I am lucky to have good neighbors.
It’s especially nice I get along with everyone because I spend so much time at home, sitting at my desk, looking out my window and pretending to write. Pretending to write requires a lot of time looking out the window and the neighbors I see most directly when I do are Charles and Joanna.
Charles and Joanna are no longer young. They have a comfortable home that sits on the edge of the forest and rarely have visitors. I don’t know the details of their life … and I don’t need to.
I know Charles has a routine each morning where he drives into town, picks up a free newspaper at the senior center, gets a free cup of coffee at the bank, stops by Starbucks for free cream to put in his coffee, then returns home. He does this every day the bank is open. I know he is proud of his ingenuity.
I know Charles and Joanna are terrific gardeners (which is nice since I look at their yard all day). They plant a bank of dahlias every summer in front of their house. The dahlia, from what I have gathered, is a notoriously fussy flower. Charles has built little cages for them so they aren’t damaged by inclement weather and they get almost daily watering. They are spectacular toward the end of the summer, when Joanna tells me I can help myself. I feel almost sinful cutting off one of those enormous flowers. But I do, and I put it on my desk where it occupies nearly as much room as my computer monitor.
I also know Joanna hates the heat. When it gets especially hot, she’s been known to step outside and yell things I cannot print in a family newspaper. Most days, she likes to sleep through the mid-day heat and emerge in the early evening to survey her gardens, dressed in a long, dark robe, and carrying a tall wooden staff. It is hard to ignore her resemblance to Moses when she does this.
It is comforting, looking out my window, watching Joanna shepherding her dahlias.
I worry sometimes about Charles and Joanna because I don’t know how much cooking they do, so I’ll bake a loaf of bread for them from time to time and, whenever I have company, I bring over a couple slices of whatever dessert I’ve made. I feel like the Dessert Fairy when I make these trips, usually just after dark.
“You have saved our lives!” Charles always says, as he snatches the plates from me. The next morning there will be two clean dessert plates sitting on my front stoop.
But Joanna has not been well lately. She was in rehab after an operation and Charles spent his days driving back and forth to visit her. (I hope they had free coffee.)
“It’s where they send old people when they’re on their last legs,” Charles informed me bluntly, as he handed me a bag of peaches from their tree.
Joanna is home now and I went to visit her yesterday. She looked nothing like Moses. She looked small and frail and a little afraid. I took her hand, “I’m sorry you’re in pain,” I told her, because I didn’t know what else to say.
And yes, it is the way life goes. Still, it makes me sad. I want to see Joanna out again, hollering at the heat and minding her dahlias. I want one more day of that, and then I want another. And so on.
Carrie Classon is an author, columnist, and performer. She champions the idea that it is never too late to reinvent oneself in unexpected and fulfilling ways. For more information, visit www.carrieclasson.com.