I have been meaning to write about Laurie for months now, but kept putting it off. Maybe I have a guilty conscience. Grace's post about neighborhoods has prompted me to finally do it.
Laurie was my neighbor who passed away last March while I was on vacation. We were neighbors for 36 years, since the 1970s when we both moved into this new-at-the-time development. She was ten years my senior, but our sons were about the same age, and like me she was from New England. Laurie loved children and was a very handy baby-sitter when my kids were little because she herself never went anywhere. She also tended my house for me when we were away on one of our many trips. Laurie was the one who made it her business to know everyone on the block, but while she talked on the phone constantly, she avoided going out. She said she had agoraphobia.
She became a widow, oh, about 12 or 13 years ago, after her son was married. Life became extremely difficult for her after that, not financially, but just in terms of being able to cope with living alone and living without the person who took care of her and her phobias and had been her best friend for years. At the time, the other neighbors rallied around her and brought her meals (he had been the cook) and checked on her often to make sure she was OK.
About six years ago, I got a call from one of these neighbors asking me if I had heard from Laurie lately. No, I said, I had not. Since Laurie was not answering her phone, my husband and another neighbor went over to Laurie's house and rang the bell. There was no reply except for her barking dog. A third neighbor came over to find out what was going on and it was decided to try to gain entry into Laurie's house. This would be a bit tricky, since she had a house alarm that she frequently set off by accident.
One of the younger, very slim, neighbor-daughters actually squeezed herself through Laurie's doggie door and then unlocked the back door for the rest of us. We found Laurie upstairs, sitting on her bedroom floor, in a daze. She wasn't moving very much and was very disoriented. I was afraid she'd had a stroke. I sent my husband off to dial 911. The paramedics came promptly and transported her to the local hospital where it was found that she was OK. No stroke. Just dehydrated. She had not been taking care of herself and hadn't been eating properly. We'll never know, but it's possible she had been sitting on the floor like that for a day or more.
After her recovery, which was slow, she took to her bed. She was only 67. She had no serious ailments, she just didn't have the will to live. Her son hired a live-in helper to cook her meals and take care of her. She still used the phone constantly, but her conversations, which would last for hours, started to be very one-sided, rambling, and depressing. I feel guilty because after my own husband died, I couldn't tolerate these calls anymore and I stopped calling her. I found I was in the same predicament as she was and to me Laurie was a symbol of what could happen to me if I was not careful. Her first words to me (on the phone, of course) after hearing of my husband's death were, "You never get over it!" It was like the voice of doom.
The photo up top is of Laurie's bougainvillea which came into bloom in May. I marvelled at that because I never see anyone water this plant. Most likely one of the neighbors is doing it. I never saw Laurie outside working in the garden. She never walked any of her many dogs herself. She said she was allergic to the sun. She certainly "never got over it." She shut herself up in her house and faded away.