If you want to annoy your neighbors, tell the truth about them.~ Pietro Aretino
Twelve years ago, I moved into my current home. I am now preparing to move out. One of the biggest reliefs for me is not having to deal with my immediate neighbor anymore. Oh, you say. Live and let live. Well, here’s the scoop.Twelve years ago, the house was occupied by a woman and a man, married, with a twelve-year age difference. The woman brought the child she gave birth to when she was 16 into the marriage and then the couple promptly popped out three more in quick succession. When we met, the kids were 9, 5, 3 and 2. The five-year old became very good friends with my then 5-year-old. Her kids spent more time at my house than they did at home.
Three years later, I discovered the man was beating the woman. She asked for my help and I assisted her by taking her to a women’s shelter to get advice on what to do. I held her hand as the restraining order was served and watched her kids when she went back to work to support her family. Then, six months later, she allowed her abuser back into her life. His condition was that she never speak to me again or her would quit his job so he wouldn’t have to pay child support. We haven’t spoken since then.
Now, I frequently say that your actions will either pat you on the back or bite you in the butt. I thought I was doing the right thing, especially when I saw the man move out again a year later. But, the kids turned into mean little buggers who took great delight in teasing my dogs and tormenting my youngest child.
I feel really badly for my youngest. The girl was her best friend for almost 4 years and then was told to never speak to my daughter again. They attend the same high school now and according to my daughter, have a cool but guarded relationship. As long as her mother doesn’t find out.
Two days ago, I figured I would let her know I was moving, especially since when I had my fence built we had a gate installed that leads to their yard so the girls could easily run back and forth. I said hi over the fence as she was working in her yard. The woman ignored me. This human being that I tried to help, That I’ve tried to be polite to…yeah, she just pretended I didn’t exist.
I just don’t understand this. I suppose I’m upset because she took the abuser back into her home. And that she choose to allow him to dictate her life. And that when she was free of him, she made no attempt to speak with me. I can only assume she is embarrassed by her behavior. I know I would be. You just don’t treat people like that.
So, I learned. I don’t let people get that close to me anymore. I’ll listen to their woes and offer very benign advice, but it hurts too much to be kicked around and used. It’s sad, because I remember growing up how many people were in my “village” to help my parents with raising us. We’ve lost that here in America. I see it when I drop my daughter off for school…car after car carrying only one student. The acts of cooperation only seem to come out when there is a disaster. Day-to-day, you’re on your own.
That doesn’t bode well for our society. I see things in my social media news feed bemoaning the behavior of other people, especially our youth. Then I think about this neighbor and realize that she and her family represent everything that has changed in the last decade. Singular, insulated family units that feel as though they are the only people in the world and have the right to act without regard to others.
Think about that attitude on a nationwide scale. Look at your neighbors and your kids’ friends and see if you see what I see. Remember that you are a role model for someone, no matter how old you are. If you think no one is watching you in public, you are most likely wrong.
I’m sure we will change and adapt to this new way of “me first” thinking. We always do and it’s never “been the death of us” before. But I’m already mourning the loss of the “village.” When we cease to care enough about others to even say hello, we’ve lost a piece of what makes us human.