My friend the Purple Lady moved back to Michigan last year. She’d been running out of savings and couldn’t afford to make the payments on her home anymore. One of her sons found her a very cheap house near his home and moved her up there to be closer to him and live rent-free. She didn’t really want to move, but knew she didn’t have a choice. She was just glad that she wasn’t going back in an assisted living facility or nursing home. She still had her little spaniel Coco (the german shepherd passed away last year), and she still had her own space.
I missed her very much, but I admit that I didn’t talk to her nearly as much as I thought of her. I have a problem with calling people on the phone. It’s a bit of a phobia for me, actually. There are certain numbers I can call without any problem (such as Merkin’s work), but that list fits on one hand with room left over. I don’t know what my deal is. I can be absolutely certain that the person on the other end of the line wants to talk to me and would be very glad to receive a call from me, but it’s a struggle just to pick up the phone and dial. (Receiving calls, on the other hand, is no problem for me — unless it’s a telemarketer.) This is why I send an email newsletter to family and friends every Sunday. I can tell everyone how I’m doing without picking up the phone or repeating myself (usually).
PL doesn’t have email, though. It’s been a smattering of phone calls and a few written letters on my part. I sent her a package just before Mother’s Day, and I thought I’d gather up the nerve to call her up and ask if she’d received it yet. I was already calling my stepmom for Mother’s Day. I thought I could handle one more. PL’s phone number was disconnected. I couldn’t find a number for her local son, or her daughter-in-law here. I managed to locate an old number for her third son, but wasn’t sure it was still good. The answering machine gave no clue — they rarely do anymore. I left a message and then wondered if I’d gotten the right people and if they’d ever call me back and what would they tell me….
Two weeks later, I was convinced that PL had passed away and I would never hear about it. I wondered what had happened to the package I sent her. I thought I’d like to have it back, but didn’t think I’d ever see it again. I’d sent her a handmade, black, velvet cape with dark purple lining. She used to have one that her mother had made for her just before sending her off to college — a gorgeous, long one that reached her ankles. She wore it every Halloween as part of her witch costume. Her kids gave it to Goodwill when they put her in assisted living years ago. PL cried over that.
The cape I made wasn’t from her mother, and it wouldn’t cover anything below the hips, but it was made with love just for her. I’d intended it to be a Christmas present two Christmases ago, but working with velvet was more of a challenge than I had expected. It took me three or four tries to fold and settle it to my satisfaction in the large purple box I’d found for her to keep it in, wrapped in tissue paper. I’d even found a purple “handmade with love” sewing label for the inside.
You can imagine how distraught I’ve been over this since Mother’s Day. What happened to her? Why didn’t I call sooner? Why didn’t I send more letters? Why did I never take a picture of her while she was here?
I got a call from one of her daughters-in-law today — in response to that shot-in-the-dark phone call I made a few weeks ago. PL is in a nursing home. She’d been having trouble breathing, but she’s stable now. I don’t know how much longer she’ll last. She hasn’t really been happy in Michigan. Her home was rather removed from most things, and her son prefers to order things online for her rather than take her shopping. I know how much of a hassle a shopping trip with PL can be, but a girl needs to get out. There was no senior citizen bus to take her to Walmart or any other place, and she couldn’t afford a taxi. Her little Coco was thriving in her new home, but PL felt like she was wilting.
I tried calling her just now with the new number I’ve got, but she wasn’t answering her cell phone. I’ll try again when I finish this post. Her daughter-in-law promised to call me as soon as she’s seen PL (she’s on a plane in that direction now). I’ll decide then whether it’s time to make a trip out there to see her one last time. Send your prayers to Marquette, MI. I’ll post updates.