Calling all neighborhood gossips

So, tell me about your neighbors…

I always felt like the neighborhood gossip when I had to ask neighbors to fill out the census questionnaire as proxies for neighbors. It was especially uncomfortable when their neighbors were home.

It wasn’t out of the norm to have people not answer their doors when they saw me pull up bedecked in my census apparel. I decided to not take it personally when people didn’t answer. Suppose (which isn’t hard to do) that they might have COVID. I didn’t want them to answer their door if they did.

I once went up to a door that had caution tape and signs that said beware. I think it would be a great idea to mark your house if you are under quarantine. Since it wasn’t close to Halloween, I thought the people inside either had COVID or were murdered. I didn’t want anything to do with that.

However, sometimes I would be prompted to find a proxy to fill out the census on behalf of the person sitting inside of their house not answering their door. On one occasion, this happened to me while I was visiting a duplex. When I was nearing the end of the interview with the proxy, the person who I was supposed to be interviewing came outside and asked me to move my car.

I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it was to ask questions about the guy and have him show up. His door was right next to his neighbor’s door. I felt like I was talking crap about somebody and didn’t realize the person I was talking about was behind me.

I guess I really didn’t care too much because the guy was rude. I felt sorry for the person who lived next door to him though. When he found out I was asking about him and his family, he said he didn’t believe in all of that census sh!t. Now could I get my car out of his driveway. I had to stop the interview rather abruptly.

I thanked the proxy and gladly was on my way. You should’ve seen my case notes for that visit. I’ll have to say that working for the census was never boring.

It was strange because some people were very reluctant to say anything about their neighbors. Then there were other people that filled me in on a lot more than I asked.

Sweet baby

It happened on Father’s Day..

His first, his last..

I don’t even know him or the baby for that matter.

But I knew his mother from a long time ago, when she was a little girl growing up next door.

It seems hard to believe that I lived somewhere long enough in my adult life to watch a child grow up. She was so young when I first met her…younger than my kids are now.

When she outgrew her bike, she gave it to my daughter.

Now my daughter grew up and left home too.

I wonder what happens to the bicycles when there are no more little legs left to ride them.

The neighbor girl grew up to become a social worker. She rescues children from bad homes but couldn’t save her own child. The horrible injustice of it all must scratch at her wounded heart.

The funeral is tomorrow. It must be hard to pick out the last little outfit that your baby is going to wear in his coffin. I feel so much sorrow for you as I write this.

How devastating to have your baby ripped from your arms so unexpectedly. It’s hard to imagine him in a better place, a place without you.

Do you blame yourself?

Maybe if I noticed something wrong sooner…maybe I should’ve picked him up more when he fussed…maybe I should’ve stayed home with him longer before going back to work…maybe…maybe…maybe…this wouldn’t have happened..

It wasn’t your fault.

I can’t imagine the pain that you are feeling.

I’m so sorry you lost your sweet baby.

 

 

 

 

Patching things up

I live in a house that is almost 20 years old. Everything is starting to show its age, but few things need major repair. The carpets, flooring, and counter tops are showing signs of wear. I understand the feeling.

We live in an air tight house which does have some advantages. We never have high heating bills in the winter. However, we have had some major problems with condensation on our windows. On freezing cold days, it rains inside our house. Water pools on our wooden sills.

After a decade and years of condensation issues, our windows frames and sills are rotten. Black mold is growing on the woodwork. Years ago we had an air exchanger installed to pull in the dry air and expel some of the moisture from our house. But the years of condensation have taken its toll. There are a few windows in our house that I am afraid to open because I fear they will fall out.

We have known for awhile that our windows need replacing. But it is a very expensive project. Something that we do not have the expertise to do ourselves. We could’ve hired our next door neighbor to do the project, but decided to go with someone else.

This is one lesson we learned the easy way because someone else learned it the hard way.

Lesson learned: Never hire a friend or neighbor to do a big remodeling project for you.

My parents live in a brick house with a mansard roof. Basically, their roof slopes down to cover the second story of their house. At one point, they needed a new roof for their house. Luke suggested that his friend and his friend’s father (a neighbor) put on a new roof. My parents hired them to do the job. What they didn’t know was that they didn’t have any experience working with a mansard roof and they didn’t know what they were doing.

One stormy evening my parents visited our house. That night after they returned home, at about 11 PM, I received a phone call from my mom who was crying. Who died was my first thought. My mom called to tell me that it was raining in her house. Her things were getting wrecked and there was nothing she could do about it. She felt sick to her stomach.

They found out with the first torrential downpour that their new roof leaked. They had out every bucket they owned, but it wasn’t enough to contain all of the water coming through their roof. The next day they had to rent a dumpster. I helped them haul out all of the items that were ruined from the flooding.

Their new roof leaked! It also looked like crap. Shingles littered the lawn every time the wind blew. It took them months to come back and patch things up. My parents spent a lot of money on the roof. They were thinking of suing the people that did a shoddy job. But they were neighbors. Not to mention that Luke was a good friend of the guy who did the work. They stood up in each others weddings. This caused some bad blood between the neighbors. This also caused problems with the friendship that could not be easily patched up.

Every time my thoughts stray to hiring our neighbor, Paul reminds me of what happened to my parents. Sometimes being a good neighbor is asking someone else.

