My lady and I live in a townhouse in the suburbs. Older folks who seem to hate us for our relative youth surround us. They scowl at us when they see us getting the mail. They frown at us when we start our grill. They ignore our courteous waves and half-assed smiles as our cars meet in our shared driveway. We make an effort and they seem set on not liking us.
THE CANCER NEIGHBOR
After starting the grill on our deck one afternoon, the neighbor that lives behind us walked over and said hi. I was excited as I peered down from my deck to this gray-haired beauty below. I was about to meet one of my neighbors, and I was positive she would like me. I could hardly handle my giddiness as she said, “Hi there, my name’s Marie. I’m your neighbor from behind you. I wish we didn’t have to meet like this, but…” And at this point, my giddiness turned to despair, as I am wise enough to know that the preface “I wish we didn’t have to meet like this,” meant bad news. She finished her sentence, “…your TV is really loud. My husband is dying of cancer. Can you please try to keep it down?”
I was of course friendly about it, acting as though I cared about her and her dying husband. “Oh, sure,” I said. “I didn’t realize it was so loud. We’ll keep it to a reasonable volume.” The fact that she tried to play the “dying of cancer” card, made me a little angry at the time, but I hid it well. Why would we care about her husband’s grave condition? What does that have to do with our loud TV? If you have a problem with our TV, just come and tell us to turn it down. I was pretty sour on her relating the two, especially when she spends 80% of the day out on her deck puffing on a heater and talking on her cordless landline telephone about how nifty it is that she can talk on the phone outside her house. When my mom was dying of cancer, at a much younger age than these folks are mind you, I could not have imagined using the “my mom is dying of cancer” card, although I am going to use the ”my mom died of cancer” card later in this story.
So after Marie told me to keep it down and that we, along with our loud TV and cancer were conspiring to kill her husband, I then asked her what time of day she notices the volume too loud. At night, afternoon, always? Her reaction was a bit puzzling, as she just stammered, “Um, eh, it’s just too loud.”
I reassured her we would keep it down, and told her my name and my lady’s name, after she asked, as if she cared what our names were. I certainly do not remember her name. Marie is just a name I made up for this little story.
A couple of weeks later, my lady and I were sitting on the couch watching TV and we could hear loud noises coming from our lovely neighbors. At which point I turned to my lady and said mockingly, “Turn your cancer down, it’s too loud!”
Now, before anybody gets angry, this is where I’m going to use the “my mom died of cancer” card. That and the fact that the Marie used her husband’s condition when telling us to be quieter, makes me feel good about my little joke. I’m ok with it. I felt bad at first, because we had our deck door open, and our deck backs up to their deck…so it is possible they could’ve heard me say it, but I’m going with the assumption they did not. Was it mean and childish? Sure, but Marie rubbed me the wrong way when she galloped over and said our TV was too loud for her cancer riddled husband. Just something about that…
So ends the story of our neighbor who is dying of cancer. Soon I will tell you about the other old woman who lives across the shared driveway. I’m pretty sure she’s running a homeless teen shelter, or an underage brothel. With her heart condition, I’m not sure how she can handle it.