Friday, August 22, 2008

Neighborly Love

We first brought the property we are on in 2002, and on it was a small, one-story house with 5 rooms (kitchen, living room, bathroom, bedroom, and office). Plus a 1 car garage attached with the washer/dryer in the garage.

Directly behind our house was a drab gray house that was (and still is) in need of some major TLC. The owner of this house was 92 year old spry Donald, who was pretty much deaf. We had some very interesting conversations over the so-called "fence" that separated our yards (more on the fence later). Donald, being deaf, would come out and talk whenever he saw us in the backyard, but he would neglect to put his hearing aids on beforehand. Mike and I would do our darnest to understand/lipread him, and always fail, despite us having our cochlear implants/hearing aids on. So the conversation was very one-sided, with Donald going on and on about his days in the war, his health issues, and other subjects that I was unable to understand. One or both of us would stand there, nodding politely, desperately trying to think of some way to excuse ourselves. Whenever we would say something, such as "I need to go back into the house and check on the cake in the oven" we would be answered with a hand cupped to his ear and "I'm sorry I can't understand you, I forgot my hearing aids". Eventually we'd have to use gestures to tear ourselves away. There were times where we'd see him starting to come out of his house and we'd make a beeline for the inside of ours. We weren't trying to be mean, this was a nice old man in need of company, but for goodness sakes, the man could have put his hearing aids on so we could have actually had a conversation!

Fast-forward to 2006, when we had our little house demolished in order to start from scratch building a new house on the property. While the house was being built, Mike prepared to put a new "good neighbor" fence between Donald's yard and ours. He went over one day and tore down the "fence" that was there, which was some stakes, some wire, some wood, and other various types of materials to make a patchwork barrier separating the 2 yards. It was pretty darn ugly, and I was glad to see it go. Then he dug holes for the cement and called it a day.

The next day we got a call from our builder. There was a business card on the front door of the house from the police, requesting that we call. So we called them. Turns out that Donald had called the police to say that someone had torn down his fence! (What "fence"?) So with my Mom and with 2-month old Jake in a pouch sling, we walked over to Donald's house. The doorbell was broken so we knocked on the door really loudly. "Go Away!!" is what my mom heard. She knocked again and yelled "we want to talk with you about the fence!". Silence. We started to leave, but then I noticed Donald slowly making his way from the side door of his house. So we explained what we were doing with the fence and he was totally fine with it. And then he kept talking. And talking. And talking. Talking in such a way that it was impossible to interrupt and get a word in. Talking about random things. About the beautiful siding on his house that has upheld so well for 40 years (ugliest siding, ever). About his health problems. About things we really didn't need to know about. Jake was totally happy and content in his pouch sling, and I was rocking from side to side and occassionally kissing the top of his head. At some point I stopped rocking him and actually started poking him gently, to try and get him to start fussing! He finally started to fuss and gave us an excuse to leave.

Mike resumed working on the fence. He put the posts in cement and left them to dry. Then he started attaching the boards to the fence. He put the boards up on Donald's side first. As he was doing this, Donald came out of his house and became totally hostile with Mike. "Get off my property! I have a gun in the house and I'll use it if I have to!" Mike simply responsed with "How are you today, Donald?" and completely flustered Donald and calmed him down. Mike reminded Donald that he was the owner of the new house that was being built, and we had agreed that it was okay to build a good neighbor fence.

We were so happy when the fence was completed. And we later found out that the old "fence" was actually on our property line, not his. The new fence is, too.

Donald passed away sometime later that year. We were hoping that some nice new people would buy the house and make it pretty. Instead, the people are not very friendly and have put a refrigerator in the back of the sunroom that is on the back of the property. So now, instead of looking at torn white curtains, we get to look at the back of a refrigerator. The 40 year old siding has been left as-is, with nary a splash of new paint in sight.

At least they don't try to talk with us without hearing aids on.

1 comment:

Hedro said...

Awww. Donald was lucky to have neighbours like you.

-H