Sunday, March 25, 2012

Passing Neighbors

Cherry Blossoms (NYC)
If it's Sunday morning, I can generally be found trudging back and forth between the building laundry room and my apartment.  My own washer/dryer combo has been broken for a year now and I am eternally torn between replacing it and repairing it.  So I do my laundry downstairs with my neighbor from another floor whose name I do not know.  We exchange pleasantries every week.  She has a daughter who moved to Alaska (for love) that she plans to visit this spring.  In turn, she knows that I just went to Canada for a couple of weeks.  My Sunday morning routine will often include a dash to the Dunkin Donuts -- coffee for me, OJ without pulp for Miguel the doorman.  Miguel, like most NYC doormen, probably knows everything there is to know about me.  Those lazy Sunday mornings always include Law & Order playing in the background as I putter around my apartment (or more often around Facebook, that evil time suck to quote a friend).  Lately, I've been running into one half of my neighbor couple as he takes their dog for a walk.  All of this before the clock strikes ten.

Cherry Blossoms (wide-angle lens)
This past month, I've added orders from Fresh Direct to my routine.  They have a fairly good selection of nutritious meals at the 500 calorie mark and since I'm counting calories (but not working out on my Wii -- oh dear, what will that dang trainer say to me when I go back) and Fresh Direct has the tastiest meals. Plus, I can complete my shopping in about 15 minutes from the comfort of my couch -- can't beat that.  These days, forays to the grocery store are usually reserved for things that Fresh Direct either doesn't carry or that another store does better.  The only downside to Fresh Direct is that they deliver in cardboard boxes and I do feel a bit guilty about the environment PLUS it means I am not acquiring garbage bags.  (As an aside, is it better for the environment to have cloth carry alls for your groceries and buy garbage bags or to get plastic bags and recycle those as garbage bags?)

Habit and routine are what those 2-3 hours on a Sunday morning are about.  There is something about the familiarity of the routine of simple tasks like laundry and tidying up that is restorative.

Transparent Cherry Blossoms
This Sunday was no different.  I was up at 7:45 and the laundry was in by 8:15.  On my way out the front door on the Dunkin Donuts run, Fresh Direct arrived with my order.  I had them leave the boxes at the elevator, dashed to Dunking Donuts, arrived back in time to tip the delivery guy.  And then I headed upstairs with three boxes of food and my laundry.  As I was loading into my apartment, my neighbor came out to take the dog for a walk.  As he was waiting for the elevator, he asked if they could have my boxes.  Of course, and I have two more that I'll leave for you too.  The back story I built in my mind was that these neighbors must be moving or maybe their Christmas decorations had outgrown the boxes they had. Didn't think about the insurance statements that had been mis-delivered to me while I was away and that I'd left under their door.  Didn't think about much more than leave the boxes for the neighbors next door.

We ran into each other again this morning as I was going down for my laundry and Steve was heading out to work.  He thanked me for the boxes and said something about spending his life packing.  I said (back story at the fore in my mind), are you guys moving?  He said, Patty died the last week in December.  Oh, I'm so sorry I said.  How are you doing?  He replied that the dog was taking good care of him.  We chit chatted for a bit and parted ways for the day.
Cherry Blossom Close Up

I am wondering how I missed this death next door.  Usually when someone dies in this building, there is a picture in the lobby but I don't remember seeing one.  I don't remember any hustle and bustle next door of people making condolence visits.  I don't remember anything that marks the moment that Steve went from being a two to being a one.  They'd been married forever these neighbors of mine and were not of an age where death is a normal expectation.  They could be found playing tennis on a nice weekend morning, she was the long-distance caregiver for her parents, she was on the co-op board when I moved in, they both worked long hours.  All in all, they were a quiet couple on the side of the building where there are only four apartments per floor.  If we ran into each other, we would nod, say hello, chit chat about the weather and  then part ways in the lobby.  Each bound for his/her/their own life (lives).
Cherry Blossom Interiors

It's weird how death can creep up on us when we least expect it.  One minute I'm in the midst of my Sunday morning routine and the next I am grappling with the unexpected news of a death in my neighborhood.  For that is what my floor is, a neighborhood (albeit small).  We live in close proximity yet know little of each other's lives and on most days, that is OK.  Today, I kind of wish I lived in the neighborhood I grew up in.  The neighborhood where we reached out to the widowers and widows and offered up our support.  Having said that, I think that Steve is kind of glad that it's not that kind of neighborhood.  He's always been the more taciturn of the twosome and I doubt he'd like folks fawning over him.

The small thing I can do for this neighbor I barely know is to leave my Fresh Direct boxes outside his door until he says I don't need them anymore.  I'm done packing up Patty's things.  Just like on some long ago days I was done with packing up the things that were the physical detritus of those in my life  while working hard to hold onto the memories.  I am sure there will be other days like that for me and for he, other losses.  I can only hope that we both will remember not to pack up the memories -- the good, the bad, the ugly. For those are a part of our history, nay a part of who we are.

A Lone Cherry Blossom Tree

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