I was not prepared.

When I first started working at my current job, I shared an office with Sister Nora. She was 78 when I met her and did not clear five feet – not by a long shot. But she was a nun, and I was intimidated by her. That is, until one day I turned to ask her something and saw her reading a romance novel at her desk. And I mean a real romance novel, with Fabio on the cover.

I silently turned back around, blinked, and thought, “…I was not prepared for that.”

It was a true moment of surprise, and how many of those do we get as adults?

I immediately warmed to Nora. I learned how much she loved romance novels, horror movies, hot tamales, and soap operas. We spent one Mardi Gras eating cupcakes and watching “The Bold and the Beautiful” in our office. I started picking up romance novels at Goodwill and bringing them in for her. For her eightieth birthday, I made her a card featuring her favorite things.

Nora's heart

Nora got sick in early 2012. Or, sicker. This time she went to the hospital, so I went to visit her. She wasn’t expecting me and when I walked in, she was on the phone with another coworker of ours.

Nora looked at me. It took a second, then said into the phone: “Oh! It’s…it’s the girl who gives me all the dirty books!”

Yes, she knew my name. But maybe she knew me a little bit better.

This St. Patrick’s Day, it will be one year since I last saw Sister Nora. It was her birthday. She was wearing a paper party hat and opening cards with her friend; it was a good last memory.

Now I sit at her old desk. I read more romance novels than I used to. And I remember how the nun who read all the dirty books became my friend, and how much I miss her. I was not prepared for that.

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