Apologies to T. S. Eliot, J. Alfred Prufrock, and English majors everywhere.
Last week, in the middle of the afternoon, an ambulance stopped in front of the neighbor’s house. Many of our neighbors are elderly, so sometimes an ambulance is really a portend of the end of someone’s life. As I got my Gladys Kravitz on, the paramedics took the gurney in and came out in shortly, with the Mr. sitting up, looking quite alive, but not very well. Shortly after the ambulance left, the Mrs. and the Junior left as well. I was relieved the next day to see them arrive back home, but sad to see how frail Mr. was.
In the midst of this, it occurred to me, “I haven’t been a very good neighbor.” I don’t even know why their adult son lives with them. Is he a veteran who has PTSD and is unable to keep a job? (my working theory) I’ve talked to the Mr. and the Mrs. a few times over the past 16 years, but not many at all.
My experience of having my kids has meant that standing at the fence and chatting with neighbors isn’t something I’ve been able to do very much. If I did venture over, there were always little people behind me saying, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom.”
When I saw the Mr. go off in the ambulance, I decided I wanted to be more neighborly. Today, I walked across the street and knocked on the door. Since no one came, even though it was late morning, I hesitated to ring the doorbell lest they be in the middle of some medical procedure or other care of the patient. So I waited, and then walked back to my yard.
Later, I saw that Greg had brought me some peaches from Washington, which he knows I love. And I had a brainstorm. Take a couple of the peaches over to the neighbor. Now it was 2:30 in the afternoon, and I felt more confident that I wouldn’t be waking anyone up, although since I have never been in their house, I don’t know what I was basing that on. As it happens, I caught them at lunch, but the Mrs. was clearly touched by my visit and my gesture.
She mentioned watching Kepler get on the school bus in the mornings and noticing that some days he goes out by himself to the bus, a sure sign he is growing up. We finished talking, and we hugged.
I felt wonderful about the connection I had just made with her. I’m not about to castigate myself for not being more neighborly with the folks here. The people on our street mainly keep to themselves. It is the culture of our street and has worked just fine for us. But I think I would like to have relationships with any of the neighbors who are interested.
When we first moved in, I visited my next-door neighbor and she told me during the course of our conversation, “I don’t need the neighbors. I have a life.” I guess that sort of set the tone for me. We did grow close to one family, but they moved away about five years ago.
This is one place where it’s never too late to start.