Saying goodbye

Sitting down to write this is difficult, but I don’t know what else to do. Grief doesn’t leave a person alone. It crawls up upon their back and weighs them down with it’s dreadful burden until it decides to leave. It’s never convenient and always hurts more than we remember it the last time. There is nothing to do about it but hurt until there is no more pain. Or at least, until the pain fades. I guess some pain really never goes away entirely.

I just found out today that my dear neighbor and friend, Scott, died in his sleep on mother’s day. I’ve written about him several times before ( “Life with Mr Monk”, “Semilapidified” “Meet Mr Monk”  and “A kidnapping of Sorts”)   the sweet old man who lived next door and accepted me as his own grandkid the moment I arrived. He called me the little fairy girl next door because he said my green eyes sparkled with ‘unearthly brightness’ and his jasmines didn’t start blooming until I moved in eight years ago in January. I like to think he was right.

I called him my Mr Monk, the cool old guy with endearing obsessive tendencies who would sit on the front porch strumming his guitar on warm summer nights, and had the uncanny ability to keep any plant, flower or creature alive once his mind was set upon it. His goldfish lived so long they became the size of sea bass and had to be moved to a handmade pond in his backyard. He was a straight shooter with a mouth of a sailor, no nonsense, and as kind as they come.

Actually, kind as they don’ t come anymore, he rather defied odds that way. Always a ray of sunshine when I had none, a listening ear when there were no answers, and a gentle smile at the end of the day when the world was a cold place.

I really don’t think Scott knew how to be unfriendly to anyone. Every weekend he seemed to be opening his home to some friend who needed a place to crash, or lending his hand wherever it was found useful. I cannot count the number of times I came home after a long day to find him knocking at my door with a hot meal on a plate. He’d just hand it over with his usual ‘have a nice night dear’ and turn slowly back into his house. No explanation, probably no need for one. That was just him.

He was one of those people you could count on, no matter what, and he never asked for anything in return.  And the thing is, Scott had very little.  But he gave to others like he was the richest man in the world.

The last few months I got to enjoy his company, he had became too weak to carry his groceries inside from his car, but he still tried. Sooner or later he would call or text me to ask if I could help him, though I could always tell it wasn’t easy for him. It broke my heart a little every time, to see such a good person trapped by age in a body that was failing him. He deserved so much better than that.

I never got to say goodbye, not really. I suppose we rarely do. He moved out a month before he left this earth, and even then it was so quick and quiet I never saw him go.

He left me his old wooden bench, the one we’d sit on out front when the sun was out, where he’d strum his guitar from and point out hummingbirds to me.

Even then, after he moved away, I cried, knowing my friend wouldn’t be around to greet me when I got home or tell me stories of the crazy things he did growing up, or listen and give me wise advise. I texted him that night to tell him I missed him and that, damn it, he was making me cry. He made some stupid joke that made me laugh, told me he missed me too, and finished with, “change is hard dear, but it’s good. Enjoy the bench.. My jasmines just started blooming for you…”

Thats the last thing we ever said to one another, and then he was gone. Just like that.

I laid down on that bench and cried until my chest ached with the pain that only comes from losing a person you love.

I will never forget my friend and neighbor, my dear Scott.  Rest in peace my friend, you made the world a better place.

Forever indebted,

the fairy girl next door.

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Life with Mr Monk

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Occasionally, upon arriving home after a long day at work, I’ll meander on over to Scott’s front porch bench (OCD neighbor, aka Mr Monk) and sit with him out in the sunshine for a bit.  While he strums away at one of his old guitars,  he’ll unhurriedly tell me about his day or a thought that’s been heavy on his mind, often making me chuckle at his questions about life and wonder at the strange adventures he’s gotten himself into over the past 70 years.  Sometimes we don’t say much at all , sort of agreeing in silence that it’s been a long enough day to just sit and rest, listen to the strumming and watch the birds fly by.

Sometimes words just aren’t what a person needs, he seems to get that. Not many do these days.

A most unlikely bit of family to find living next door, to be sure, he’s rather like a long-lost grandpa I never knew.  My dogs he calls Boris and Natasha ( I can only assume from Rocky and Bullwinkle) or when he’s feeling especially cantankerous, ‘the two gargantuan beasts’.  He often refers to me as the  ‘little fairy girl next door’, insisting that upon moving in two years go, I brought life to a Jasmine plant that had been hibernating for the past 10 years in his front yard.

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While I hardly find my presence a likely cause for it’s bloom, I cannot seem to convince him otherwise. He is certain I am part fairy.

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Despite his quirky ways and questionable beliefs about fairies living next door to him, my dear Mr Monk is a delightful neighbor who has, on more than one occasion, taken it upon himself to ensure my health and well-being. I cannot count the number of times he’s called me over to grab a plate of dinner,  watered my garden, warned me about creeps hangin’ out nearby, given me good, solid, grandpa advise, and pointed out minute flaws in the paint on my front door.

