Won't you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Today is a different day at my house. I awake and there is no need to open the blinds in my bedroom so my neighbor will know I am home. She no longer lives there.
Neighbors arrive in varying forms - those you wouldn’t know if you ran into them in the grocery store. Those to whom you send a friendly wave as you drive by. Those you share a greeting or story with now and then.
Then those for whom you know the intimate details; the stories of their life as well as their worries and triumphs.
Mrs. R was the latter. From the time we moved in twelve years ago, she has been a surrogate grandmother for our family, her husband also fulfilling the role of grandfather until he passed away a few years ago. My boys knew their house as a safe place, where help and love was always available. Helped to fill the void of their grandparents who lived far away.
The boys mowed their lawn and performed small chores. Mrs. R remembered their birthdays, celebrated their graduations, gave them hugs when they went off to school. Or hugged me when they went off to school. As I told each of my boys that Mrs. R was moving, they all responded with such surprise. I understood. A certain shelter no longer available.
Her moving only came about the past couple of weeks, although we knew the possiblity hung for the past year or so. Age has caught up with Mrs. R and at 83 has decided the house is too much. Granted, it is, but I still regret having to see the change – both in her and the moving. Now an apartment will provide her home, surrounded by a hundred more kindred in age only. Someone will cook all her meals. She will have someone available 24/7 to call for help. Bridge, bingo, field trips to keep her busy. Perhaps a welcome change from the never ending call of keeping a house and the loneliness living alone can bring.
Inevitable change -- an apt definition of life.
Makes me cognizant the life decisions our 17-year-old has before him are not so dire. That the extreme pressure to make choices about his future are not those that will cement him forever. His changes are only few of many to come in his lifetime. We are mistaken to approach his decisions as pertinent for all his future. Nothing stays the same. Even at 83, he will face decisions about the future. Decisions he will make whether he wants to or not. We are only ever settled, just for now.
Yesterday, Mrs. R and I hugged as the moving van left and her visiting daughters waited to take her away. She said how hard it was, that she had been so happy here. The last place she was with her husband. Good neighbors, good memories.
I wished her well on her new adventure.
"Adventure? Is that what we can call it?" she said.
I don't know how else to look at it, without losing it. Change. Never easy. Always present.
My seventeen-year-old stood in the doorway to the living room last night.
“Is Mrs. R gone now?”
“I saw the moving van before I left for school this morning,” he said, in a soft voice.
I smiled at him. I understood.
I hope you slept well in your new home last night, Mrs. R. I shall miss you.