A long-time neighbor recently relocated permanently to Florida. I suppose news of her moving should not have come as quite a shock and a surprise: As a person in her early 80s with health and slight mobility issues, she mentioned as much last fall just prior to leaving for the winter months. She stated that she wasn’t sure just how much longer she could continue going back and forth between Florida and Connecticut. But it was a shock and a surprise. Particularly in the way in which I was informed, and the events which followed.
About two weeks ago, I arrived home one Friday afternoon to discover my long-time neighbor who lived in the apartment directly across the hall from me, rummaging around in her rented storage closet. I called her name, to which she responded with a slightly aggravated tone, “What?”. I was somewhat taken aback, not only by the tone, but, by the fact that she didn’t seem to recognize my voice. Shock and Surprise Number One. In any event, I approached my neighbor, gave her a warm and affectionate hug, and asked her how she was doing. Having gotten past all of the pleasantries, I asked her what she was doing, to which she exclaimed, “I’m moving!” Naturally I asked to where, to which my neighbor responded, “Florida.” Shock and Surprise Number Two. She then went on to say that she didn’t have anyone’s telephone number. Really? She and I made sure we had each other’s numbers every fall before she departed. Shock and Surprise Number Three. If each of the previous three shock and surprises weren’t enough, my neighbor delivered the coup de grace: She had returned on Tuesday of that same week, and was scheduled to move on the following Tuesday. Shock and Surprise Number Four. After a few more minutes of casual, albeit superficial conversation, I said good evening, to which my neighbor responded, “The door will be open, stop in.”
I thought that for the past six years, we had been closer neighbors. We shared meals in favorite restaurants, conversations on all sorts of topics in her apartment over wine and cheese, and phone calls about the goings-on of other neighbors. I enjoyed her company. But, given all that I had experienced in front of my neighbor’s rented storage closet, I was not only shocked and surprised, but also hurt. For the remainder of my neighbor’s stay, I gave her the space she needed. I had considered for a fleeting moment to knock on her door and offer to help her pack. However, I couldn’t get past the hurt. Besides, she had her best friend there all weekend, helping her to do what she needed in order to move.
The following Monday, I wrote my neighbor a farewell note. It was upbeat for the most part: I recall the good times we had had, and, my well wishes for her move. I did, however, mention my hurt at the news, and the way in which she conveyed it to me. I also mentioned that she probably had her reasons for what she did, and therefore, decided to give her the space I thought she needed. I placed the note in an envelope, and stuck it in her door. That was that.
The next morning – Tuesday – the moving van arrived at 7:30 a.m. By the time I arrived home at 5:30 p.m. neighbor was gone. In a strange sort of way, I was relieved; the drama of having her across the hall, but feeling completely invisible, was over. I said a prayer for my neighbor, asking the Lord to keep her in his care. I suppose the prayer was as much for me as it was for her, perhaps even more so for me. A friend once told me many years ago that the prayers we say for those who have hurt us in some way is really for us and for our own healing, peace and comfort.
I shared my feelings with my Dear Mother and my Dear Brother. My Dear Mother stated that people often carry baggage with which they hurt others, leaving the others to wonder what happened. My Dear Brother said that there was probably much more going on than my neighbor wished to share with me. Additionally, perhaps she didn’t want to leave, but had to leave, and didn’t quite know how to say good-bye. That being said, my Dear Brother added that sharing her true feelings wasn’t one of my neighbors fears. My Dear Brother reassured me that her behavior towards me in her final hours in her apartment was not about me.