My friend, the Purple Lady turned 88 yesterday. We met years ago when she moved into the house across the street from us. She still refers to me as “Foo4luv from across the street” despite the fact that we haven’t been neighbors for a few years now. The man she bought the house from was the only one of our neighbors who would talk to us. (We don’t exactly have the friendliest neighborhood, though it is fairly safe. When he and his wife moved, our whole family missed him. I’ll have to write another post about him, but this one is about the Purple Lady.) Anyway, I had an uncharacteristic bout of bravery and decided to make a “welcome to the neighborhood” visit. I wrapped up a loaf of orange cake, told BratzBasher to get dressed, and off we went across the street to knock on the door.
Our new neighbor was very short (still is, of course — you don’t have growth spurts in your 80’s — at least, not vertically) and wrapped in a thick, fuzzy, purple robe. Her hair bore traces of a dye job past due for a touch-up — the roots were grey, but the rest was purple. She was delighted to receive the cake, and insisted on inviting us in. I was expecting the purple ceiling in the living room (our former neighbor’s wife had painted it that color), but I was surprised that microwaves came in purple. In fact, if you could get something in purple, that was the color of that item in this woman’s house. She told us everyone called her “the Purple Lady”, and I could definitely see why.
The last house she had owned was purple. She admitted that she instructed the painters to start on the back of the house first, so that the neighbors wouldn’t realize what was happening until it was half finished. She’d even had a purple car that she was sad to have sold, but it wouldn’t have made the trip from Michigan. It didn’t take her long to have the doors and trim on the outside of her new house painted purple. It was a bright, Mexican tienda purple, too. Whenever giving directions to our house, I just told people we were directly across from the purple garage door.
When PL’s next-door neighbors ran into her mailbox and bent the metal post into a right angle, Merkin and I waited a few days for them to replace it as they’d promised before finally taking it upon ourselves to purchase her a new one. BratzBasher and I painted the post purple with white flowers. The box was white, and we stamped purple unicorns on it along with her name and house number. PL had been spending the weekend with one of her sons, so she didn’t see it until her daughter-in-law brought her home the following day. As soon as she saw the purple post, she thought, “How wonderful! It’s purple!” As soon as she saw the unicorns and realized it was hers, she shouted, “Oh! Oh! Oh, look!” The mailboxes on our street are all situated on the same side for the mail carrier’s convenience, so the new purple mailbox was actually in front of our next-door neighbors’ house. I’m sure they couldn’t stand it, but we didn’t much like them anyway. They have the most obnoxious yld’s (yippy little dogs).
PL was funny. She said the most outrageous things, and BratzBasher loved going to her house and looking at all the interesting little knickknacks that PL had collected over the decades. PL also had two dogs. BB wasn’t sure about the German shepherd, but she adored the little cocker spaniel whose stubby tail seemed to switch into vibrate mode whenever she was happy. PL’d probably still be our neighbor today if she’d just gotten on the wagon sooner.
PL had a drinking problem, which increased her short-term memory loss and her already loose grasp on her equilibrium. Eventually, her sons moved her to an assisted living facility and sold her house. She hated her new home, but (although I’ll never tell this to her face) it was the best thing that could have happened to her. As she dried out (alcohol being forbidden at her new place), she regained her ability to take care of herself and a new determination to prove it and get the heck out of that dive. (It wasn’t really a dive, but not a sufficient enough paradise to make up for the lack of freedom, privacy, and feeling of independence. After two years, she got control of her money again and found herself a house. She even arranged a support group of helpers to come check on her and help maintain her new home. She’s been sober ever since and so much happier.
I don’t visit her as often as I should. I’ve never been the sort of person who can just call people up to chat or set a lunch date, but I become increasingly withdrawn when my current mood swing is on the decline. I have to keep reminding myself that I love visiting her and always feels happier afterwards. I even caught myself humming when I came home last night. Fortunately, I was wise enough to set up an outing for us this Friday. I’m supposed to call her as soon as I get home from exercise group (which happens to be the same group of women in my sign class — an0ther future post) and shower.
Speaking of showers, I’d better go have mine.