Monday, February 14, 2011

When a House tells a Story.

You know my love of houses from previous posts and today I am going to tell you how a house told me the story of what was really going on. This post is inspired by The Reckmonster and her post today (click her and check her out!)
I’m pretty sure we all know by now that a person’s house is only half the story and I have had some interesting neighbors with some even more interesting stories. But one story sticks with me every day when I leave my house and when I come home. It’s the story of the house across the street.

After a month or so of moving in to our current house we understood that we were in the kind of neighborhood where people like not having to know their neighbors in more than an occasional friendly wave kind of way. We took their lead and we followed suit. In a way it’s nice- you have neighbors, but you don’t hear them, you don’t have to like them and you can’t see them from your yard because we are set back pretty far from the street. Not necessarily my ideal but in a way, it’s good. At least I am not looking at my neighbor standing at the end of the driveway in nothing but an extra large see through T-shirt waving good bye to her son on the school bus. (When you wave, the t-shirt tends to ride up….. )

We knew that the family across the street seemed very nice. They had a nice home, immaculate yard, their two sons were friendly with our son. The Dad mowed the lawn every single day and the Mom seemed to either stay inside a lot or had a job that kept her away because the only times we ever saw her was occasionally on the weekends sitting on a chair on the driveway. But she never approached us as we tentively walked by in our early days of exploring our surroundings.

We have had our fair share of interesting neighbors so we didn’t pay too much attention to the lack of welcome.

One day while getting ready for work and watching the local news I see the house across the street on the screen and start paying attention to the story being told. Apparently the Mom had entered them into a contest to win a trip to Disney World as her way to give them a family trip together. The story went on to tell how she had been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. There were some pictures of her with and without hair. But overall, it seemed like she might be doing OK and unfortunately another family won the trip.

I was shocked and remorseful. No wonder they weren’t making any overtures towards us. They were fighting a battle on the home front. You aren’t paying attention to the comings and goings of your neighbors in this situation.

We started to pay more attention. Gave more smiles, waved more often. The kids told us that during the day whenever they saw her she always said hello and yes, they had noticed the head scarves but didn’t think it meant anything. (I love innocence!)

I did some inquiring, and found out that the news story was a little old and she was not doing well. Soon we noticed several vans delivering things like a hospital bed, oxygen and several random cars ferrying their boys to and from places. I started to notice that the master bedroom light never went out. It was on all day and all night.

One day the hubby called me at work to say that an ambulance had pulled into the driveway, stayed for awhile and left with no lights on. We found out later that she had passed away.

We watched the stream of cars going in an out and eventually diminish. We couldn’t pull into our driveway without looking over and being quiet for several moments for a long time afterwards. One day the man was wandering around in his garage and the hubby walked over (I bet this was a fairly LONG walk for him) and told the man that we would help in any way we could. He just kind of stared down at the ground and nodded and the hubby made an even longer walk back to our house.

One night, while watching TV on a long summer weekend we heard a loud crack. The kind of crack that only a gun could make. We sat there trying to rule out all the possibilities of what it could be and then we both thought at the same time in horror……. What if?? The hubby took that long walk again and tried to figure out what he could and came back with no answers. He called the police and mentioned that maybe we heard a gunshot and maybe the police should check around at the neighbors to make sure everyone was ok because it’s not the kind of neighborhood where guns not used in hunting are heard. We didn’t get much sleep until about 8am the next day, AFTER we heard the lawn mower from across the street start up and we breathed a huge sigh of relief. That was the best sound I heard all day and for the rest of the summer.

Their two boys came over one day about a year later. It was a random visit where I learned that they spent a lot of time with relatives, and seemed very well adjusted and happy. In a very strange way, I got this feeling that I was being assured that they were fine for a reason. As if someone was giving me some peace of mind.

We watched her car sit in its spot on the driveway for well over a year before it finally was gone. Then there were slight changes made to the house, and cars started to appear back in the driveway for happier occasions.

But I still look at that master bedroom light and imagine what the house is like inside.


Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

as a person on the other side of that "fence," i can tell you that we, the caregivers, are deeply touched when someone notices and offers assistane. we live in a neighborhood much like yours. in the 3+ years that we have lived here, Ron has been taken to the hospital three times by ambulance. He's been in the hospital no less than 11 times in three years. i've had one neighbor in all this time come over after an ambulance visit. i've had one other neighbor casually ask about him and our newest neighbor brought homemade bread one time.

so, i'm sure your hubby's overture was greatly appreciated!

Kate said...

Sad story...and such a reminder that you rarely know all of the story. And kind of universal, in that everyone is fighting their own battles, some more silently than others. The gunshot part was chilling...I held my breath til the lawnmower started. I can only imagine how you guys felt all night long.

Cheeseboy said...

Wow. This house story was quite haunting. This series is quite fascinating. Every house holds a story. Great concept.

The Reckmonster said...

Wow, Kristen. You told that story so eloquently. I haz dee goose-pimples. I wish the story had a happier ending, but it sounds like the boys are okay. I am happy that I have gotten to know my next door neighbor Gayle so well. I am sad that I haven't been on the ball a bit more and paid more attention - I might have been able to help her out when she needed it. But, now that I know what's going on - I've told her not to even think about hesitating to call for anything she needs. I know she would do the same for me. I don't want to be too intrusive, bc I am sure she must have a lot on her plate, so I'll stick to my daily dose of wishing her lots of good, positive energy and asking the Big Guy upstairs to watch out for her a little extra. I'm selfish - I want to KEEP my next door neighbor - great neighbors like her are hard to find! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It gave me a lot to think about, and even more reason to take stock of all that is good.

The Schweitzers said...

We are very lucky. We know all of our surrounding neighbors by name and have on several occasions, all sat in one driveway or another with a fire drinking wine and other beverages. It also gives me great peace of mind that they kind of keep a look out for my boys' well-being.

Your story was well told, I could picture being there.

A Cappelli said...

I read this post early this morning and it is still haunting me. Kristen, you are such a beautiful writer. I have a similar story which involves our across-the-street neighbors. Luckily, she recovered from her illness- but making that long walk (or in this case, sending her a note of support and an offer of assistance with her two young boys) brought us much closer as neighbors and friends.

Doria said...

Oh what a sad story. It would def be scary to hear the gun shot sound after something like that. Im glad it ended well.... :)

bridget said...

great post Kristen...makes one stop and think.