吕孝信 Lucy Wu (1910, Shenyang – 2005, Seattle)
San Gupo was a socialite in Beijing (gradueated from 京师女子师范学堂) and she carried herself very much that way, all the way. When I first met her here in New York, as a tourist, she’d bugging me every day, to put on a skirt, a dress, fix my hair, make up, earrings, shoes, handbag …. the whole nine yard, which I cared very little. She used to say that all her colleagues thought her as the movie star.
“The American one or Chinese one?” We teased her.
“Of course from the Hollywood. How could they know any Chinese movie stars!”
Once after lunch in the city, Golfer had to rush somewhere and left me with few hours on hand. So, I called her to see if I could spend it with her.
“Are you guys just had a fight?” She asked. I was dumbfounded.
“No, he had to go somewhere” I repeated.
“Oh, in that case, you can’t. I haven’t done my hair yet.”
The summer 2005 I visited her in Seattle. She holed up in New York as long as she physically could. Made attempts to move west joining her son, Uncle Jimmy, but postposed couple of times. Becasue, she wanted to live on her own. When she retired the first time at age of 60 or 65, she went back to work almost immediately, at Teacher’s College’s library at Columbia University, where she spent all her time in New York.
Then she retired the second time at 72. She went back to work again, volunteer her time, 3 days a week.
“So I have somewhere to go and something to do.” She liked to dress up with matching jewlery, even just to go to work.
She finally moved to Seattle in 1996 (after 33 years in NY p217), when she was 86. Lived in a condo by herself for 5 years, wrote her memoir. She moved in with her son Jim at 90.
She had cancer, was in the full care nursing home. Uncle Jimmy told her loudly that I came to visit.
“Ningning, you’re here.” She said weakly.
Few moments later, she opened her eyes, trying hard to focus.
We hadn’t seen each other for 10 years although we talked and sent pictures often.
She looked almost the same, delicate and exquisite. Her skin was very fair and fine. I gently held her boney hand. She squeezed mine lightly.
“You must play tennis every day. See how dark you have become.”
“Why can’t you stay inside for a change?”
“Thank god you’re married now and Golfer doesn’t mind your darkness.”
It was a really sunny gorgeous day. The nurse told Jim that Lucy hadn’t been out for a while. So we tried to persuade her to go out, in wheelchair of course.
She said no.
She hadn’t done her hair. And She hadn’t dyed her hair in a month.
The nurses all loved her, they took turn to come chatting her up.
Lucy won’t budge.
She passed away that November, almost to the date her daughter Milan died 10 years ago in Connecticut. Uncle Jimmy arranged an elegant funeral for her. The coffin was closed. Many of us asked if we could see her for the last time. Jimmy explained that it’s her request not to be seen by anyone, not even after the mortician’s magical hands.