This was a text he sent after I thanked him for a flower that mysteriously appeared in my garden one morning in place of another that had been removed.

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After being sick for a week and unable to eat much of anything, Scott decided to concoct some sort of chicken dinner that his mom used to make and assured me I would not have a problem getting it down. Twas the best comfort food I’ve ever tasted.

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And lastly, this one is quite self-explanatory…

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(:  Pardon his french, he has as much sailor in him as I do,  I’m afraid.

Alarm clock Fail

It has come to my attention that my mischievous left hand has somehow figured out a way to recurrently shut off my alarm whilst superseding my consciousness, all without a word about it to me.

How very rude.  I mean really, you’d think after all these years it would at least say something.

I’ve tried all sorts of things to trick myself into waking up before the damage is done, but I’m afraid I’m stumped.  Goober was helping me out for a while, poking me with his big nose 10 minutes after that rogue hand would silently shut it off without my knowledge, but he seems to be falling short of his duties of late.

I thought we had a deal, sweet boy?

And believe you me,  it really was an effective plan while in place.  When you’ve got a Great Dane’s muzzle nudging against your face first thing in the morning, the option to wake up at that point really isn’t much of an option at all, unless you enjoy being covered in doggie drool of course.

Quite the motivator if you ask me.

Goober knows this, takes advantage of this, and was (until now) quite consistent in using this to his advantage.  Perhaps he’s become progressively clever in the realization that if I miss work altogether he gets to have me home with him all the day long instead of just a little while in the morning.

Hmmm, sounds to me like Goober and my hand are in cahoots. He to vie for my company, the hand just because it likes to do rash, mischievous things of this sort.

Darn you hand.

In all reality I’m afraid I can’t blame my hand or my dog, not really. (But shhh,  don’t tell Goober that, for crying in the night).  I suppose it’s just another tiresome and inconvenient result of having anemia for six months without knowing why.  Those lab numbers just keep dropping, despite the massive amount of iron my doctor has been putting into me.

You’d think I’d be Miss Iron Man by now. Sheesh.

As I become increasingly tired, my hand and my dog have become increasingly bright it seems. Always an up-side to everything, isn’t there now?

(I will tell you one thing though- the spinach/broccoli/ kale thing is getting really very old at this point.  If I see one more green thing I’m supposed to eat I think I might lose it…….I can’t say I’m tired of the steak just yet)

Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you, my garden is not dead

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Can you believe it? I know, utterly shocking. Coming from the plant/flower/leaf killer,  I feel that’s quite a feat.

Actually, it has very little to do with me and everything to do with my next door neighbor Scott (you remember, the warm-hearted gnome who is just a tad bit eccentric)  If it weren’t for him my flowers and plants would be nothing but compost by now, I’m sure.

This little gem is my newest addition, a birthday gift from a kind friend who has more faith in me to keep things alive than is warranted.  I call it Jupiter because it’s rather like having a real live shining star from the night sky in my office every morning. Better than lucky charms.

Well, ok, almost.   (I think Lucky Charms secretly has lots and lots of iron.)

A kidnapping of sorts

I’ve never claimed to be terribly good at keeping plants alive.  To be very honest, I’m terribly good at killing them.

Over the past few years I’ve managed to increase the age-expectancy of any brave greenery that finds it’s way into my hands, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re entirely safe with me just yet.

Ok, they’re not at all safe with me.  I’m working on it.

It seems Scott (my dear OCD neighbor) has taken it upon himself to help me in this dire matter, an endeavor I do not envy him for in the slightest.  It is not uncommon for me to find small, very symmetrical notes posted upon my front door, filled with helpful instructions on how to keep my Bougainvillea climbing up the post, warnings that I better water my sweet poppies lest they soon be dead poppies, and how I must eradicate the caterpillars eating the ground clover on my back porch.

And yes, how does he know this is even happening?  I ask myself the same question.

So this morning as I step outside to leave for work, I happen to notice one of the plants from my garden has vanished.

Um, what?

In it’s place sits a lovely little red fern-looking thing (I won’t even pretend to know what it’s called because I don’t have a clue) which now seems to have made itself quite at home in front of my door.

I stare at it for a few moments wondering if I’m going batty or if, perhaps, the former plant has somehow morphed overnight.

Kneeling down to look more closely, I squint at it long and hard. Long enough for a kind passerby to ask if I’m alright, informing me that a watched plant is about as likely to grow as a watched pot is to boil.

I am amused, but too fascinated and confused by my plant-abduction situation to become altogether distracted….. this is definitely a different plant.


Dun dun dun.

Something tells me Scott has something to do with this. I knock on his door, still staring circumspectly at the strange red plant in my garden.  The door opens.

