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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Redbud Tree: Chapter Three of Watching And Thinking Of Blueberries

Rick had stepped across the street to talk to the yard man, now stowing the mower into the back of the small black pickup parked in the Cashes' driveway. It rankled me to see him using Tish and Barrington's driveway even though it made sense. That house had been vacant for years, so why clog up Sue Ellen's driveway unnecessarily? But increasingly, people had begun disrespecting the property; at least I thought so. Because there is no parking on the street, Tish's driveway had become a sort of neighborhood parking lot for anyone who had a bridge club, holiday party, barbecue, or needed a place to stow his or her car for a quick getaway when workmen were going to be at their house all day. Her curb lawn became the repository for a few people to place their tree limbs and brush until the city came around to pick it up. Aghast, I watched as the woman next door took her dog out and led it into Tish's front yard to do its business. I stood on my own front porch, impotently furious. Had she glanced over and seen me, I doubt she'd have cared.

At least Sue Ellen had stopped hooking up her hose to Tish's outdoor faucet to do her watering. That had ended years ago, and it probably was because Tish's water was turned off, I'm guessing. There's nothing at Tish's to even pretend to water. Her chubby pots of yellow marigolds and mums have been gone for so long, I almost forget what they looked like. The only thing blooming there now is the huge clutch of brilliant orange tiger lilies surrounding her black locust tree in the back yard. A family of little brown bunnies lives in it again this year, in defiance of the urban hawks and one stray cat that has managed to survive.

Ever since Tish left, the redbud tree in her curb lawn has been slowly dying. It rallied one year, about two years after she disappeared from across the way, but then its decline was steady and inexorable. This spring, it barely showed any pink blossoms at all, just a few on a couple of branches. One limb is entirely dead, and the rest are sparse with leaves that have already begun to yellow, and brown ones litter the ground below. Last week, a green card from the city appeared on Tish's front door. Her redbud tree is going to be removed soon. It's too far gone.

For the past several months, every now and then, I would see a car or truck at Tish's. Once, several lovely pieces of fine furniture--an armoire or china cabinet, a table, and something else--were piled into the back of a pickup truck and it drove away. Another time, a young couple in a bright red jeep went to the house for a while. Recently, three elderly men were there for a while and came out talking. I was watering my plants on the front porch, and it was impossible not to hear them, talking loudly in that Old Man Way. "...And this way, he doesn't have to sell the house," one of them said. "Right!" the other one agreed heartily. Before they left, one stooped low, painfully, and fixed the blue rug on Tish's front porch. I almost burst into tears. I've fixed that rug dozens of times. At least now I'm not the only one.

"That guy wants twenty bucks a week, just to cut and edge our little old front yard!" Rick said when he came back later. "That's ridiculous. I told him I'd get back to him, but obviously I won't. Oh, and he told me that on Saturday, he's doing all the trimming and mowing at Cashes'. The house is either sold or rented. I asked him when he was finally going to shape up Tish's bushes and cut out that tree from the middle of that one that's been bothering you all summer."

I felt a little breathless for a minute. But Rick continued.

"Nance, Tish has Alzheimer's."

What I said next is unimportant. My impression will forever be The yardman knew. The yardman knew. Which I guess is reasonable. As I've said before in my previous posts about Tish,we were merely cordial neighbors. We waved and said hello. She was kind to us and my children. She led her life and we led ours. Why, oh why, am I so invested in her life now? Why am I heartbroken for her? Why am I raging at the unfairness of it all? She is not me; our lives are not parallel.

I will be happy, truly, to see Tish's house come alive again. When the crew arrives to take away the dying redbud tree, I will probably cry just a little. But when the new neighbors arrive, I'll bake a tray of fresh blueberry muffins and step across the street to welcome them.

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9 comments:

  1. Such a poignant reminder to live in the moment. I adore how you remember how Tish and her house used to be, but can accept what the future has to hold for the new neighbors. Poor Tish. Poor redbud tree.

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  2. I want to drive up there & give you a hug! Sigh.

    Beautifully told tale though...

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  3. Bug--Thank you. I'll take your cyberhugs any day.

    Ally Bean--While there is a great deal to be said for living in the moment, it's important to me to revere the past and honor it as well. Tish was my husband's kindergarten teacher. She was patient with him--a child who refused to speak for most of the year. Her home and yard were impeccably kept, and she had a jet-setting lifestyle that I admired. Yet she was so kind to my boys, and her love for her tall and chivalrous husband was always apparent.

    It's so unfair. Alzheimer's knows none of her character or her life. It does not discriminate. Poor Tish, indeed.

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  4. Such a poignant post! I'm sorry for what Tish has gone through, and what her family is going through. It will indeed be nice to see people in the house again....perhaps a nice family or another couple.

    My grandmother suffers from some sort of dementia, and while it's hard on us, it's not so hard on her. She was a fairly paranoid and distrustful, prone to signing up for right wing propaganda. Thank goodness she didn't have the internet. Now she doesn't recognize her grandchildren anymore, but she still enjoys a piece of chocolate and a back rub, the feeling of the sun on her face.

    I'm not saying that it's a blessing, or that it's an end to life that anyone would choose. Just that in my own Grandmother's case, she's happier now than she was when she understood the world around her. Which is a depressing thought in and of itself.

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  5. j@jj--For your grandmother, it's a case of Ignorance Is Bliss. I'm happy for her, and for you in this case. While it is awfully depressing that she doesn't recognize her own family, she is happier and can enjoy simple pleasures, as you mentioned. It's as if she is taking a vacation from the world. Considering her worldview previously, probably a relief.

    Still nothing at Tish's except yet another haul away by her son and daughter-in-law. A few more incidental things left the property while I was out front weeding. And the yard man is a liar. Her shrubs still look awful; he did not return on Saturday as he said he would.

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  6. This time of year I always think about you. Glad I tuned in today. Please don't forget Tish, OK?

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  7. Melissa B--Long time, no see. No chance I'll forget about Tish, though I've tried to detach with love. She is in my heart and thoughts so much.

    Hope you have a good year.

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  8. Ouch. Dementia is so, so sad. JG just phoned his mother today and she told him she doesn't know where she is. Double ouch.
    I only feel happy if my neighbourhood is not shifting around, if where I live is safe and secure. Sounds as if yours isn't right now.

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  9. Mary G--So nice that you're back to Comments!

    I'm sorry that your MIL is slipping. It's one of my fears for myself. I can't imaging the feeling, and I desperately hope I won't have to.

    Our neighborhood continues to evolve as the Old Guard age, die, and their homes become a burden to their children. Imagine our surprise as Rick and I become part of the New Old Guard; we are one of the few original homeowners left on the street.

    It feels lonely, in a way. But change is inevitable, I know.

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