Before Dr. Montag inserted the soft new implants into her chest last Monday, Deb frankly was developing a fixation.
"Feel how hard my expanders are," she'd grab my hand and put it over her chest. "Have I made you feel that before?"
I snatched my hand away. "Only about a million times," I snapped.
We're all so relieved Deb's expanders are out and the implants are in. Maybe now she'll quit slapping people's hands on her boobs.
Two down, two to go. Terri's healing well and delighted with her new chest. Deb's a little sore and still resting at home. Nobody misses Deb right now more than Mary, who's carrying on their joint housecleaning business alone while Deb recovers.
Years ago, when Deb and Mary were still working full time for my dad and brother at the family travel agency, Deb yearned to spend more time with her daughter Sydney, who was just a baby. When she discovered she could earn just as much money cleaning houses for half a day, she struck out on her own and slowly built a steady list of customers. Mary, who's always been close to Deb, decided to get in on the act as well.
"We'll clean for two years," Deb persuaded Mary. After all, housecleaning is hard work. But two years turned into 11 years, and they're still at it. They never bargained for the attachments they'd develop with their clients.
Frank and Esther were a sweet couple in their 90's when my sisters worked for them. Occasionally, Esther would sneak Deb back to her bedroom, out of Frank's hearing, and show her the creased old photo she'd hidden in her underwear drawer
"Oh, Frank would be livid if he knew how much this boy used to mean to me," Esther confided. "But I had to quit him," she shook her head sadly, gazing at the photo.
"Quit him?" Deb was puzzled.
"Oh yes, honey, he was no good. I had to quit him."
After Frank died, Esther, who'd never had any children, was moved to a nursing home where Deb and Mary visited her faithfully.
"Don't leave me!" Esther would cry pathetically when visiting hours were over. It was almost more than my sisters could bear, but they visited her faithfully until the end.
Carl is their very favorite client. An 86-year-old joyful Bostonian, he's tried valiantly to expose Deb and Mary to the finer things in life. Lonely after the loss of his invalid wife, Carl would invite my sisters to stay after they'd completed their housecleaning duties to enjoy a glass of beer and a plate of sharp imported cheese. Then he gave them dance lessons. Pulling out some ancient record albums, he attempted to teach Deb and Mary the two-step, the waltz, and the polka.
"For God's sake, stop bouncing!" he'd scold Mary as he tried to awkwardly twirl her around his living room. "You gotta feel it! Smooth it out!"
When Mary was gone for a month recuperating from her double mastectomy, Carl decided it was time to give his undivided attention to Deb. "You look like you could sing," he eyed Deb doubtfully. " I'm giving you voice lessons!" he pronounced.
No amount of protesting on Deb's part could sway Carl.
"Stand tall!" he ordered. "Now begin." Conducting with his finger, he guided a red-faced Deb painfully through the scales.
"Do, re, mi, fa..." she trilled flatly.
God bless Carl. I've listened to Deb sing with enthusiastic gusto in church, and a rabid goat has more musical ability. The girl can't carry a tune to save her life. Apparently, Carl must have arrived at the same conclusion. After the first lesson, he never broached the subject of voice lessons again.
Mike and Bonna are Deb and Mary's other long time clients. Mike, a pharmacist, always departs from his house with a friendly offering. "I'm leaving, Girls!" he calls out to my sisters. "Help yourself to a beer while I'm gone!" he jokes.
One morning, not long after he left, Deb and Mary heard the garage door a short time later signaling that Mike had returned. They quickly nabbed a couple of bottles from the wine rack.
"Girls!" Mike shouted, as he entered the front door. "I'm back!" Hearing no response, he walked into the living room to see Deb and Mary apparently passed out on his living room sofa, each with a bottle of wine cradled in her lap.
"Oh, that's clever," he chuckled. "Very clever."
Even if nobody else enjoys their sick humor, my sisters enjoy it enough for everybody.
There isn't much Deb and Mary wouldn't do for their customers. Tom and Kim, their biggest clients, employ my sisters three times a week. Deb and Mary are familiar with every inch of their enormous home and are even friends with the pets - two huge dogs and a beautiful show cat named Willow.
The dogs are free to roam in and out, but Willow is strictly an indoor cat. One day, while Deb and Mary cleaned, their employer Kim, who was feeling under the weather, spent the day in her room. Deb and Mary were polishing the windows overlooking the courtyard in the front of the house when Deb gasped. "Oh no, Mary! Willow's out."
My sisters stared in horror at the beautiful cat casually lounging on the hot driveway in the morning sun. Deb and Mary, neither of whom cares for cats, sneaked quietly out the front door.
"C'mere, Willow!" Deb called softly. "Come inside, Kitty!"
Willow was indifferent. However, when Deb and Mary crept nearer, her head shot up, alert and suspicious. Just before my sisters could grab her, she darted away. Deb and Mary spent the better part of an hour trying to lure Willow back into the house. But when the cat leapt into a tall tree in the backyard, they desperately enlisted the help of the gardener, who fortunately possessed a long extension ladder.
"I'll get a can of tuna!" Deb called over her shoulder, as the sympathetic gardener tried in vain to reach for the agitated Willow.
The tuna did the trick. As soon as Willow inched close enough to the tantalizing aroma of fish, the gardener grabbed her and deposited her safely into Mary's arms.
"I'd better go to Kim and explain," Mary headed nervously off to the door with Willow. "With any luck, maybe she'll think we're all heroes."
Deb, the big coward, elected to stay behind as Mary bravely carried Willow through their employer's bedroom door.
"Kim," Mary knocked, " I hope you weren't worried..."
She stopped in mid-sentence. Next to Kim on the big king-sized bed was another Willow meticulously grooming herself beside her doting mistress. Mary's boss looked up, confused.
"What are you doing with the neighbor's cat?"
Mary stared at the cat on the bed, then at the cat in her arms, and back to the cat on the bed. Then she maneuvered herself silently out the door.
She and Deb laughed so hard, they couldn't stand up.
They've always had fun, my crazy sisters.
I thought about that not long ago after Mary's surgery for her double mastectomy. Deb and I crept into her hospital room to visit her. She was sleeping peacefully under the effects of anesthesia. Deb gently nudged her awake, and the look on Mary's face when she first recognized Deb said it all. Her smile was radiant, and she gazed at Deb with such love that I couldn't swallow for a minute.
It occurred to me in that moment just how close Deb and Mary had become as they grew up with each other as teenagers and lost Mom. During those difficult years, they cared for our younger siblings, and their own carefree youth was lost forever.
The two of them, so close in age, mothered each other and cried with each other. But they laughed with each other, too. Through good times and bad, they've been boon companions.
I couldn't ask for two more wonderful sisters, and I'm glad to know I'll have them both around for a long time to come. They may not be able to sing or dance or even tell one feline from another.
But they're the best sisters you could ever ask for.