Neighbors, Sadness, and Connection…Oh My!

There’s a woman who walks her dog down my street every day. At least four or five times a day, she heads past my front window. Her walk is purposeless. Slow. Her dog walks dejectedly next to her on a leash made of rope. They appear filled with sadness. Every day. Sadness.

————–

When I first moved into my home, I began the arduous process of renovations. My non-existent kitchen, which resembled a tiny triangular room with a dropped-ceiling you might find in an office from 1976, was transformed to a more open space with new floors and countertops and cabinets…oh my. This doesn’t even include the new appliances, backsplash, removal of three doors, and the tearing down of half a wall.

I lived in my house the entire time this was happening…with no working kitchen…on a mattress…in the bedroom…on the floor.

I finally moved out of my house when the renovations took a turn for the dirty – apparently, sanding your hardwood floors down brings up a lot of dust.

I packed up my five dogs (yes, five dogs…don’t judge) and moved back in with my brother and sister-in-law. Did I mention that I had lived with them for nearly 5 months prior to purchasing my house? They clearly love me.

So, I moved into their guest bedroom with my five dogs. This was in late September, a few days prior to my birthday, whereupon my house, which was not completed in the slightest would be the location for a fundraising birthday/housewarming party. But I digress.

I finally got to move back into my home in mid-October; the renovations weren’t over, but the dust had settled. I came home in the middle of the afternoon with all my dogs in tow.

I immediately went out to the backyard where my gate had been left open. First, Legs took off, then Georgia followed. The two smallest, Feyita and Speck were curious, but were more nervous than anything. That’s when Durango began to go, but I used my stern voice, (I don’t use it often ‘cause usually they just laugh at me) and she halted. I swung the gate shut and went sprinting after my two dogs.

Now, to be clear, Legs and Georgia weigh 20 pounds combined, so they’re not exactly menacing…unless you’re walking on the street with your dogs. And, that’s exactly what happened.

Just in front of my house was a man, walking three large dogs. As Legs and Georgia took off towards him, he stammered, “No. No. No.” until it was a full-fledged scream, “No! NO! NOOOOO!”

The next part happened in slow motion: Legs and Georgia began circling the man, barking at his incredibly large dogs. He’s screaming, “Get your dogs!” His dogs began circling him, trying to get to my dogs, entangling his legs in three leashes. Then he falls. To the ground. In the middle of the street. His dogs are barking. My dogs are barking. I’m profusely apologizing, but can’t help him because I’m trying to wrangle my dogs. I pick them both up and head back to my house.

The man remains in the road, bleeding on his knees and elbows. His dogs howling at me as I make the long trek back up my driveway into my garage. I don’t look back – like a bad breakup – I know if I do, I’ll regret everything that just happened.

I close my garage, then watch the man from my window as stands up and corrals his dogs, freeing his legs from the entanglement of leashes. It takes about a minute and a half. Then I start laughing. Hard. I can’t even be mad at my dogs, even though they deserve it.

It’s at this point that I notice the sad lady, and she notices me through my window. She had stopped just up the street, a silent witness to the madness. She meanders past my window. No nod. No wave. Nothing. But we made eye contact, I’m sure of it.

A little tidbit about me – I’m a fixer. You’re sad? I’ll make you laugh. You have a problem? I’ll find a solution. You need help with something? Got it. I fix things.

So, a woman who lives on my street who appears dejected and walks by my house every day…? That’s a fix waiting to happen. She just needs to make a connection…know someone sees her.

Fast forward to a few hours after the dog debacle. I see her coming up the street and just so happen to need something out of my car.

“Hi!” I enthusiastically yell to her as she approaches.

“My dog is shy and bites,” she throws back.

“No worries. I’ll stay on my side of the street, so you don’t end up on the pavement. I actually don’t enjoy it when my neighbors bleed.”

Nothing. Not a smile. Not even an acknowledgement of the afternoon’s festivities.

“Have a good walk.”

I spent the next several months catching her outside. Miraculously, as she was walking by my house, I was outside. I couldn’t get her to crack. She didn’t even wave when I drove by her. Her sadness was palpable. I wanted to fix it. This woman with her dog on a rope leash.

She wouldn’t crack. She did not want a connection. I was an idiot for thinking she needed someone to see her…that was my own ridiculousness, I guess.

————

So…today.

Today, was not a good day for me. For a woman who lives at a 12 on a pretty consistent basis, I hit -2 today. The particulars are unimportant. I was just not having a good day. It happens. Some days it happens harder than others. Today was one of those days.

So, this evening, around 6:30, as the light in the sky was dimming, I was trying to work at my dining room table. The curtains were open; the dining room light was on.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see Sad Lady pass by my window. Her slow trod just as filled with despair as any other day. Only this day, she looks up at me through my window. We lock eyes. And she raises her hand in a slow wave.

We connect.

And today, the fixer became the fixee…because sometimes all it takes is a connection.

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