I hate to see my Mom upset, but last night she was not herself because her old neighbour and friend had passed away the day before.
Faithful readers may remember I wrote about Mrs. Campbell just over two years ago, when she turned 100. (I tried to do a little hyperlink to that post, but I couldn’t make it work. No wait! There it is. Never mind).
I don’t know if there is much else to add to the Mrs. Campbell story, except to say that she was a big part of my Mom’s life. Their friendship started when she and my Dad (and little 2-year old me!) moved onto their street over 40 years ago. My Mom credits the beginning of that friendship to my brother and me, who would often go across the street and hang out with them when they were outside enjoying or working on their yard. “Kids don’t see disabilities the same way adults do,” was another thing my Mom said last night. I don’t know if that is true, but maybe kids have less inhibitions than adults do generally. (Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Campbell both lived with physical disabilities. I’m not going into that here, but you can read about it in that previous post if you want the full story. I don’t think it’s really central to the story today).
That friendship continued right up until this week, with my Mom making regular visits to Mrs. Campbell in her personal care home. She just celebrated her 102nd birthday on January 14, so you may think it a little melodramatic to express strong grief, but a friend is a friend, and I don’t think that lessens with time. If anything, Mrs. Campbell took on some “Mother Figure” roles after my Mom’s own Mom passed away 25 years ago, and if you know my Mom, you know that she is a “helper” and a “fixer” and she gets pleasure from putting others first. Mrs. Campbell was the perfect friend for this, especially towards the end. She was not needy, but she needed (or craved) attention through visits (Don’t we all?) and my Mom was happy to be that person for her. For all the times Mrs. Campbell was a support to my Mom as a trusted neighbour and friend, my Mom was able to return the favour in the second half of their four decades long friendship. My Mom also was her power of attorney and now the executor (or executrix, if you are into that kind of thing) of her will, because (again, not to be too melodramatic), my Mom is literally the only person Mrs. Campbell had. My Mom agreed to be those things for Mrs. Campbell on one condition: that my Mom wouldn’t receive any money for them. On top of not wanting to create the perception of potential abuse, I think my Mom wanted Mrs. Campbell to know that their friendship was not reliant on any attached strings. One of the downsides of living to 102 is that you pretty much outlive your peers. Her husband died a decade ago, and they had no children. (I’m pretty sure I cover all that in the “Bi-Centennial” post, so feel free to just go back and read that. I need the clicks!)
I think Mrs. Campbell’s passing represents a lot of things to my Mom. “An end of an era”, is how she put it last night. I think she meant that Mrs. Campbell represented one of the last ties to the old neighbourhood, or at least the mythology of how the old neighbourhood was when my Mom was first married and her kids were still small. My Mom still lives in the same house, but everyone else around her has moved on. She has no plans on leaving it for now, but I wonder if it has her thinking of her own future and what is coming next? It’s something I try to not dwell on too frequently, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I haven’t had many sleepless nights in the past while, thinking about the future, and what it means and what it will bring, and rather than feeling optimism and hope, I’m afraid dread and despair seem to be front and centre. Mrs. Campbell also was a focus for my Mom. It sounds vulgar to call a person a “project”, but in some ways I think she was. Lord knows what my Mom’s next “project” might be. Look busy, everyone!
I called this post “When you grow too old to dream” because (again if you read the other damn post!), you’ll see it I found a very similarly titled CD in their old apartment, when it was time to clear her stuff out and move her into a personal care home. The title left an impression on me then, and it was the first thing I thought of when I heard the sad news yesterday. It was the title I was going to originally use 2 years ago, so now I GUESS I’m happy I have a chance to use it here? That’s weird, right?
I don’t think Mrs. Campbell really ever got too old for dreaming. At least not until very, very recently. Although how would I know for sure? She was a very private person, and didn’t often open up about her life. Even though she was married for over 60 years, and had many happy memories of her husband, if you ever asked her about him she would simply smile and say, “I loved him and he loved me.” Maybe this old lighthouse keeper here could learn a thing or two about “less is more” from Mrs. Campbell?
She still looked forward to the small, simple pleasures of life, and her sweet and kind soul shone through to her fellow residents and the staff. One of the nurses at the home was in tears when my Mom got there Wednesday night, and told my Mom how much she loved spending time with Mrs. Campbell.
And your passing is still keenly felt by loved ones, new and old.
Rest peacefully, Mrs. Campbell.