Just a simple pair of plastic sunglasses. A little bit of flower child I suppose with their blue frames and pink and yellow flowers. But as I drove home in the evening sunlight the other day, they triggered a memory of a friendship that was all too brief. I have written of meeting ML when she hired me to walk her delightful little daschund, Molly; https://candyinvt.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/in-the-winter-of-her-life/.
ML had decided she needed some shorts to wear on the hot summer days and she wanted sunglasses to replace a pair she had lost. So I suggested a shopping trip to a nearby JC Penney. She thought that was a wonderful idea! A nurse came and switched her oxygen tank for a full one which gave us three hours to get things done. We got ML into the passenger seat of my car and put the tank on the floor in front of her. The bright red walker went into the back seat and off we went.
Inside the store, ML headed right for the petite section and began searching for things she liked. We piled her selections into the basket on her walker and went into a nearby dressing room where she tried things on. She would open the door for approval or to ask me to get her a different size (usually smaller!) of one or another item. She was enjoying herself, despite the activity tiring her out. Something about new clothes just lifts the spirits!
Then it was on to the rack of sunglasses. We laughed and giggled like schoolgirls trying on all the different styles. There were so many to choose from! ML settled on a pair of large tortoise shell look frames and I teased her about looking like a movie star. She was such a tiny woman and those big glasses really did make her look quite glamorous. I smile just thinking about her preening in the mirror! She insisted that I should buy some as well because you always need an extra pair of course; so the hippie chick flowers came home with me.
ML was exhausted by this time, so we paid for our purchases and headed for home. Often when I came into her apartment after that day, she would be wearing her sunglasses, even though she was inside. She just liked wearing them she said and she had lots of windows that made the room bright!
I walked Molly every day for about a year and ML and I got very close. She had a raspy throaty voice and loved to laugh, so I told her funny stories or showed her things on her computer that would make her smile. We had a few small adventures that made her happy, and she was always so grateful to be included in a plan to go anywhere. She read my copy of Jon Katz’ book about rescuing his donkey Simon, and knowing I was a friend of Jon’s asked if perhaps she could meet him. He graciously consented and I drove ML to Bedlam Farm to visit one morning. ML and Maria found a common love of sewing and she was welcomed into Maria’s schoolhouse workshop. Jon talked about his animals and got Red to come to the donkey pen with the sheep so ML could see a little bit of herding. She was delighted and often mentioned how much she enjoyed meeting Jon and Maria and their animals.
I found a regular job last fall and had to give up the dogwalking, and my daily visits to ML. I still stopped by on occasion just to chat or have a cup of tea. Her face lit up when I entered her apartment and she was always happy to see me and so welcoming. But I could see that she was failing a bit more each time I went, and I wasn’t surprised to receive an email from a friend who works in the facility, saying that I needed to visit very soon.
When I went into the apartment, a couple of ML’s daughters and granddaughters were there along with sweet Molly who greeted me with wagging tail and bright eyes. ML was in bed, very frail and nearly unconscious. But she did open her eyes once, and I leaned over and said “It’s Candy.” She worked her hand out of the bedclothes and reached toward me, and as I took her hand she looked at me steadily for a few moments, knowing, I am sure, that I had come to say goodbye. It’s a moment I will remember; just a few days later she was gone.
Farewell Mari-Lou. It was fun to know you. I will remember your love of Molly, and your wonderful orchids. And I will smile every time I need those sunglasses and remember two women giggling like schoolgirls as we played dress up in a JC Penney store.