I really want to say thank you for the comments and compliments I have gotten on my FB page. The same comment seems to keep coming up, ‘It sucked me in and I want MORE’. They are powerful words and humble me greatly. Please share if you continue to like it.
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The New Neighbor
While this was the climax of the bad in my life it was still an outline of how my life would go over the next few years. I’d be finally getting over the last event, starting to do well, and then BAM, life kicked me down again.
Everyone else seemed to always be getting better and everyone always seemed to have things I should change or fix about my life. My mom started serving at the church more and made a lot of friends in a couple of the small groups she was a part of. She started some fun things like a Bowling with God group and a group that just watched movies and then talked about what they could learn from them. She was busier and more outgoing now than she had been before but I did assume that if she stopped moving she’d think too much about how alone she had become. I would occasionally remind her she could come stay with us but then she would occasionally remind me that I should call Danny so I stopped bringing it up.
Then there was Vivian who had married an ER doctor. His name was Jason and he was nice enough and very good to Amy May and even went to church with her sometimes. He had been one of Vivian’s regular customers at the hair salon and often joked that he had to ask her to marry him before his hair fell out completely and he never saw her again. Vivian took this as a sign we should both be married and kept trying to set me up on dates. I reminded her there was a point where we were both against the idea of dating but it didn’t stop her.
Even Kora had words of wisdom for me as one day she came home and casually told me a story about how some of the kids had been making fun of her. I told her kids can be mean and she should tell a teacher and she then informed me it happened all the time. I had seen people stare at her before and hoped she hadn’t noticed but to be saying something directly to her face was just not going to happen. I told her I’d talk to her principal the next day when she said, ‘It’s ok mom they’re just being stupid. They don’t understand that there is more to life than the skin we wear.” Things she had heard from my mother and her church on multiple occasions. She insisted that I let it go because ‘we need to forgive our enemies.’
When Kora was about to turn 10 we got a new neighbor next door. His name was Nelson and I knew that from the first day because he kept on telling us. I wasn’t sure he ever worked because he was outside every morning and then again in the evenings when I got home. Worst of all he was ALWAYS so nice to us it was sickening. I don’t know what his idea of being a neighbor was but my idea was keep to yourself and don’t play your music too loud too late at night. He seemed to think we should actually talk to each other just because we lived next door.
In the morning time, there he was yelling over his overly perfectly trimmed hedges, “HI JILLIAN! Have a great day!” And in the evenings there he was on his nicely painted patio furniture yelling again, “Hope you had a great day!”
I would simply nod or wave and go on in occasionally pretending to be on the phone to avoid any possibility of a conversation longer than the word hello. But still in the mornings he would be there way too happy for the sun to have just woken up, “GOOD MORNING JILLIAN! Headed to work?”
“Yeah Nelson, crazy how that seems to happen every day around this time,” shoot me now.
He was a little older than me by about 2 years if I had listened to him correctly when he told me which I probably wasn’t paying the best of attention. And his wife had died of cancer a few years before which made it all the crazier that he was so happy and nice. Kora enjoyed him being so upbeat but that just made me consider more over the fact that he was probably the nice quiet type who turned out to be a serial killer.
One day I was coming home so tired from a long day and was just hoping to not see him there but of course he was as ALWAYS. I again attempted the cell phone trick and when he spoke up, “GOOD AFTERNOON JILLI…” I held up my finger in a shush fashion and then pointed to my phone and pretended to be in an intense conversation. I heard him quietly say, “Oh right, you have a good night then” as I was opening my front door.
On the inside I closed the door and leaned back against it with a long sigh as Kora came walking through.
“You OK mom?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, it’s just that neighbor of ours. I’m running out of ways to get in the house without hurting his feelings.”
“Have you considered the option of just talking to him?”
“That’s the only thing that man knows how to do!” I threw my hands up in the air. “We’re neighbors not friends.”
Kora rolled her eyes, “Some people are both.”
“Don’t you find him just a little creepy?”
“Some people find me a little creepy without talking to me,” she pointed to her face and my heart felt a sting. My mouth fell open to speak back but she continued quickly and rather undaunted, “Besides he’s just lonely.”