“Yes dear?”

“Um, did you kidnap my plant and replace it with a different one?” 

“Oh yes, so I did! I’m so glad you’re pleased. Don’t you worry about your other one dear, I took it to my nursery for the remainder of the year, it won’t bloom again until spring anyway, so I’ll bring her back to you when she’s ready. I left you this other one to take care of for a while.”

“Ah…well, ah, thanks……much appreciated.”

Sometimes I wonder if Scott is a strange sort of kind-hearted gnome.  It’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

Meet my neighbor, Mr Monk

I am not a perfectionist.  Never have been, never will be, and if you know me at all you know this very well…….maybe a little too well.

I prefer the ‘artistic’ approach to things, dislike straight lines in general, and will purposefully color a bit outside the box if given the opportunity, because I find that beautiful and freeing.  I am drawn to imperfect smiles and have been known to deliberately choose what some might consider asymmetrical design.   Take what you will from this admission, but that is the long and short of it.

As such a person, imagine my mild horror when my soon-to-be neighbor led me to a dot the size of a pencil on my freshly painted wall, revealing the ‘frightful mess’ they had made of my home.

I stare. I see nothing but paint, nice looking, level paint on a wall.

“Um….Scott….I am sorry, but don’t see what you’re talking about.”

“This!”

At this moment he points a lethal finger at the proposed fleck of paint, as if it has committed the crime of the century and deserves to die a horrible death.  With eyebrows raised higher than I knew eyebrows could go, his finger still planted next to the said dot, he awaits my realization that it truly is the end of the world as we know it.

No words, I have no words. But I must say something, he’s still staring at the wall with eyes as big as the moon.

I come closer to where he’s pointing and squint so I can see the thing.  Ah ha, there it is….I think.

Hmm. When I say this speck was the size of a pencil tip, I’m not talking about the eraser side, I’m talking about the tip. You know, the part you write with?

“Um…Scott, is this dot what you’re concerned about?”

“Well OF COURSE I am.  It’s a disgrace of unsaid measure.  Don’t worry though dear, I already reported it to the manager, they’re going to fix it. But, if I were you, I’d say something, things like this just shouldn’t happen.”

“Hmm…no..I suppose they shouldn’t…..but I’m sure things will turn out ok. You’re….ah….. really good at noticing these things. Something of a perfectionist?”

At this he lowers his hand from the wall and looks at the floor, mumbling something that sounds yes and nods his head slowly.

“Ah, that’s cool, I’m not one myself, but I’m glad there are people like you who can watch out for people like me, warning us of things like these this.”

I turn to point my finger at the fleck on the wall, but quickly realize I have no idea where it is and have no hope of finding it ever again on my own.   Not wanting to crush this dear old man’s spirits,  I wave my hand in the general direction instead and ask what he does for a living.

“Oh, I restore old guitars.”

He gestures past his front door and I peer inside.  The place is immaculate, just as I imagined it would be, a dazzling array of at least a dozen gleaming guitars distributed across each perfectly painted wall.

“Wow, your place is amazing.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve sanded down all my walls,  and I repaint at least once every six months.”

Ah….of course.

I wasn’t talking about the lack of invisible dots on the wall when I said his place was amazing, but decide not to correct him.  I see him honing in on one corner of the room rather intently.

“But THIS, this drives me absolutely nutty every day of my life. It is my nemesis, the first thing I see in them morning and the last thing that wanders through my brain before I fall asleep. “

He points to another dreaded dot on the wall, this one smaller than the one in my place. I’m only convinced it exists because he tells me so and am beginning to believe that he notices detail no one else ever sees. As he stares at the invisible invader of his home I can see him begin to become increasingly irritated.

 “Well, I can’t imagine anyone else really notices it Scott. You know, it’s pretty small.” 

“Yeah….maybe……”

Very slowly he pries his eyes away from the dot, only looking back at it over his shoulder a few times as he walks back outside with me.  I thank him for the very timely warning and wave goodbye.

I have to wonder why he chooses to leave that one spot on his wall. I mean, he’s sanded everything else down, why not take that out too?  I imagine it says a lot more than first meets the eye, no pun intended.  For him, that’s growth, a sign that his obsessive compulsive nature hasn’t gotten the better of him, not yet. He fights his battle every morning by leaving that dot where it is and, eventually, walking away from it.

I can’t help but admire that.

I just hope I don’t drive him crazy with the scattered array of flowers I let randomly play outside my front door, or the way my curtain doesn’t fall just so.   For all I know he’s writing his own story about the little wildflower girl next door who drives him berserk.

Ah, my dear Mr Monk, I think we shall get along splendidly.

Do you know what my favorite part of this picture is?  The little purple flower on the right. Oh, poor Scott.