Thankfully, my parents ended up getting a new roof a couple of years back from someone who has a lot of experience with mansard roofs. It looks absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, the friendship did not patch up as good as the roof.

Now we are just waiting on a price quote for the new windows. Yikes!

The role of the dice

Tonight I will be out playing Bunco with the girls. It will be the first time that I went after my neighbor Sharon passed away. I will be playing with her friends. I really haven’t wanted to play the last several months without her, but haven’t been able to anyway.

If you are not familiar with Bunco, it is a dice game that is totally based on luck. The only challenging thing about it is keeping score after a drink or two. I was first invited to Bunco when Sharon was hosting it at her house and needed an extra player. That first night I won big time. Beginner’s luck they said. Month after month, Sharon called me to tell me that they needed a sub. Eventually, I was put on the permanent player list. Sharon always insisted on being the driver. She liked to smoke a cigarette on the way to calm her nerves. She rarely, if ever, had a drink. She liked to pick everyone else up. One time we ended up having more people than room in her car, but she squeezed everyone in.

I have finally reached the point of accepting that she is gone. I don’t think that she is going to drive by and wave. I don’t think she is going to come out of her house after a long winter and visit. I don’t think she is going to come over to borrow an egg and send back a batch of cookies. She is gone.

Sharon was an extreme extrovert. She loved people. She used to work at a local gas station and grew up in the area, so everyone knew her. After giving people directions to my house, several people asked me why I didn’t tell them that I lived next to Sharon. So I started telling people that I lived next to Sharon. She had 1,000 people come to her funeral. 

Sharon loved to entertain people by telling stories. My favorite story was about a bear that visited her up north. Sharon and her family owned a lot up north that they put a couple of campers on. She told me that one day a bear visited them while they were cooking out. Later that night, Sharon was having an intimate evening with her husband. The next morning her little boy asked her if the bear came back. He said that he heard her screaming like she was scared and the camper was rocking like the bear was trying to get in. I never laughed so hard.

Sharon had the world’s biggest heart. Her husband had children from a previous marriage. Although she treated his children as if they were her own, she was never able to have children. They decided to provide foster care with the intentions of adopting. Their first two foster children were abused by their previous adoptive foster parents. They were in the process of adopting these children, but it fell through and they were returned back to their previous adoptive parents. Sharon was absolutely heartbroken. 

A couple of years later, Sharon became the foster parent of a baby that she later adopted. She eventually adopted his younger sister when she was 2. The second child was more of a challenge because she was in foster care for the first two years of her life. She decided to make it an open adoption. The birth mother was on drugs and had all of her children taken away right after birth. She just wasn’t mother material. But Sharon kept her land line so the birth mother could call her anytime day or night. She was very loving and not at all judgmental. She even loved my children like they were her own. 

Sharon always called me at work if a strange vehicle was in my yard. She was always keeping an eye on the neighborhood.

The last couple of times that I saw Sharon, she was in bad health. She had a couple of very serious health conditions. Her husband quit his job to become self-employed and they didn’t have health insurance. Previously, her husband was on the road a lot. Sharon was afraid to be home alone without her husband. At night, she slept with every light on in the house. Once in the middle of the night, there was a motorist that broke down near us. She went to Sharon’s house for help because all of the lights were on. Sharon was terrified when her doorbell rang in the middle of the night. So her husband decided to start his own business to be home more.

The last couple of months, Sharon complained about not feeling well. She said that after the kids left for school, she would go back to bed until the afternoon. She couldn’t afford to get the treatment she needed but always told me that she would go to the doctor soon. Then she came down with a simple case of pneumonia. She very unexpectedly died at the age of 45 leaving behind two grade school aged children.

So tonight I will be hanging out with her friends. I wish I didn’t have to go without her.

Same road, different paths

A few days ago, my neighbor committed suicide.

This past week after my kids got home from school, Angel told me that she thought something was wrong. “Mom, there are a lot of cars in the neighbor’s driveway. There is also a police car in the driveway. He never had that many cars in his driveway, even for Christmas or Easter.” I looked over that way in curiosity, but dismissed any concerns because I saw the neighbor the day before and he was fine.

It all started a couple of houses down a couple of months before. Our neighbor had a rummage sale on a cool fall weekend. He told us that his wife of over 20 years left him for another man. They never had children, but were delighted to see ours when we stopped by year after year on Halloween. We looked through his rummage sale of broken dreams. He sold empty picture frames where wedding pictures, happy moments, and vacations used to be. He sold games, his and her costumes, wine glasses, and kitchen items. Then after that weekend, the driveway was empty up until a few days ago.

 I frequently saw our neighbor out on the road. When we first moved here, he walked his two dogs by our house. Then after awhile, he walked with one dog. That dog would walk slowly and the man would wait patiently. Then after awhile, the man walked by himself. He was a large man and every time he went by my dog would bark. He walked in all kinds of weather sometimes with weights. He wore a blaze orange hat. Every time he saw me he was friendly. He noticed when I ran longer runs and asked if was training for something special. I told him about the marathon. He wished me luck.

There are a couple of people that I see often while running and he was one of them. I spoke to him a few weeks back. I think it was about the weather. I told him that I couldn’t wait for warmer days as I ran by. Then I saw him the day before he died. We were going in separate directions on the same road. 

I feel sad that he was so lonely and unhappy that he took his life. I will miss seeing him on the road.