Print Story Until she returns
By Gedvondur (Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 05:55:28 AM EST) neighbors, old women, lawns, life (all tags)
They took one of my neighbors away in an ambulance last night.  It made me think more than I wished to on such a warm and sunny day.

Every couple of weeks, I spend an hour or two on the phone with my best friend Markus.  He has left our frozen wasteland and moved to Atlanta, so it's nice to be able to talk to him from time to time.  Many times, even in cold weather, I will conduct this call in my garage, so that I might indulge in my filthy smoking habit. 

Yesterday was no exception.  We had record high temperatures and I was enjoying a cigarette and a fine Spaten Optimator while sitting in the doorway of my garage.  I noticed that there were two cars at the house kitty-corner from mine.  I tend to watch our neighbor's houses and note their habits.  It isn't out of some particular busy-body impulse, it's because I feel it's important that we all watch out for each other.  Perhaps that is old-fashioned or relentlessly Midwestern, but there it is.

The particular house in question is owned by a very old and small woman, whose name I have never gotten.  She is taciturn and very much keeps to herself.  I keep a particular eye on her, due to her age and the fact that she lives alone.  Two adults are escorting her into the house, with one of them holding a plastic bag.  I recognize one of them as her eldest son, a man in his fifties in his own right.  By the way she was holding the other man's arm, I worried that perhaps she had been ill.  I largely pushed it out of my mind, her son and other relatives where there.

Several hours later I was busy putting dishes into the dishwasher when my wife Weetabix called out to me from her office, telling me that there seemed to be some police out on the street.  I had heard sirens earlier, but thought nothing of them, as we live near a street where the local FD regularly travels from their station a scant mile away.  Putting down various implements of food destruction, I stepped out into the front yard. 

A fire truck and an ambulance are situated in front of the old woman's house.  I can see various firemen and paramedics milling around in and out of the house.  Standing on the corner of my property is our local gossip/busy-body Holly, and Biff and his wife, who live some four houses up from me.  Biff is an interesting cat, long hair, long mustache, sandals and a penchant for drinking Crown Royal.  He's our own local Jimmy Buffet, without the music.  My overall impression is that Biff would have been much better off in California in the '60s than in Green Bay Wisconsin now.  I know Biff fairly well, he tends bar at a local joint where I used to play darts.

I walked over and asked what was going on.  Apparently the old woman was having a problem.  Holly told me that one of our other neighbors (who, I didn't hear) had seen her outside raking earlier.  We had been having unseasonably warm weather, with temperatures rising up to 80 degrees.  100 year records for temperature were broken yesterday. 

The old woman was extremely particular about the exterior appearance of her house.  In the summer, she would use her expensive Ariens mulching lawn mower to meticulously cut her yard.  Sometimes this was as often as every two days, to maintain the neatly groomed look she was going for.  When she did this, she would place a chair near her garage in the shade so she could take breaks.  The lawn is small, but at her age it required several rest stops to finish for her.  I had offered to cut the lawn for her for free several times but had been firmly rebuffed.  My lawn was no where as neat as hers, and clearly I wasn't up to the task.

She would also edge her side walk by hand, with a small hand spade and some clippers.  She used a stool and would move up the sidewalk, inch by painful inch.  I own a gas-powered edger and I offered to edge for her several times.  Again, I was politely but firmly rebuffed.  I always felt bad watching her edge on her little stool.  Her hands were gnarled with arthritis and it would often take all day for her to complete the task.  In the fall she would rake her yard, often three times a day.  Not one single stray leaf was allowed on her immaculate little yard, although the trees and wind conspired against her more often than not.  Offers of help for this task were also politely declined.

She was seen raking today in a sweatshirt, taking the occasional break to her chair.  At one point, the anonymous neighbor noticed that she was not just sitting in the chair, but she was slumped down in it.  They checked on her and found her unconscious.  Help in the form of an ambulance and her children were summoned.  The scene I witnessed earlier from my garage was her children returning her home from a two hour stay in the emergency room.

