“You’re wasting your time young lady; I only let you in because we both know Eva.”
Florence McNaughton issued a tart greeting as I looked down. A white haired lady with layers of facial wrinkles gave me the once over.
“Now Mrs. McNaughton, Eva told me what a social butterfly you are. I could really use your telephone skills.”
I took a tentative step, noting the stained mud brown carpet. Work mandated we always take our shoes off during a home visit.
“What’s your name? Willy Loman? I’m not buying your pitch, missy.”
“It’s Jenny . Your doctor wants you to find something to do and I need someone to call folks who are homebound. We need each other.”
She pursed her lips and sighed before gesturing me to the spring showing couch.
“What I need, Jenny, is my husband back.”
Florence joined the county program that afternoon. She signed on to be a volunteer phone caller, checking in on those who were not able to leave home. It was a perfect assignment given Florence’s recent widowhood and her own battle with debilitating arthritis. My job was to keep her busy with a client list, so I was on the musty carpet twice a month.
“Jenny, don’t you be giving me men’s number. I’m not some 1-900 line for widowers.”
I knew beneath the wit she was grieving. Florence had been married forty years. Each visit I sat while she recalled their final moments together. Then she turned to humor.
“You dating anyone? I might as well ask how many cats you have. Here’s a pearl of wisdom: this too shall pass. I hated when my mom said that, but you know, this side of the fence of life, she was right.”
Florence gave the ‘this too shall pass’ line when I announced time off work for surgery. She called me in the hospital recovery room.
“You high, Jenny? Did the doctors touch you when you were under? I saw that on some tabloid show.”
I winced in an effort not to laugh.
“No Florence, I think everything went as planned. I won’t know the results right away or if I can have children down the road, but I’m believing God.”
“Yes, good. You know, this whole thing you’re going through, you know this too shall pass.”
Florence even called me at home. She lifted my spirits calling under the guise that she was worried about her phone friends’ well being. There were some phone calls where she never did tell me who she was concerned about.
Then Tim burst into my life. I called to let her know I was bringing a friend over after work. She let out a yee haw.
“It’s about time Jenny. I thought for sure I’d be in a casket before this day ever came.”
Tim matched Florence jib to jab. She asked what his intentions were.
Tim handed her a yellow rose for friendship. She kept talking.
“On what? You know Jenny isn’t making big bucks.”
“On what you think. I’d like your approval; I know you mean the world to Jenny.”
Tim won her over. She cleared her throat.
“I like him. Reminds me of Ian. Jenny, your clock is ticking. Keep him.”
Florence’s arthritis deteriorated and her ability to use the phone disappeared. When Tim and I married, she was a recipient of the homebound calling program. Her mind remained sharp, but her body rebelled.
It was Christmas Eve when Tim took the call from Florence’s son. He let us know he was taking her to his house in another county until an assisted living room opened up. I brushed back tears, unable to imagine my schedule not including a Florence visitation.
Our last visit I didn’t even knock on the door; just let myself in on the thin, shredded carpet. Florence was in a wheelchair, hunched in pain. I started to cry.
“Don’t you dare cry on me, I’m not dead yet. Save it.”
“So, what’s next?”
Florence flashed a mischievous smile.
“This too shall pass. I’ll be fine, I’m going to turn on all Scott’s lights and leave his water running. After that I just might grasp some scissors and wheel around the house. Just have to be careful, he made sure to tell me he has new fancy carpeting.”
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