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Meditations on Mortality

So our neighbors next door, Barbara and Jeff, have a certain infamy on our block, and are often part of discussions that take the form of ‘why do they let their house go like that?’, ‘are they still alive?’, ‘what are they doing in there?’, etc. We often make jokes about finding the bodies one day, and just yestereday we heard chain saws whirring and a truck out front of their house obviously busy doing some sort of yardwork. I made the offhand black humor joke that they were chainsawing through the front door to get to the bodies. Well, as we soon found out, Jeff died last week, and the workmen were a product of Barbara’s children (step-children as I found out) trying to help Barbara get the place cleaned up a bit. I felt like total crap, of course, for making the joke earlier, and strangely this hits on a number of different levels. Barb and Jeff in their own weird reclusive and twisted way remind me a lot of my own parents — they keep to themselves, Barbara is kinda dependent and scattered, Jeff had health problems but was obviously the one in charge. With Jeff gone, I am concerned that Barbara isn’t going to be able to properly take care of herself. Her kids live in Southern California, and aren’t around to help out on a daily basis. They want to sell the house and move Barb down as soon as possible. I’m not sure Barbara is convinced of this, however, and she feels she’s got some obligation to the memory of Jeff (who she affectionately calls ‘Daddy’) to fix the place up. Julie and I, of course, are looking at the house as an opportunity to purchase a fixer-upper and roll it over to friends or to neighbors we want to live next to us. These are all premature thoughts that we will probably go to hell for, but right now — Barbara is in shock and is grieving and needs some support. Part of me is really happy to give her attention and support and help out when I can and when it’s appropriate (I helped her change the bulb on her fridge and she was brought to tears with thankfulness), but part of me wants to run far far away from this situation lest I be sucked into a role of being the new ‘Daddy’. This is mostly a reflection of my fear around my own parents, and my consideration of what might happen if my dad goes before my mom. In reality, however, I know my mom is way more self-reliant than my neighbor, and without my dad she’d be sad and lonely and inconvenienced (she doesn’t drive), but she would be able to handle herself.
So, here I am, sitting on the fence between good samaritanism and selfishness — contemplating the mortal life of a lonely woman, and thus reflection on my own life. I am so fortunate to have loved-ones and family. I am so fortunate right now to not be alone in my walk of life. Barbara is alone in a real sense. She doesn’t have friends. She doesnt’ have family near by. She sits at home every night mourning the loss of her best friend, her only friend, her partner of thirty years. I want to cook her dinner, but I am faced with the reality of not knowing what her tastes are, and noticing her teeth are in such bad shape that they move while she talks, and I’m not certain she can even really chew anymore. She had talked to me about pulling her teeth and getting dentures before her health insurance runs out.
She’s so sad, so needy, so alone. I will make a point of touching base with her every few days, just to make sure she’s doing okay.

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