17 April 2017

When I look across our quiet street from the windows beside my desk, I can see a row of terraced houses built in the 1950s. Our neighbourhood is one of the economic miracle housing estates, hastily built and quite ugly, semi-detached and terraced. Most houses have been revamped by now, some several times over. Larger windows, broader front drives, sun porches, small greenhouses, PV panels on the roof, insulation, all the mod cons of our fabulous times.
There is just the one in the middle that looks old and kind of drab but with a wonderful front yard full of flowers. Ever since we moved here almost 20 years ago, an elderly man has been living in it and we have tried completely unsuccessfully to be neighbours. I greet him every time we meet and he steadfastly looks right through me. It's not just me, he talks to almost nobody around here. Rumours are that his wife walked out on him, taking the children. Many years ago. Before my time.
He is a man of habits, obviously retired. In the mornings, I see him dumping his teabag in the compost bin, after lunch he wheels out his bicycle for a short ride, occasionally, he takes the bus to town dressed in his trench and wearing a hat. In the summer, he has a man in to do the garden and once a week, a young woman comes to clean. He must be quite old now, in his 80s, I guess. I last saw him on Good Friday walking carefully along the flowering lilac bushes at the end of the footpath.
But for the last two days, his blinds are down, the curtain of one of his upstairs windows is half drawn.
I think he died. Or is in hospital. Someone arrived and let himself into the house yesterday.
I don't know this man but I am shaken by waves of anxiety.
We are mortal. We may think we know it. But we don't.
I made R check his blood pressure twice today. 

I am working on losing that fear of having back problems forever, I am not very successful. I am not in agony, but for reasons totally out of my control I think I should deserve no pain whatsoever. The other night I watched a talk by one of the eminent medical specialists who peddle their expert knowledge on the media incl. books and dvds and stuff. He looked impressive and fatherly standing there, first on his left and then on his right leg, demonstrating how this stance improves the strength of the entire back and that we should all brush our teeth standing on one leg. Then he had the audience bounce on their heels and after another 20 mins of positive vibes and hilarious exercises,  I felt a lot better. Also, his purple trainers looked good in combination with his little round belly. On his website, he provides impressive statistics and after 20 years of proofreading medical research papers, I have developed a considerably awe of statistics. Rather: I haven't a clue. If two thirds of my fellow citizens suffer from back pain at least once every year, I should be able to handle this. That and the fact that only two percent of back pain events require surgery. Plus, I think I am owed extra credit in that category, having had spinal surgery twice in the space of 21 years.
So on good days, I am slowly getting there. As regards the back. We went walking in the woods twice now and I survived. Yesterday, I slipped and fell on my bum, hard. And I survived.
As for the other symptoms of which the ongoing weight loss seems to be most alarming to some, I quietly list them as per instructions for the next medical appointment.
They don't bother me as much as they do R (I am as brainwashed as the next woman when it comes to surprising weight loss) but overall, things are a bit all over the place and I am grateful for a world of distractions.


Ms. Moon said...

It is odd that for some bizarre reason most of us humans think, deep in our deepest bones, that we shall be the first to be immortal.
I wonder why that word was ever even dreamed up.

Anonymous said...

Interesting story about your neighbor. I hope you find out soon what happened there and let us know. Sorry to read that you fell while out on a walk, but glad you were out walking. We've been trying to walk everyday, but the rain and winds have dampened our enthusiasm a bit. When is your next appointment with the doc? We need answers about that weight loss. Take care there, Sabine.

Colette said...

I can only imagine how freaked out you were when you fell. Sheesh. The weight loss is worrisome, but I know you will deal with it. I find it interesting that the sour old man had a yard filled with flowers. I am glad for that.

A Cuban In London said...

Of something we can be certain: we're born and we die. Whatever happens in the middle is down to us (well, most of it). Beautiful post. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

molly said...

Was his name Ove?
The fact that your elderly, grumpy neighbor grew flowers in his garden must mean he appreciates beauty. Too bad that doesn't extend to the beauty of offers of friendship, but kudos to you for trying. He must be a very lonely man.
It is incredibly difficult to get one's head around the fact that, one day, we will die and the world, unconcerned, will keep turning.
Great that you can get out for walks, not so great to fall on your bum. Take care Sabine!

Elsewhere said...

I'd love to see the talk of that doctor! Would you share the link? Off to brush my teeth now - on one foot ofcourse.

Sabine said...

It's in German, though: https://youtu.be/GQdgT97z6Vo

Steve Reed said...

I once read that the human tendency to think ourselves immortal is a necessity -- that if we really lived with the possibility of death, we'd be too terrified to do anything. We have to be in denial to function. I don't know whether that's true or not, but it's an interesting idea.

I hope your neighbor, grumpy as he is, turns out to be OK. And thank goodness you didn't hurt your back (more) when you fell! Yikes!

liv said...

Death that close sends a shiver of reality. As I get closer to it and am now coming out of denial, I find it an extraordinary experience - just like birth. Almost science fiction. I wonder, if in all his sorrow he found it a relief? So sad to hear his story but I would expect nothing else from you except to reach out.

A bum fall? Yikes, they really hurt. If you survived that with no real repercussions then it is really encouraging!

Elsewhere said...

Thanks! I'm Dutch, so I should be allright...

am said...

Beautiful photo forest photo. So much to live for. Sending love to you. Moving story of the older man and his flowers and separateness. Picturing him riding his bicycle.

Hattie said...

My last bad fall was on my bum. Luckily, I'm well padded there!

37paddington said...

A fall is utterly humbling, all control giving way to gravity. I am glad you didn't injure yourself. I, too, am quite brainwashed about weight loss, because I can certainly stand to lose some, but I trust you will check with your doctor that yours is nothing to worry about? We are, none of us, immortal, but you, dear Sabine, make our time on this blue marble kinder.

Roderick Robinson said...

We assume togetherness is the only natural state, thus we feel (perhaps subconsciously) the need to convert those who are solitary. Yet the anchorite is a familiar figure in literature (eg, Silas Marner), probably because he represents such a technical challenge; the author has no recourse to dialogue.

I have tried to imagine myself as solitary and suspect I am well equipped. Ever since I learned what clichés were I have striven to avoid them. If my wife had left me I would be disinclined to talk about it - shuddering in anticipation at the clichés that would spill out in response. That would make me a sourpuss for the cliché-monger might well be driven by genuine sympathy, guilty only of not thinking his gesture all the way through. And I, ultimately, would be at fault since there is no way I could reasonably insist on an articulate response to my grief.

But being able to think this far ahead the solitary makes a pragmatic decision. In order to avoid embarrassing scenes, he opts for silence. In a sense he's doing his neighbours a favour but none see it that way. From solitary he morphs into a vague sort of enemy. Eventually kids throw stones through his windows and he, still seeing further ahead than most, responds with cardboard. The neighbours say he's depressing property values.

Not much fun being a literary stereotype. Better to write about them.

Zhoen said...

I'll just watch and see what I can pick up.

Zhoen said...

I got a grip/grabber extension thingy. Helped immensely, I still use it when I'm picking up the clutter.


Not this one, this is just for illustration.