Although we have a full neighborhood behind us, our house is on a short street of 6 houses. Martha grew up in this house and knew the surrounding neighbors since childhood. When I first moved in, all the homes were occupied with the older folks she grew up with. Over the years many have died or moved in with children and we have experienced a full turnover of neighbors.
Directly across the street there was an elderly woman who we took care of - mowed her lawn, cleared her driveway of snow, etc. When she moved a 30ish couple moved in but the man (who was always outside smoking) would never say hello or wave. Cold, but we were relieved not to have double the yard work to do. The woman eventually divorced him and a new man moved in who was very friendly. It was nice to have folks to wave to and greet at the mailbox. But recently they put the house up for sale to be closer to his work. We kept hoping that a young family might buy it and that we’d have some kids around for hire as we get older. But then we heard that an elderly lady with a walker bought it. Damn. But then it got worse.
Long time readers may remember back to when I was a church goer and received a letter from the church elders that I was no longer welcome at the church. Although they never gave me an opportunity to speak with them directly, I did hear rumored the problem was because the temporary female minister told them I was in love with her, or stalking her, or something like that. A little delusional and gay panicky I know, but they gave me no opportunity to defend myself and so that ended that.
I see the wife of one of those elders often - walking her dogs, at the supermarket, etc. Every time she avoids me - changes directions, stares somewhere else, anything to avoid eye contact. I see her often enough that it is obvious the cold shoulder is intentional.
So, of course, it is her mother who moved in.
The first couple of days I watched as she made many trips with her van, unloading her mom’s stuff. Each time I tried to make eye contact because I hate to have negativity in my life and this was just juvenile. And then one day I simply walked up to her and forced her to acknowledge me.
Surprisingly, she turned and hugged me as if we had been old friends for decades, just being reunited. She asked about Martha, she asked about the kids, she talked about having my girls in Sunday School (they thought she was a whack job). I helped carry in some boxes and she invited me to meet her mother. It was all very strange and very phony feeling.
But, it turns out her mom is a lovely person. She broke her neck and is in a brace and needs the walker. I gave her my phone number in case she needs anything and the other day I accompanied her on her daily exercise walk around the block. I almost gagged when she went on about how great her son-in-law was. I wanted to ask, “oh the one who said I couldn’t even sit in the church sanctuary, alone, during off hours for prayer?” Last I remember a church was supposed to be God’s house, not an elder’s personal property. Oh yeah, so very Christian of him.
So I have a new neighbor. Her children live close by so I don’t expect to have to do the yard work, but I will keep an eye out for her. She moved from a different area of the state and told me she doesn’t know her way around so I will try to invite her to go shopping or perhaps go on a Town tour. I will check up on her and walk with her, when I can, on her excursions through the neighborhood for although I no longer consider myself a Christian, I do agree with the basic tenets of kindness and compassionate for all, something I see less and less of in organized religions.
And now I see the house behind me has sold and a new car is in the driveway. Time to go introduce myself. Would it be wrong to hope the new neighbor is a world class baker or chef?