Last year our neighbor, Larry, who nobody knew because he was so solitary and reclusive, died. Nobody knew for days that he had passed away, since the only sign of his existence was a crate full of empty vodka bottles every garbage day. I had a glimpse of him one day, climbing the steps through his overgrown garden to his home after having deposited the empty bottles — tall, lanky, slow, all awkward limbs in a pair of boxer shorts. He left his house and money, all 15 million of it, to the Zoo.

I also know many other wealthy Americans who don’t even think about getting help with the kitchen, for example. One of them has cancer and needs to eat healthy foods and drink fresh juice, but the wife, in addition to care taking, has to do it all. There is no tradition of getting help. It is the old puritanical ethic of doing it all yourself — this post is to balance the last one — to the point of making yourself sick and unwell. Larry’s house, infested with rats and other vermin, could have hired help, or even a companion to visit him for a couple of hours a day. The second example can employ someone in the kitchen so the wife can spend quality time with her husband.

I am eternally grateful to our cleaning ladies — I could kiss their feet! It is a symbiotic relationship. I enjoy their presence in the house when they come, and I enjoy inhabiting the house that they have cleaned so well.

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