I suspect when most people think of Life Changing People they think of famous ones. Bob Geldof, the Dalai Llama, the Pope. But my story is not about anybody famous. Well not globally anyhow. Locally she was well-known. May was a neighbour of mine, in that the back of her house was level with the back of mine, separated by an alley. She was locally regarded as a bit ‘cantankeous’, I suppose you would say. She was a fiercely independent old lady, and I admired her for it. Despite being in her late eighties, she decorated her own house, and I think she was 89 when she wallpapered her chimney breast. She was one of those old ladies who thought men were more capable than women, despite the fact that she was living proof that this was not so. A product of her times I guess. My Soon to Be Ex Husband sorted her boiler out, being a plumber, and a couple of other little jobs. He would not take payment, and was then regarded as a Wonderful Man. It was a pity he was not such a Wonderful Husband, but still… She called me once about her wheel-about calour gas heater. Actually, she wanted STBXH. I said I would come over. She wanted to change the cylinders over. I could do this. I used to be an independent woman When I Lived On My Own and Did Things For Myself. I sorted out how to do it, and did it. It reminded me that I could do this stuff. I used to, Back in The Day. I sorted it out, and felt ridiculously proud. I had somehow stopped this stuff when I acquired a husband. We took on gender-designated roles. I looked after our daughter and the house. He looked after the garden and thd diy. Well, some of it….
When she decided her outside shed had to go, she set about it with an axe. Likewise, her old toilet. When she had it replaced, rather than pay the council to take it away, she decided to put it in her bin, a piece at a time, week by week. A sledge hammer was used for that. I happened to see her, out of the back bedroom window. This sweet old -age pensioner, waving an axe about her head, then bringing it down. On a pink toilet. It would have made a viral You-Tube hit. That would have been unkind, and I kind of admired her for her, ‘I’ll beat the system’ attitude
She travelled abroad regularly on her own, and was a regular visitor to Spain, and despite being pick-pocketed in Benidorm, she still went back. At one point having had her bath, she was unable to get out. She remained there for about 24 hours. It was only that the neighbour on the other side of the wall heard her tapping that she was saved. After that I was worried. We arranged for Care-Call to be put in. Later on this became more relevant, as Barbara, the neighbour, who I was also friendly with, died of cancer in her early 60’s. They put Care-Call in. And a more suitable bath was delivered. It remained in the spare bedroom. And remained until I rang for them to take it back about six months later. Ok, said I. Why don’t you ring me when you go for a bath, and then ring me to say you are out, and you are ok. No dice. May did not want to live like that, and really, who could blame her. The care call got taken out again. And in again. I think it was in three times, before it was out again for good.
May and I were both Pisces, and in fact shared a birthday. Mock all you like about Astrology, but in the past at work I found many of my colleagues I was drawn to were the same birth sign, discovered many years later, on a boring night shift. In fact one of my closest friends is the same birthday, and when we met, I was 43, and she was 34. the same numbers, but reversed. Maybe that’s a bit Woo, but hey, I think its more than a coincidence… When I hit 50, May was 90, and we had kind of a joint party. Karen, my Pisces Time Twin came too, despite having to travel from the Scottish Highlands. We worked out my age and Karen’s age equalled May’s age. We had a great time, and there are photos to prove it.
May and I went out sometimes. To the solicitors. to change her will. To local beauty spots. To the local enormous charity warehouse. I once admired a canvas picture of a rose she had. She bought me one, and I appreciated that this was an acknowledgment of our friendship.
I used to watch for May’s light to go on in the winter. One night I must have been pre occupied. The next morning, I went accross to check. I found the back door open, and the tv on. I knew what I was going to find almost before I found it. May had decided to move a storage heater. She had become trapped, and when I checked for a pulse, I knew I wouold not find one. I had told her STBXH woiuld move this for her, It was heavy. When it was eventually moved it took a tall, fit policeman and a couple of others.Why she thought she could do this on her own, I will never know. But you have got to her admire her ‘can do’ attitude. She was 90.
I was very sad. But she had died as she had lived. She got on with it, and gave it a go. She showed me that it can be done. Had been done, by presumably countless women before her.And I coulld do it again too. Indeed, I had done it, even if I had kind of forgotten how.
I miss you May. And your picture takes pride of place in my hall. We shall not see your like again.