Fifty Years

Setting: At the quiet corner of Sherman and Oak streets, near the entrance of our neighborhood, sits an old ranch-style brick home.

The following conversations occurred as the Mrs. and I either walked or drove past that residence.

14 Months Ago

The Mrs.: Hello Mrs. Andrews. How are you doing today?

Mrs. Andrews: Oh, pretty good, but I am sure am feeling old lately.

{She peers into the jog stroller}

My, your little babies are growing fast. I have been in this house for 50 years, raised three sons you know, and it all seems like just yesterday.

The Mrs.: Wow—three boys. I am sure you had your hands full… You take such good care of your flowers. We love looking at your iris.

Mrs. Andrews: I appreciate that dear. My flower beds have always brought me peace—especially after my husband died back in 1993. I have to admit that it is a struggle to get out here some mornings at 92 years old, but I still enjoy the colors.

8 Months Ago

Me: Did you see all of those cars parked over there at Mrs. Andrews’ house a few days ago?

The Mrs.: Yes, not a good sign for someone in her 90s who lives alone.

Me: Her obituary was in the paper this morning. Did you know she lived in the same house for five decades? All of those Christmas days, birthdays, fourth of Julys in one place for so long—-hard to imagine.


7 Months Ago

The Mrs: Why are they having Mrs. Andrews’ estate auction on a Thursday? It seems like a weekend would bring a much better crowd.

Me: As a teen, I remember when my grandfather died. All of the family was from out of state. We mourned at the funeral one day, and then the next day everyone divided his things before departing. Anything that was unwanted was given away, trashed, or sold at a hastily scheduled auction not long thereafter.

It was disturbing to see the place dismantled, grandpa’s home of 50 years and the destination of our only summer vacation for so long, but it certainly puts things in perspective as to where we should store our treasures.

2 Month Ago

The Mrs. Wow, look at how high the grass is in Mrs. Andrews’ yard. The weeds in the front have completely taken over her nicely kept flower beds. I wonder what is going on over there.

3 Weeks Ago

Me: Glad to see that they finally started cutting the Andrews’ lawn.

The Mrs: Yeah, I wish the contractor would have taken a little pride in his work though—what a mess. It looks like a cow pasture.

2 Weeks Ago

Me: Hey look, a moving truck at the Andrews house.

The Mrs.: I count three kids: two teen girls and a little boy.

{Amidst the commotion of the adults and teens busily unloading the truck, the little boy, ball cap on backwards, stands alone on the front sidewalk bouncing a small blue rubber ball and glancing at his new home.}

The Mrs.: What do you think the kid is thinking? Is he trying to guess which room is his? How many others his age live nearby? Is he wondering if the family will eventually install a basketball goal in the driveway?

Me: Hmm…

{I peer into my rear view mirror, spy the child, and pause to think… I wonder if someday, far into the future, he’ll remember this morning. He will still feel the humid July breeze. He might even hear the chorus of songbirds, and recall the sweet scent of honeysuckle in the air. I wonder if someday he will remember this moment as when the clock started for his family’s 50 years}

The Mrs.: Well?

Me: Yeah, probably about the room.


Reggie said...

What a beautiful story, so gently tinged with melancholy. It doesn't sound as though that old lady had much family or many visitors - do you think she was lonely?

We live in a neighbourhood of Cape Town about which people have for many years said: "Ah, Pinelands - place of the newly-weds and the nearly-deads". Although it may be demographically quite accurate (or rather it used to be - we have a LOT of old age homes and retirement villages, as well as numerous good schools), I always think that last bit is really nasty, because it's so dismissive of the elderly and their memories and wisdom.

I LOVE that we have old folks staying all around us, and meeting them in the street and stopping to chat is sooo enjoyable. I hope that when I am old and pottering about, that young people will stop by for a chat, even if it just acknowledges the fact that I still exist.

Thank you for sharing this tale with us.

Sandra G. said...

Nice story.

Fifty years in one house - sounds like my grandparents.

J. J. Phila said...

Very good.

I live in an old house and know the last two tenets. I once talked to the family of the people that were here in the 1930's.

It is very interesting that in the 1930's and 1940's, the neighborhood was mostly Italian and Jewish, and people said it was a "bad neighborhood."

