Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I awoke this morning remembering this post I'd written years ago, so for whatever reason, here it is again.

Our Neighbors Moved Today

One cold January morning in 2001, our 90-year-old neighbor died. I saw them carry his sheet-draped body from his front door which is just outside my sunroom windows, the ones where I sit and have coffee with Jesus. I have watched much of life and death from those two big windows. I've seen a few neighbors carried away by ambulance never to return and I've watched their loved ones dressed in black returning from funerals.

But like I said, I've also watched a whole lot of Life outside of those same windows.

Al's house stood empty for 18 months. Dark windows at night. No life there just below my own window sills. No paper boy leaving the newspaper. Only eerie silence.

I began experiencing sinus problems during February of 2002 and they eventually turned me into a slug. A real sloth. Months later I dragged myself to a doctor, got some antibiotics and began to feel better, but the godsend book, Sinus Survival, is what really helped the most. I began taking the author's natural, common sense advice and have felt like my nearly-normal, semi-healthy self since.

(I'm getting to the part about my neighbors moving away. Honest.)

Those six months of being a slug meant that our yard suffered. Tom doesn't do yard care. That's my department. So by August, the month I finally began to feel better, our yard was like a travel advertisement for Death Valley.

Enter: our new neighbors.

Mario and Audrey looked over Al's house with a realtor in August. After an hour, Audrey came over to our house and knocked on our front door. Tom answered. The first thing Audrey said after hello was, "Are those your weeds beside the driveway next door?"

Well, the last time Tom had looked on that side of the house was when I dragged him over there to show-off my beautiful Spring-time perennials which were at their peak. We'd had a wet Spring. I'd planted lots of perennials the year before and they were gorgeous. Yet now, three dry summer months later, they were also gone. But he didn't know that.

"You call those weeds?!" he asked. The gasp in his voice was enough to let Audrey know he was offended.

Tom came and got me and I talked to Audrey out on the porch. She said, "I think I offended your husband." I told her I'd been sick, lethargic, and the yard had suffered the most.

Audrey and Mario bought the house next door. And so it began.

Audrey is like Ray's mother on Everybody Loves Raymond. She looks like her. She speaks like her. At least, that's what I told everyone, because, hey! She does.

All winter I looked forward to the following Spring to my great reunion with my yard. This Spring I would have energy. I would plant hundreds of flowers. I would wear my gardening dress and have romantic, quiet times alone out there beneath the towering lilac bushes. I'd sing little songs. Watch the birds eat from the feeders.

Finally Spring returned and I skipped out to my yard. I dug around my little yellow daffodils with a fork from my kitchen. Fed them fertilizer granules with a table fork. And then, there was Mario standing over me.

"You're using a fork? I've got some garden tools if you want to use them. Come over and use them anytime. Are those daffodils? They sure look short. I've never grown daffodils. Are they hard to grow? Is that as tall as they get? I always thought they were taller. Oh? They're miniature daffodils? I didn't know they had such a thing. You can borrow my gardening tools anytime. They're just sitting there. They're better than a fork."

And on and on.

My romantic visions of quiet, Victorian-like dreamy mornings in the garden were dashed. Day after day Mario was out in his yard, too, just when I was. He'd come over and talk--every time. Or if he wasn't there, then Audrey was, saying things like, "Do you mind if I ask you a question? Why do you always wear dresses? I told my daughter, 'The whole world wears pants, but Debra still wears dresses.'"


Well, I became sneaky. I began creeping out in the yard before the sun had even finished rising. I gardened on tip-toe and hid behind tall cosmos. I needed time alone out in my garden--and in my shadowy yard-- I got it.

But you know...after a couple weeks, I missed running into Mario and Audrey. I missed our earlier conversations. I missed them. So I went back to gardening when I knew they'd be out there, too. And we began sharing our extra garden vegetables. I learned to love squash, even, because Audrey gave me some and I didn't know how to tell her, "No thanks, I've not eaten that stuff in 20 years." I couldn't throw it away, either (risking a guilty conscience), so I cooked it with onion and spices and loved it. We eat it all the time now.

Audrey would stand under my sunroom windows and talk with me. She raved about our beautiful spring flowers (they'd survived my neglect!)which she enjoyed from her windows. She invited me to her house to see all the many wonderful improvements her carpenter son made. She brought me vintage magazines she'd bought at a yard sale because she knew I love old stuff. She called me just to chat. Mario said I was a hard worker (made me feel like Hercules--in a good way). And we even found the world's best carpenter by way of Audrey and Mario--their grandson. He put up our remarkable carport.

Along the way, I realized it was comforting to look over at their lighted windows on dark nights and know that Mario and Audrey were inside, cozy and together.

But today Audrey and Mario are moving.. It's a long story. (It was nothing we said or did...). My sunroom windows are now playing the scenes from Mario and Audrey's Moving Day.

But here is the good news. They are moving only twenty minutes away. To a home in the country. And they've invited us to come visit them anytime. Already, we are looking forward to that first visit.

I will miss Audrey and Mario. They cannot be replaced.

As man draws nearer to the stars, why should he not also draw nearer to his neighbor?
...Lyndon B. Johnson


Utah Grammie said...

Oh I just loved this story. Thanks for writing this- I can hear Audrey and see Mario - great tribute!

Karen said...

I'll watch anything with the great Hugh Laurie! I've loved him since the days of Jeeves and Wooster. I just love him.

And the show! It's a puzzle - each and every show. And just when you think you've figured out something - it changes midstream. Excellent writing and outstanding acting. A win/win!