“We all have problems in life.”
“Yeah but, aren’t we supposed to go out of our way and help people like that?”
“Ok, look, I really don’t need a lecture right now. Are the dishes done?”
Kora scoffed, “Nooooo!”
“Ok then get them done, PLEASE! Is there anything to eat?”
“There’re some cookies.”
“Great, gotta go shopping again. No rest for mama. I just need a day to myself. Maybe Sunday I can sleep in an hour or two.”
“Maybe. OH NO! Wait, you can’t.”
“Oh what now?”
She continued on rather skittishly, “I need a ride to church.”
“Why aren’t you going with Amy May’s grandmother? Do they not still go?”
“They do but this week the church is doing this thing and everyone is getting there really early.”
“Soooo why don’t you just go really early with them?” Kora just stared at the dishwater. “Well?”
“Because it’s something you’re supposed to be doing with a parent. I was too embarrassed to tell them you wouldn’t do it with me.”
“OH KORA! Who says I wouldn’t do it? I like God and all I just don’t go barging into His home every week on His day off. It’d be like Nelson coming over here.” I shuddered at the thought of his constant talking in my home like a parrot. “What is it that y’all are doing?”
“Well, you’re supposed to pick up something, like a meal or whatever, and take it to someone you are pretty sure wouldn’t appreciate it.”
“What? That can’t be right. Are you sure that pastor of yours didn’t get his words mixed up?”
“No really, it’s right. You see we always give expecting something in return but if you give expecting a poor attitude than you are truly just giving a piece of yourself.”
I laughed at the thought of this. “Sounds ridiculous, I mean, why waste money on someone who isn’t going to be appreciative? Why not just give our money to a charity or that church of yours? It’d be appreciated AND go to a good cause. Does the church not want money anymore?”
“I knew you’d think it’s stupid.”
“Honey, I only think it’s stupid because it IS stupid. When you get older you’ll understand. And I guess you had some great idea of what we could do?”
Kora hung her head down, almost in tears, “What’s it matter?”
This was just more people telling me how to live life and I was tired of hearing it. “Well, I’m sorry but it doesn’t really but I am curious what you may have come up with.”
She sighed deeply, “If I’d thought you would have wanted to do it, I would have liked to buy dad something and sent to him.”
Now it was my turn to scoff, “Well you definitely would be going above and beyond on the assignment if we did that. If there was ANYONE who would not be appreciative it would be him.”
“OK.” Here head was down and she was quiet.
“I mean REALLY! WHY would we give that man ANYTHING? You know what all he did to us.”
“Sometimes I wonder what that pastor of yours is really teaching you.”
Now tears were flowing from her face, “He’s teaching me to forgive.”
“Yeah well some things are unforgiveable.”
“Look, I’ll take you to church but no, we are not sending ANYTHING to that father of yours.”
The next day Vivian and I went grocery shopping after work. We walked around for a while picking up various things for each of our families and I told her what Kora had told me.
“Jason told me about it and he and Amy May are taking a meal to one of his co-workers who is always grumpy and unhappy.”
“I don’t understand it.”
“I don’t really either, why would you give something to someone who doesn’t appreciate it?” Vivian and I were often on the same page.
“Isn’t the point of giving something to someone because they would need it and then obviously WOULD appreciate it?”
“I just don’t know what they are doing there.”
“Are you going to do it with her?”
“No. And her idea was to send Danny something.”
“Well if there is someone who wouldn’t show appreciation to you it is probably your ex.”
“Yeah this is all just crazy. OK, now I need to get something for dinner.” I headed towards the frozen food aisle.
“Let me guess, frozen lasagna?”
“I can’t help it if I love lasagna and don’t have time enough to cook.”
“Hate cooking is more like it,” she retorted laughing.
“Well, you know, anyway my favorite is right around here.”
“If anyone knows where the lasagna is it is you and Garfield.”
I laughed at her and rounded the corner, quickly turning around, grabbing her and heading the other way.
“What’s wrong,” she asked surprised.
“That new neighbor?”
“I can’t get near him.”
“He still has the thing about talking to you?”
