I just found out that my neighbor and friend Laura died a few days ago. What’s getting me is that despite her age, 98, I never expected her, of all people, to die. It just never occurred to me. She was someone I admired, and someone I loved talking with. She was always up at the bus stop near my house, and she always had sweet pets for Sunny (who would run up to her smiling and frantically wagging her rear). She’d say, “Hi, Friendly! Oh, you’re such a happy little dog, aren’t you?” She’d run her spotted, knotty old fingers through Sunny’s yellow belly fur. “You keep Friendly in from this heat, Honey,” she’d warn me. “It’s just so hard to see all those poor dogs left out in this heat.” She and her sister, who lived with her, had two dogs, and fed all the neighborhood cats. She watched Rocky grow. “Just look at all those curls,” she’d say.
Melissa just made the phone-rounds, and it seems that everybody’s as sad as we are. We’ll all miss her. Like her sister said, “I just keep expecting her to walk through the door.” I can still see her so plainly, with such detail, and hear her voice. I think that’s what ghosts are. Our memories, after a fresh parting. She’ll fade, eventually; her image will get fuzzy. How she always saw us – through her amazingly thick eyeglasses.
And although I really made an effort to wrench myself from my Yankee neighbor-shyness when it came to Laura, I’m feeling some regret about the times I didn’t stop to talk, for no reason other than I just don’t like to stop. She was so sweet and kind. When I let her, she made me feel like the world was full of friendly people, and that I was one of them. Now that she’s gone, and I’m stuck in this tiny windowless room where I live when Anxiety is here, I’m all the more determined to get out, somehow, and when I do, to stop, to spend more time listening to and getting to know people I wouldn’t normally stop for.