I recently met the next door neighbor named Nancy. She’s slightly built and is more formally attired in a dressy pants suit and wears a thick layer of makeup that includes drawn on eyebrows. Nancy has been a Hampton Lake resident for five years and “she goes to church twice a week,” my mom claims, her voice a bit surprised. One of those churches down the main drag and believe me it was hard to tell ‘em apart as they were all different denominations of Christian. “That Kingdom Hall place finally bit the dust,” mom said. I vaguely recalled the place only because it was on a corner and resembled a log cabin. Now it’s a Marathon gas station.
“Nancy’s very respectful,” mom continues. “She even took her wind chimes down after I asked her to.” Mom points to the southeast facing window. “Her porch is right next to mine. They were always making noise.”
“Yeah, they tend to do that. I can’t believe you asked her to take ‘em down.”
“They were bothering me.” She had just sat down in her comfy canary yellow chair with her latest snack of a sugar free slice of strawberry cake.
The next day the rumors of spring finally gave way to the facts. The last of the snow had vanished, even those crusty black bits that clung to corners and northern facing spots. Grass seemed greener and more birds were singing and flying around. I guess ol’ Bobby Ray was busy with his cane chasing all manner of feathered creatures away from the “lake”.
Apparently, wildlife was a real nuisance. Another pond in a nearby neighborhood tract community was anti-bird. That community homeowner’s association also didn’t like wandering waterfowl, so they installed a short wire fence to keep them away. Birds aren’t stupid and they flew over it.
On that 60 degree Saturday, another phenomenon occurred that would continue all season and stop after the first frost: the garage/yard sale. In the “we loathe wildlife” community across the street, within sight, was a yard sale that beckoned. Cars and people clustered in that area and in the bright sunny day my mom wore her pink warmup suit and matching baseball cap with the extra large visor. Mom retained her sense of style as she had sewn on some white lace to make that hat look even more feminine though it was overkill. Pastel pink was as girly as you can get. But no matter how she gussied it up, mom wasn’t keen on wearing it. One of her doctors proclaimed that it was necessary when she went out into the sun, so she complied.
I selfishly hoped it was a compelling garage sale that was the Nadir equivalent of PBS’s “Antiques Roadshow” and she’d be gone for a while. I was in the sunroom which was living up to its name, especially as the yellow and white sheer curtains had recently been changed [by me with mom’s strict supervision]. Gazing outside in the peaceful spring morning I noticed a staggering drunk weave past the window. Drunk? On a Saturday morning? In suburban Nadir? Nah! That discombobulated person was my pink-attired mom. I went to the foyer to open the door as I figured I better check on her. She lurched inside and stood there, panting. She wasn’t drunk; she was really out of breath. Standing by the door that she managed to shut, she held onto the doorknob. I tried remembering the last time I’d ever seen her so … breathless. Mom wasn’t very athletic and she sure as heck had never gotten into that whole aerobics, running or jogging thing. Sure, she went for walks but they were sedate.
Slowly, she went over to the bench and sat down. Gradually her breathing returned to normal and she removed her hat. The sweatiness made her gray hair stick to her head and it seemed almost invisible. She fluffed it up with her shaky fingers and then got up, pretending that a walk across the street hadn’t almost knocked her out.
Her health was worse than ever. I wondered about all the prescription pills she popped twice a day. Some of ‘em were vitamins, but most of ‘em came from amber plastic jars and had weird names on the labels. As the weather was warm and wonderful that sunny Saturday, I was feeling too good to be worried. But part of me filed the incident in my mind and I found it disconcerting that she was suddenly so frail.