Sunday, January 17, 2021

the people across the street

 Before I bought this house, I rented the house next door.  I became friends with the couple who lived in this house.  When they moved I bought their house. 

Across the street from the original house I rented, lived a mother and her daughter. They were remarkably reclusive and predictable.  Every Sunday the daughter would walk the 3/4th of a mile to get the Sunday Globe. Every Saturday they would go shopping.  They would always, always back their car into the driveway.  If you lost your calendar you would know what day it was when the groceries came out of the car.

Our first encounter was not pleasant. I'd noticed that their mail had not been deposited thoroughly into their mail box. I went across the street to pick up some letters and put them in.  A few hours later there was a knock on my door. I was told by the daughter that she did not appreciate my handling their mail.

But that was just the first meeting. Since then, in the thirty years since I've lived on the block we were on friendly terms on the rare occasions when we saw each other.  At first, the mother and daughter were meticulous with the bushes that were in front of their home and the leaves in the fall. They were out there cleaning the driveway in the snow. Then over the years, they stopped being so careful. 

Maybe twenty years ago we exchanged holiday cards.  I am not sure who started it, but I think it was they.  And they even asked about Pumpkin, our now late cat, in the greetings.  

I had gotten to know their next door neighbor better. And once when the neighbor was in the hospital I went to visit, and learned that the mother of the two people across the street was also in the hospital. So, I went to visit her as well.  There, in a half hour visit, she spoke more words to me than she had in a decade. The number of ailments she had endured startled me. And the detail with which she described the various procedures was similarly stunning.  

I learned that the daughter was actually about my age though she looked years older.  I did not know the details but there had been some difficult times--not sure of the source.   

 Donna told me that she had spoken with the daughter, Janice, one day this past year and learned that her mother had recently died.  I probably had not seen the mother outside her home in five years.

Whenever Janice was outside she would wave hello to me when we were taking out or bringing in the garbage.  I saw her a few weeks back shoveling snow and I could not get her attention.  We did bump into each other in March or April shortly after COVID awareness became what it became.  It must have been early on because I don't think either of us had on a mask and Janice told me something about the origins of the virus that became common knowledge by May at least.  She made a joke about us staying six feet apart. We both were in the park. I was taking my constitutional walk and she was returning from what seemed to me to be atypical exercise.  Did see her again once just a week or so ago doing a walk, but I did not approach her--and regret it now.

A firetruck and ambulance were outside her home a week ago.  We heard she had taken ill and gone to the hospital.  I noticed that there was, for her, a great many garbage cans out in front of her house this past Friday.  I did not think that was good. 

Around noon today we saw a car in front of the house. Later Donna went out and spoke with a couple coming out of the house.  Janice had died the day she was taken to the hospital.

My first reaction to the news was something like--"But I just saw her shoveling snow. She was out in the park around New Years"

  It makes me sad to think about her.  Always sad when someone dies, but she had not had--it seemed to me--much of a life.  I wonder if after her mother died, whatever nourishment she got from the living arrangement was gone.  

Hey Janice, I wish I had flagged you down in the park a few weeks back, and come over when you were shoveling in December. I wish I had banged on your door to see how you were doing now and again. 

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