I haven’t.”

“Well, it’s simple to learn. I’m going to town tomorrow, and I’ll get the materials you’ll need for you if you’d like me to.”

There was a long pause, then. When she finally answered I was prepared for her excuse.

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Crandall.” Her voice sounded strained and so different from what it usually did. “But I just remembered that I’m meeting Tom tomorrow afternoon. He doesn’t have a class and we’re going to town.”

It was a very lame excuse; quite obviously she didn’t want to come.

I hung up the phone, feeling like I had been slapped. It sounded so unlike her. Maybe, after all, she wasn’t interested in being anything but a casual acquaintance. Maybe all of her friendliness was only a charming front. Still, she had always shown so much interest in whatever I had talked to her about, and had seemed so enthusiastic when I had suggested taking her to an organ recital … Maybe, after all, I should just skip the whole thing. She had never been in my house, and now she had made it plain that she didn’t care to come to my club. So I forgot about it.

The August days hurried by, with autumn sneaking quietly toward us. I had seen very little of Lucille since I had called her. Sometimes, from my kitchen window, I would see her sitting out in the hammock. One time I waved to her, but she didn’t wave back, so she must not have seen me.

I was working out in the back one evening after dinner when Mr. Hadfield drove into his yard. I could see that he was alone and that seemed rather odd because she was always with him. Then I remembered that I hadn’t seen her for days.

He greeted me in his friendly way, and I asked him about his wife. A shadow crossed his face and he looked suddenly tired and old.

“Lucille went home on Monday,” he said. “Her mother had an emergency operation and isn’t expected to live. I hated to have her go alone. School will be out Friday. I could have gone with her then. But of course she had to go. Going on a plane isn’t difficult and someone will meet her, but it is the first trip she’s taken alone since – you see, Lucille is blind.”

“Blind?” I gasped in astonishment. “But – but, I didn’t dream it,” I stumbled. “She doesn’t look blind. She doesn’t seem blind.”

“No, you can’t tell it by her eyes, and she has a lot of pride and tries to be independent. But sometimes she gets so lonesome and it’s difficult. She led such an active life before.”

I didn’t dare ask him what had happened and he didn’t say. How long I sat in the gathering darkness miserable and dumbfounded I don’t know. I could understand now why she used to sit without doing anything day after day; why she hadn’t come to club to learn stencil painting; why she hadn’t waved to me. How many lonely hours I might have saved her if I had known, but it was too late now she had gone home. If I had just found time to have gone to the organ recital with her I would have known, but we are always so busy, so very, very busy.


1 Comment »

  1. I’m afraid that this sort of story hits me as ‘a guilt trip whether you need it or not.’ I really do make an effort to find out about people, befriend them, etc. but of course it is never enough to solve all of the world’s problems. And it’s never enough to keep me from feeling resentful at the author of stories like this one. (Of course, I know, Ardis, that you are just reprinting for historical interest, and that the views are those of the author, not the blogger.)

    Comment by LauraN — February 7, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

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