“YES! And worse off he’s ALWAYS around. Leave for work and he’s there. Come home and he’s there. Now he’s in my lasagna aisle.”
“I think they sell more than just lasagna in that aisle,” she replied matter of factly.
“I’m being serious. He’s SO creepy to me.”
“Outgoing people can be creepy.”
“I KNOW RIGHT! Anyway, if I even bring it up around Kora she’s like, ‘we need to be more neighborly and neighbors can be friends.”
“Neighborly? She didn’t get that from us.”
“No, more church teachings I’m sure.” I started looking around to see if he was still there.
“Of all the good things the church could teach someone, being neighborly is the worst.” Vivian looked around the corner with me, “He is kinda cute.”
“UGH don’t even. Let’s just go, I’ll grab some burgers on the way home and maybe beat him back so I won’t have to talk to him at all.” I started heading towards the registers.
“Giving up lasagna? Wow you REALLY don’t want to talk to this guy.”
“I don’t want to talk to any guy at this point.”
“That’s nothing new. Coming over after you take her to church Sunday?”
“Yeah, if I’m not going to sleep we may as well get some fun in.”
Sunday came very quickly and I had continued to not have any time to relax that week. If I thought sleeping in even a few minutes would happen I was proven wrong by someone knocking on the door over an hour before I needed to get up and take Kora to church. I walked to the door fastening my robe and cursing whomever was on the other side and yelling at Kora.
“IF I’M UP YOU BETTER BE UP! IF YOU AREN’T UP IN TIME FOR CHURCH YOU AREN’T GOING! I’ll go back to bed I will,” I finished to myself and swung open the door. “Oh, hi Nelson.”
“HI JILLIAN! Good morning.”
“It does appear to be morning, doesn’t it?” It was way too early for me to act even remotely neighborly which appeared to throw him off.
He continued nervously, “Yes, I suppose it does.”
There was a pause as we stood there apparently waiting for the other one to do something but finally I just prodded him to continue. “Well is there anything I can do for you?”
“Huh? Oh no no, sorry, here I made this for you.” He shoved a dish into my hands. “It’s lasagna.”
“Oh really? Well I do like lasagna, but why? No one has died.” I saw no other reason to be giving food to anyone.
“I just thought maybe you’d like to not have to cook on a Sunday.”
“Hmm, well yeah I guess that’s nice enough of you. Anything else?”
Again my short attitude seemed to have caught him off guard. “No no, you have a great day, ok?”
“Yeah, ok, you too.” I shut the door and yelled at Kora who was heading downstairs when I started. “WELL WE HAVE DINNER!”
“What’s up,” Kora asked sleepy eyed.
“That Nelson brought over lasagna.”
“That was nice of him.”
“I suppose but he seems even creepier to me now.” I set up the coffee maker to get my morning fix.
“Just because he brought us some food?”
“Kora, you’ll learn soon enough, you don’t take someone food unless there is a pot luck dinner, a party, or someone has died. It’s weird he brought lasagna though. He probably creeps through our garbage to see what we like.”
“No, I told him.”
“What? What do you mean you told him? When do you talk about foods?”
“Last Sunday at church he asked what your favorite dish was so I told him.”
“He WHAT? He goes to your church? He asked what….” I was so flummoxed over what was running through my head. I ran outside in my robe and bunny slippers and went over to the hedge and yes he was outside sitting on the porch sipping on coffee. “NELSON!”
“You brought me food because of that pastor of yours giving you all that crazy assignment, didn’t you?”
“The idea did come from there.”
“So you did it because you thought *I* wouldn’t be appreciative?”
“Honestly I didn’t know what you would really think.”
“Well I got news for YOU mister, I AM appreciative dammit. I am VERY appreciative. So that pastors idea back fired on you because I’m SO appreciative I’m considering what I can do to repay the favor.”
Nelson looked shocked at me getting so happily angry at him, “Well that’s great then, I’m so glad you liked it so much.”
“You damn right I liked it. And you just wait until I pay you back. You’ll see just how much I appreciated it.” I left Nelson standing with his mouth open as I huffed back inside. I wasn’t going to let that church make a fool out of me ESPECIALLY coming from Nelson.