We stood on the corner of my yard and watched the activity in the old woman's house.  There was no running about, no real sense of urgency.  To me, as I remarked to Holly and Biff, was either a good sign or a very bad one.  Soon, the brought her out on a stretcher and put her into the waiting ambulance.  Several minutes later, the ambulance departed, lights on, but no sirens.  Biff and his wife depart, for them the show is over. 

Holly and I stand and chat for a moment when we see the eldest son begin walking to his truck, which was parked up the street.  I ran over to him, with Holly in tow, and asked if there was anything we could do to help.  His response was "Pray".  He told us that she was dehydrated and had passed out in the bathroom.  He was sure they would keep her in the hospital this time.  I felt guilty, and told him I had offered her help several times to no avail.  He grimaced and said "I'm her oldest son, and she won't take help from me.  I'm not surprised."  Holly and I then said our goodbyes to him and returned to my front yard.  After chatting for a few minutes, Holly returned across the street to her house as well.

Later that night I was again sitting in the doorway of my garage, enjoying another beer and a smoke.  I looked over at the old woman's house and was overcome with a strange feeling of sadness.  For the last 10 years, we have lived near this woman.  She has been alone, her husband died years ago.  I have watched her and her house, her scrupulously neat yard.  I have approached her to help her, sometimes just to chat.  She was always very polite, but I got the sense that she wasn't comfortable with the contact.

I don't know that the old woman will be back.  It is very possible that she will be.  At her age you never can really know.  Holly had related to me that the old woman was lonely and missed her husband, whose passing had to have been at least a decade earlier.  Holly is good at ferreting out the scoop on anyone in the neighborhood. 

I know in my heart that things change.  I know that people, good people end up alone sometimes and that they get old and die.  For the old woman, she has been biding her time.  Her children are grown, as are her children's children.  Her husband has passed away.  Yet, the selfish side of me always wants that old woman to be there, raking her leaves, mowing the lawn, and edging the sidewalk.

< Wibble | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Until she returns | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Neighbors by ayrlander (4.00 / 1) #1 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 06:20:56 AM EST

We have a few neighbors near us.  One is a single guy who we'll say hi to, but who keeps very much to himself inside the house, so we only see him when he's doing yardwork.  Another is an older lady who we're very good friends with.  Anytime we see her we chat for 15-20 minutes, we have each other over for meals, etc.

The third set?  They moved out just after Thanksgiving and we didn't find out until about 2 weeks ago.  :-\  All we knew was their cars weren't there anymore, so we thought someone was sick and they had to go far away for treatment or something.  No sign up (they haven't sold this one yet), nothing, just bought another house and moved out one day.  Obviously, we weren't exactly close with them....

Heh by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 09:00:46 AM EST
We are not so close as to be having meals with the neighbors, but we do watch out for each other most of the time. 

The community is mostly older folks, either disabled or retired, or DINKs like my wife and I.  (Double Income No Kids)

It's been a nice area, I just wished I liked the house better.

"If that's not irony, I'll drink a kitten." --Fleece

[ Parent ]
VSTFP by ammoniacal (4.00 / 2) #3 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 10:12:37 AM EST
Very pensive, thanks.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Your welcome by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #4 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 10:32:32 AM EST
Thanks much!
"If that's not irony, I'll drink a kitten." --Fleece
[ Parent ]
My Neighbours by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 2) #5 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 11:13:14 AM EST
We have a neighbour across the street. She moved in, borrowed a space heater, and then moved to her boyfriend's house to give him blowjobs so he could quit smoking (if he feels a craving, she kneels, apparently).

She never gave us our heater back. Also, I've already quit smoking so there was no mojo for me on that front, either.

The neighbours to the side of us are paranoid Dutch people who, because we had a dispute about water run-off last year, are convinced that anything unfortunate that happens to their property is a result of sabotage.

For instance, when their Mickey Mouse drainage system got stopped up with gravel they called the police and told me we'd put cement in the works.

They videotape us when we get too close to the property line.

