Pandemic: The woman next door

During this 2020 pandemic, I’ve been home. I’ve spent the majority of my time on my back porch, with my new rescue dog, Zelda.

I smiled every time my neighbor came outside, yelling at Leo to go potty. Her sass, her love of that tiny yappy dog gave me a chuckle. Every time their neighbor’s large dogs were out, little Leo was let out to play and bark at them through the fence. It was a doggy barking game.

I tend to hide. I have security shades up so I can be alone, unbothered. But this neighbor, no matter what, could see me and made sure to say Hi.

I spoke more to her this summer than I have in all of the seven years we have been neighbors. One of our first conversations she complimented me on my hair.

She handed to me, over the fence, food little Leo didn’t want. She asked if I needed hand sanitizer and passed that over. She threw balls over the fence for my Zelda and told me about it later. Leo didn’t like these things but she thought Zelda might.

When I would see the ambulance, she would later tell me what happened.  At times, she shared her ailments, other times her opinion.

The stories she shared about her dog, Leo, moved me, cracked me up. She carried that dog into Walmart and nobody was going to tell her that he wasn’t a rescue dog. When he escaped the yard and a kind neighbor brought him back, she was shocked the neighbor wasn’t bitten. When someone offered thousands of dollars for her dog, she yelled at them and asked “Would you accept money for your child?”

I became aware of how she always said “Hi” first and I made an effort to initiate and be grateful.

I told her that it was the ball she gave Zelda that taught Zelda how to play fetch. It was a big breakthrough for Zelda, and I thanked her for it. When she gave me the hand sanitizer I told her I didn’t have any cash. Angrily she said, “Did I ask you for any?”

I took for granted her coming out to the backyard. And yet, I used to go into the house and tell my husband, “I love that woman.”

You see I never asked her what her name was nor told her mine.

I saw the fire truck and the ambulance today. When they left I figured I would ask her if she was ok. But then the police came back and I heard someone talking about arrangements for the dog.

I found out today her name was Mary. I have cried a lot today. Surprisingly, it has hit me hard.

I miss her.  I miss her dog.

I didn’t know her.

I wish I had.

It’s quiet next door. Too quiet.

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