This is about Jessie. Jessie and Dave.
A lovely person named Jessie Dobson died two years ago at the age of 89 in Washington, D.C. She worked for our family and helped raise me, my sister and brother from the time we were born. She taught me everything, really, that I know about people, good and bad, and especially how to love the moment and what's funny.
She didn't graduate high school, married the wrong guy way too young, had some very hard times but learned to live a strong life. She was a big reader and also taught me how to predict all kinds of human behavior on the TV shows we watched together while she ironed. Nobody got comedy like she did -- if something cracked her up it was because it was perfect. Especially if it involved children or animals. But she was also up on the headlines and what mattered in her life and times.
After my parents died and Jessie retired I'd make sure to see her for holidays and we would talk on the phone but one Christmas she didn't come over and when I made my way to her apartment in Southeast Washington I was shocked to see how thin and frail she had become. She pulled away the dowel she had blocking her sliding glass door and when I came in she told me rather matter-of-factly that she was dying.
I'm good at some things and not so good at others. I am not a good nurse or a good housekeeper or a good cook. My friend Maureen Asterbadi is all of these things and much more. Maureen told me one night after several drinks at dinner that she would help me take care of Jessie.
Together we drove over to Anacostia and sat down with Jessie to get a sense of her routine, her groceries, her bills, her health. We figured out a timetable of delivering food, preparing meals, cleaning and organizing the apartment and making Jessie feel comfortable, fed, clean and cared for.
As we sat on her sofa and went over everything one part of Jessie's routine became clear and resolute -- after an early meal -- usually salad, potatoes, some Kendall Jackson chardonnay (this I could do) she would go to bed and then, like clockwork, wake up at 11:30.
"Why", we asked? "Dave" she answered. "David Letterman?" Maureen said. "Dave," Jessie, repeated, "I watch Dave every night."
And there it was. For dozens of years this socially marginalized but intellectually sophisticated African-American woman had developed and maintained a link and a constant connection to the world and to a like-minded decent, genuine and insightful man who found the same things funny that she did. And I don't just mean she liked watching The Late Show with David Letterman, I mean she loved Dave because she got him and he got her.
When I heard the news that David Letterman will retire next year I just wanted him to know about this special fan. He brought laughter and light to an elderly woman in a small garden apartment in Anacostia for many, many years. They were simpatico. Whenever, ever, I think of David Letterman I hear Jessie Dobson's hard-won appreciative chuckle. Dave, you made her laugh and kept a lonely, hard-working and beautiful woman company for many, many years and for this I will always be grateful.
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