On the other side of a convenience store where a Korean man chain-smokes in the parking lot while practicing his golf swing. Despite living in Canada for longer than I've been alive he speaks worse English than my four-year-old. He's friendly, though -- he once discounted me four cents when I didn't have the correct change.

Good times.

The neighbours behind us are coyotes. They don't trouble us much aside from kidnapping and eating the occasional pet.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
space heater. by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #7 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 11:43:02 AM EST
i'm trying to find a way to work the space heater into the blowjobs; perhaps she uses it to heat him up before hand?
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
[ Parent ]
It's canada by debacle (2.00 / 0) #8 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 01:04:25 PM EST
She has to thaw out her lips.


[ Parent ]
When I think about your Dutch neighbours by ammoniacal (2.00 / 0) #9 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 01:19:48 PM EST
I get the urge to clean my guns.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
If I were the dutch neighbors by wiredog (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 09:21:19 AM EST
I'd be paranoid too. IIRC, they're one of the targets for Old Oaks psychoses.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Dutch neigbors by Orion Blastar (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 06:12:18 PM EST
are also genetically vulnerable to schizotypical personality disorder.

"I drank what?" - Socrates after drinking the Conium
[ Parent ]
I need a girlfriend like that. by wiredog (4.00 / 2) #11 Wed Mar 28, 2007 at 09:22:43 AM EST
Except that I've quit smoking.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

[ Parent ]
Kinda by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #6 Tue Mar 27, 2007 at 11:36:06 AM EST
One neighbor we know pretty well as he was the general contractor on our addition. We chat fairly often, but they are not at the level of friendship where you do more than chat.

Most of the other people on our street are nodding acquaintances. We know their names, but haven't done anything with them socially really. All except for the Ukrainians who run the daycare on the corner. They're a bit standoffish. I haven't really spoken to either of them in the eleven years we've lived there.

When we moved in, the people across the way were an older couple. Their youngest daughter (of some ungodly number of children...they're catholic) was just going off to college. In the years since, they aged, the wife got Alzheimer's and then died. It was very sad. The man still lives there, seems healthy and fit. He took up bicycling after his wife died. He seems happy (always has family about) but I often wonder how long he'll be in a house that size.

We live in a very non-transient neighborhood. On our cul-de-sac of eight, only one house has changed hands since we moved in. At least three people on the street bought their houses new, when they were built in the sixties.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

It may not be her standards by kwsNI (4.00 / 1) #12 Thu Mar 29, 2007 at 04:17:30 AM EST
It's very likely that it's not that her standards are higher in her refusing her help, it's that she wants to do the work.  I'd say she probably both needs the excuse to get out of the house and needs the feeling of accomplishment.  My grandfather's in his 80s and still gardens religiously every year.  10lb tomatos, cucumber, watermelon, cantelop, a dozen varieties of lettuce, 100lb cabbages, he feeds all the family and half his neighborhood - claiming every year that it'll be his last year, it's just too much work, but every spring rolls around and he's got new seedlings started. 

Here's hoping for your neighbor's safe, healthy and expedient return. 

Very nice! by nekrosys (4.00 / 1) #13 Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 08:10:07 AM EST
Great reflection!  You should submit it to a magazine or something.

Jenn, lm's wife.
Thanks much by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #14 Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 09:01:27 AM EST
If I could I would, but I already work for a magazine, and although the mag I work for doesn't handle this sort of content (it's a tech mag) I can't actually submit to other publishers.  It's against my agreement with them.

"If that's not irony, I'll drink a kitten." --Fleece

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Yuck by nekrosys (2.00 / 0) #15 Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 11:06:45 AM EST
That kind of sucks.  Maybe you could save up a bunch of similar writings and try to get a book published.

Jenn, lm's wife.
[ Parent ]
Heh by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Mar 30, 2007 at 11:20:25 AM EST
It might take a while.  I don't often write diaries, because writing all day takes it out of me.  I have  a hard time doing it after all of that.

But I appreciate the sentiment and the support.

"If that's not irony, I'll drink a kitten." --Fleece

[ Parent ]
Until she returns | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback