Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

I created this blog a couple of months ago.  But I've had a hard time getting it started.  I have post ideas in my head, but none really seemed right for the first.  And I'm not really sure if this one is any better, but I'm feeling inspired.

It's shortly after 9am on a Sunday, and I've been up for almost 4 hours.  YAWN!  No, I'm not a morning person.  But I have small children.  And the youngest - The Little Wanderer (LW), who turns 2 in just two weeks (sniff, sniff) - recently discovered how to get out of his crib.  So he does at every opportunity.  Last night it took almost an hour to get him to stay in his crib.  And well, this morning at 5:20 he was ready for the day!  Have I mentioned I'm not a morning person?  ANYWHO....I am sitting at my kitchen table, trying to keep LW out of the cabinets...everything really.  And yelling upstairs to his big brother (JT - 4.5 yrs old) that the neighbor's dog Stanley is indeed a boy, and he got that way because that is how he was born.  And I hear Daddy up there, explaining that he (JT) will always be a boy.  We love our neighbors.  They are a couple in their late 20's, who moved in last June.  Just as we were when we moved here 10 years ago.  T is out there with his Dad, tilling some land for his new garden.  T is great with kids.  He doesn't seem to mind when they come running over to play with Stanley (LW prefers to sit on him).  Despite not having his own children, he does not seemed bothered...or JT's endless questions and seemingly random comments.  If you have children, you know what I'm talking about!  S is nice, though not quite as outgoing as T.  And she's more nervous about the dog with the kids (they only recently adopted Stanley, a 4 yr old golden lab).  But that's OK too.  Really, we couldn't have asked for better neighbors to move in next door (this is in NO way influenced by the yummy cookies they brought over at Christmas!).

I feel a tinge of sadness when I say that.  When we moved in 10 years ago, we also said we couldn't have asked for a better neighbor.  A few weeks after we moved in, Ginny (in her late 70's at the time) came over (in her blouse, slacks, and flats - a sight we grew accustomed to over the years) while we were outside and apologized for not coming over sooner.  Her husband of 50+ years had passed away the previous month, so she was not herself.  That was just a hint of the kind woman we grew to love.  She had been in that house over 50 years, so she knew EVERYBODY, past and present.  We had many conversations about the neighborhood - and our house (built circa 1900 - it had gone through many transformations and tenants in her time).  But it was not gossip..she never had a bad word to say about anyone.  She didn't call children bad, they were "spirited".  The terrible two's were 'trying twos'. She let people be who they wanted (including her children and grandchildren) as long as they were happy.  She would often say how much she loved this neighborhood, because the neighbors were always there if you needed them, but not if you didn't.  She also loved children, and was so excited when we told her we were expecting our first.  When the time came to have him, she knew I went to the hospital to be induced.  JT was not quite ready to be born, so we were there for a while.  She left a few messages on our machine wanting to know what was happening.  When we came home, we saw she was there so we went over to introduce him to her even before we came in the door!  And over the next few years, JT and I had many delightful visits with Ginny, sitting in her kitchen, chatting about whatever was on our minds. And she always thought of JT at Christmas and his birthdays.

But Ginny was getting on in years, and her health began to decline noticeably about 2 years ago, just before LW was born.  She had always been an active woman, but was finally forced to slow down, much to her chagrin.  I hadn't seen her that much while I was pregnant with him, partly because it was winter and partly because I was sick as a dog much of the time.  When I brought LW over to meet her, she was having a hard time breathing.  But she was still delighted to meet yet another new life, since she loved children so much.  Over that summer, we didn't really see her much.  I didn't know how I'd contain JT as well as LW. That Halloween, she was having an even harder time breathing, yet she insisted on handing candy out to all the children she loved so much.  That was the last time we saw her.  As the winter approached, so did our colds and other illnesses, and I didn't want to pass anything on to her.  She passed away that March, but I didn't find out until about 10 days later when I noticed her house being cleaned out, then found her obituary online. I felt guilt - boy did I feel guilt!  That we hadn't been able to say goodbye.  But more so, I felt sad that we had lost a dear friend and neighbor, and that she had suffered so much at the end. To this day I shed an occasional tear when I think of the neighbor we are missing, and the fact that though JT enjoyed our visits as much as I did, he no longer remembers her.

But I've learned a little from the experience too.  Don't assume that it's a bad time to visit.  Maybe it wouldn't have been a good idea to bring the boys over in her last year, but I certainly could have gone over myself for a few minutes.  To chat, or even just to say hi and see if she needed anything (not that she would  have accepted the offer!).  And I certainly could have called!!  So I'm trying not to be as shy or socially awkward as I once was.  I'm not in any one's face, but I'll be there if they need me.

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