The great white pages in the sky

The sun was over the yardarm and someone was at the door. I thought, “those damn solicitors”, and I was about to yell to the GG, “will you get that?” I’m sorry, but door-to-door solicitors are [one of] the bane[s] of my existence and I can’t be counted upon to be terribly polite to them. But then I looked toward our open front door and, to my great surprise, it was our elderly, ailing next-door neighbor. A woman who really shouldn’t be out wandering around the neighborhood alone.

I invited her in. The problem? She couldn’t figure out how to use the telephone book. “I need to call my uncle and see if he’s ready for us to pick him up. His name is Uncly Uncleman and I can’t find him in the phone book.” Fortunately, the GG came along right at that moment and that freed me to go and get our telephone book (yes, we still have one) thinking to myself, “It’s pretty hard to find someone who’s been dead for 20 or 30 or 40 years in the telephone book.” The GG sat down with her and together they looked through the telephone book. They looked up her uncle, her mother, her father. No luck. I was in the Landfill Chitchen madly doing a little lookup of my own. For my neighbor’s own phone number. I heard the GG explain patiently to her that *we* were in the phone book even though we don’t use our phone. Making small talk to reassure a confused elderly woman that everything would be all right. I mouthed to the microwave, “*We* are in the phone book because we are not *dead*!”

We were supposed to meet Mouse downtown for dinner, so I texted her to say we might be a little late. I grabbed my phone, sneaked out the back door, shoved my feet into my purple crocs and dashed across the yard to the neighbors’ back door. Bang bang bang! Bang bang bang! BANG BANG BANG!!!! No answer. I dialed their number. “Your call has been forwarded…” I dialed again. “Your call has…” What was going on? Her husband is of sound mind but he is ill and frail and very hard of hearing. Was he home? Was he asleep? The garage door was shut. Was his car in there? (No, they he probably shouldn’t be driving but that’s a whole ‘nother topic.) Could he have gone out and left her alone? Was he, uh, alive? Bang bang bang. No answer. No answer. No answer. “Your call…”

I went back to the Landfill. I am not good at this kind of stuff. I am not a patient, caregiver type of person. The GG is much better at that stuff than I. It’s not that I don’t care! I care deeply and I am often very much aware of another person’s mental/emotional state. Just ask my kids about when my Moom-dar goes into hyperdrive! But I am not a chit-chat small-talk type person even on the best of days and, since the GG was there to patiently guide her through white pages 101, I flapped and fluttered around.

I interrupted the telephone book conversation to ask her where her husband was. “Is he home?”, I asked. “Oh, no! He’s in Arizona.” Oops. I didn’t like what was behind door number 1, so I tried door number 2. “Where is your husband?” “He’s asleep.” Better. But where was he sleeping? Home? Arizona? Or? I tried one more door. “Is your husband asleep at home?” “Oh, no! He’s with my mother!” Well. *Was* he with her mother? I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be the one to find that out.

Once again, I left them to explore the telephone book. Bang bang bang. Nothing. “Your call…” What to do next? I am a big chicken. I went across the street to Perrynet. They at least know how to contact our elderly neighbors’ son out on the left coast or wherever. After a bit of discussion, one of the Perrynet neighbors and I went back once more to try to rouse the husband. He still didn’t hear the door but, miraculously, he picked up the phone. A few minutes later, he opened the door, just as the GG and the wife came slowly along the sidewalk. Husband gently ushered wife back into the house, needlessly apologizing for the escape. All was well. This time…

Disclaimer: Although I injected some humor into this story, I don’t want anyone to think that I am making fun of my neighbors. We have had a long, friendly relationship with them and it is sad and a bit scary to see them struggling with old age. I don’t think they should be living alone in that big house of theirs. But I have now watched two generations of my own relatives struggle with advanced age and I’ve seen up close how excruciatingly hard it is to give up your independence. There are still a few hardy souls in the generation above me and then mine is next. I have a long way to go but I won’t go easily. Apparently my loverly daughters have already had a conversation about who is going to provide the grandchildren and who’ll get stuck taking care of moom. Aren’t they cute? (-;

Enjoy life to the fullest while you are able. Good night. –KW

5 Responses to “The great white pages in the sky”

  1. Kathy Farnell Says:

    I’m glad that you found the husband of your neighbor and everything turned out OK.

  2. Margaret Says:

    I’m seeing the sadness and problems of growing old(MIL), and it is depressing. You (plural) did all the right things with a lot of sensitivity and kindness.

  3. pooh Says:

    Perhaps you might talk with the husband privately and ask him if he thought it would be a good idea for you or the Perrynets to have a key to their house in case of emergency?

  4. kayak woman Says:

    I had thought of that (key). I actually suspect that the Perrynet’s may have a key. I should check with them. They are more often home/in town than we are at this point. And the woman’s long-time best friend and her family live close by too. I think they check on my neighbors frequently.

  5. Uncly Uncle Says:

    Uncly Uncleman?

    It’s nice you helped out. Her husband should have told you “possession is nine tenths of the law, you keep her”..