My spunky friend Audrey was on the phone. “I have a craving,” she blurted. “But I’m not pregnant.”
In her mid-80s, Audrey always managed to see the lighter side of things, no matter what challenges she faced.
“Celery. I have to have celery,” said Audrey. “I miss the crunch of it. Can you go to the store and get some for me? Please?” She soon had a fresh stalk of celery in her hand.
We lived on the same block. She and I wound up talking at her house for about 30 minutes that Saturday. She had so much to say and was so much fun to be around.
Audrey was no longer driving — her oxygen tank didn’t allow it — but she had cravings and people to call. Even while fighting lung cancer, she kept in touch with her sons, her grandchildren, her many friends.
She loved people. Long Island born, she enjoyed going on cruises all over the world when she was well. She saw movies. Went out to dinner on weekends. Traveled to Manhattan for shows and museum visits.
And on our block, she kept an eye out for everyone. If she hadn’t seen a neighbor in a while, she’d ask, “Is she OK? Is he traveling? Did she take a new job?”
She was a joy. More than three decades separated us. It didn’t matter. I adored her.
Funny, bright, tickled by the oddest things and for most of her life full of vim and vigor, she was a joy. More than three decades separated us. It didn’t matter. I adored her. We frequently called each other just to chat — but I knew better than to call her when Jeopardy was on.
Young families who move into new homes aren’t thinking of the widows or widowers who might live nearby. Life is busy — with kids, jobs, obligations — but that elderly person living alone a few doors down could be your next great friend.
Audrey and I became friendly right after my two young sons were born. She often walked her dog past our house and we’d talk. Even after her husband died, she was out and about on a regular basis, sharing treats for the kids.
She watched our boys play. She asked about their progress in school, year after year. And when they went off to college, she asked me, “How are they? Do they like school? When are they coming home again?” She knew how much I missed them because she’d raised three sons.
She made a point to attend every neighborhood get-together. When people on the block were sick, she took them food and went to visit. It wasn’t until the very end that she truly needed other people. And I was determined not to let her down.
If I had stuck to my finite circle of friends, I’d never have known this woman’s humor or vitality.
We were in her hospice room. I was stroking her arm.
“No more,” Audrey said. “That shot hurt.”
A nurse had given her medication for nausea. “I didn’t like that,” she said.
My heart broke for her. I wished I could do more. I rubbed her shoulder gently.
She was in an excellent hospice facility. Her sons had worked hard to find it. I knew she was getting great care.
“I brought you some apple cider donuts from the farmers market,” I told her, holding out a small package. “And fresh cherries.”
She smiled. “I’ll be having all of that later.”
A friend called her, then some family arrived. “You are a very popular lady,” I said.
She flashed a proud smile. “And after all this, I’ll be ready for a nap,” she said.
If I had stuck to my finite circle of friends, I’d never have known this woman’s humor or vitality. Sometimes a little thought, a little time, is all a neighbor needs. I’m forever grateful this person was in my life.
Shortly after that hospice visit, Audrey died. I hugged her sons when they came to tell me — and was so glad they didn’t share the news by email or text. Instead, they made the time to talk face to face (like mother, like sons?).
The best friends in your life leave a mark. And when I look today at the house where Audrey used to live — and where a new family is starting their life — I think, “I wish you’d known the lady who used to live here. She would’ve liked you.”