In the 1960's and 1970's, it became a Black neighborhood, and people said it was a "bad neighborhood."

There hasn't even been a break in on the street in the 10 years I've lived here. :)

Erin said...

It's sad to think that once you guys leave, there might not be anyone there to remember her in that house.

When we lived in California when I was little, we bought a house that an elderly woman had lived in until she passed. It was sort of strange finding things of hers that had been left, like a steamer trunk in the garage.

Expat From Hell said...

Brilliant. Great writing, and very touching sequence of events. I am inspired and impressed - again.


mrs. fuzz said...

Yes, very nice story. I wonder if she was quite lonely as well. I long for that kind of stability, mostly for my kids. I would love to stay in the same house forever and keep the home in the family. I wish my parents still had my childhood home. I love the oldie goldies. I have such a soft spot for them. Even the crotchety ones. :) I think anything done to make them more comfortable and happy is important. My parents always forced us to visit the elderly in the nursing homes on sundays. It always creeped me out.

terri said...

50 years - Gone in the blink of an eye. So much life lived there, so much change over the course of the years and one day it's just over. I agree, it lends perspective to where you store your treasures.

Oz Girl said...

Wow. I like the style you used to write this. Very touching. And so true. When we die, everything we own is scattered to the 4 corners of the earth - sure, some of it may be retained by family, but really, our material possessions are usually loved only by us. It's one of the reasons I keep trying not to buy more material things! :)

My gramma has lived in the same house for well over 50 years. I'll have to ask her next time I talk to her how long it's been - she's 92 now. My grampa passed away almost 15 years ago. Even sadder than watching the dismantling of a home is the dismantling of a family.

And yes, I am now getting my required rest at work this week, after our very busy and productive weekend at home. ;-)

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the feedback all. With Reggie and Mrs. Fuzz's question about her being lonely--I am saddened to say that I really do not know. Our neighborhood has many older residents and we tend to know the folks that have dogs and are out frequently.

When my wife spoke to "Mrs. Andrews" last summer, it was the first time that I had heard her speak--I probably waved to her once or twice, but never had a conversation with her.

I do know that one or two of her sons were local so that was likely a blessing.

Thinking about the experience (and reinforced by the comments), I should make more of an effort to speak to people here. It is just the North, where people are generally more to themselves, and the cold weather keeps most folks trapped in their homes six months a year.

I certainly can improve though.

thepeartreeblog said...

Fantastic post. I loved reading it. It surely made me think about life, about what's really important, and also about what do we leave behind once we reach the end of out life's path. :-)

torn blazer said...

That's a lovely story. Where I live it is a mixture of homes and apartments but many old folk still live here. I was speaking to Marge Watson a friend of my late Mum on Monday, she's 88 and still driving. We were at a funeral and she was first into the food and coffee. She was as happy as and told me she lives life in the 'now'


Natalie said...

This post reminds me of my widow-lady neighbor that has lived in the house right next to me since the 1950s.

What's really awesome though is that my Great-Great Grandfather built it, and when they moved on, the mayor of our little town bought it, then sold it to my neighbor lady. It was built in the early '20s and has only had three owners. My mom didn't know she had any connections to our little town being a California girl that married an Idaho farm boy, but her roots are deeper than his!

It's definitely a house full of love, and it's been my dream to buy it and keep it that way. At least we live close!

 ALH said...

I love this story. Thank you for linking it to me. I feel that twinge of sadness for my more elderly neighbors and for my grandparents. At a certain point, your house encompasses your life and it's hard to see someone lose that through death or through a move to a retirement home. I think you wrote it very well. Thanks again for commenting on my blog.

Kimi said...

Thanks for sharing, Slam Dunk. I thought you were on vacation : ). For a beginning blogger, I must say, you're not too shabby : ). The little boy towards the end reminds me of me. I moved so many times due to my Dad's several business opportunities I never got the time to really know the house. We finally settled down in one and been there for over 10 years. Hoping to go the mile and remain in the home as long as Mrs. Andrews has...well, maybe.

Luisa Doraz said...

I love the way you did this post. Very clever. I was living the story. :) Hope all is well. I am back now.