Wednesday, May 19, 2010
My neighbor, the famous cream puff-making, Isaac-spoiling, 83-year-old Austrian lady, is in the hospital. She fell hard on her knee in the yard and got one of those kick ass fractures reserved for people over the age of 65. She'll be in the hospital for a couple more days or so and then in a brace for six weeks. Kind of sucks, right? But it's at times like these that you find out things about yourself and others.
My neighbor's friend, Rose, has been over and under and all around helpful. Rose called Mrs Johnson's niece in Salzburg so she wouldn't worry when she made one of her twice weekly calls and didn't reach her aunt. Naturally, Ray will have to be notified. He'll be concerned about her. We also called Rich, a man who used to live in our house here and whom Mrs. Johnson has talked about many times. He has his own contract business and Mrs. Johnson needs a railing. He came over to access the job right away. This morning, its not yet 9:00 am and he's been there an hour already working on the project. “I'll always make time for Mrs. Johnson. She's good people,” he told me. And, of course, here I am right next door, obviously I'm going to do whatever I can to help. It's so interesting to witness what someone has built in their life. Looking at the trail of people waiting to assist this woman, I only hope I have a treasure chest equally full when I'm that age.
And help we will, even if it involves ... the dog. My widowed, childless, foreign-born neighbor's sole companion in the house that forever smells of those long brown European cigarettes and knitted afghans, is a white toy poodle.
Let me preface this next part by saying that I love animals. Except my neighbor's dog. That pretty much goes for our whole little crew.
The last time Mrs. Johnson was in the hospital, for something more serious, Rose took the dog home with her. “I'm not having that animal in my house again!” she says. “Crazy-ass dog,” Rich mumbles, shaking his head and trying to walk forward without crushing the hyper nutball under his boots. “If she keeps yipping like that, I'm afraid someone is going to shoot her!” I tell Mike, as I go to put her from the yard back in the garage again. “And I'm afraid it's going to be me!”
In a matter of 24 hours, she's crapped all over the garage, despite a doggie door, and covered herself in mud trying to tunnel her way out under the fence. I can't let her in the house because she'll eat the curtains. I can't let her in the front yard because she'll plot more ways of escape. She has an ear-splitting bark, no ability to stay still whatsoever, and no redeeming qualities at all, but for the fact that Mrs. Johnson loves this stupid dog like she's her daughter.
I always find this phenomenon curious. How people we otherwise think are great have some bizarre habit or desire, some passion or affiliation that we consider completely anathema to our own ideas or the rest of our lovely friend. Humans are multifaceted, that's for sure. Somewhere there is a man who knocked off a liquor store last night kissing his children goodbye at the school gates. (Yes, I have compared the love of a poodle to a life of crime, I would have gone farther if I thought I could get away with it. You have not met this beast!)
It's more than a little pressure trying to take care of something that is stressed out, prone to escape, and WON'T EVER STOP JUMPING.
At this moment, she's been quiet for 10 seconds and I'm worried she's dead. She's probably shimmied under the fence and burst into morning traffic, all 4.3 ounces of her poodley self, and run right under the wheels of a large square bread truck. But enough about my fantasies. I am praying for Mrs. Johnson to come home soon. Because I know she hates the hospital...and because cleaning up urine-soaked newspapers are not my favorite way to be neighborly.