When we first moved in, I didn’t have a myopic view of life on my plot of land; I could see the other side of the house too, and Glenda lived over there. As we struggled with our little people and big boxes on moving day, Glenda scurried over to lend a hand by scooping up Dexter. She whisked him away to safety in her house, never mind her cats who didn’t care for his blustering ways.
Glenda told me about the previous homeowners. Besides having babies in our house, Brian’s wife had been dedicated to her healthy lifestyle and ran for exercise—nine months pregnant—with a two-year-old strapped to her back. I also heard from Glenda that before Brian and his wife’s short stint in north, our house had been hastily renovated. Some workmen had hauled out the original cast iron tub and chucked it, replacing it with a cheaper version. The men had also been very tall, setting our bathroom mirror and all our cupboards unusually high. Glenda thought our house was one of the original Sears kit houses, and I searched the basement beams for the stamp to prove it.
Not only was Glenda a wealth of information, but she also had an admirable tolerance for our noisy presence next door. At the beginning, Flicka was given to bouts of screaming when hair wash time rolled around each week. I preferred the cup-dumping rinse method since it was faster, but that made the screaming even louder and more frantic. With all my creative mothering, I couldn’t figure out a way to wash her hair, minus the shrieking and tears. I finally asked Glenda if she heard the racket since our bathroom faced her house. I learned she had tinnitus, a condition which amplified noise. But she was gracious and didn’t dole out judgment over our household decibel level on bath night.
In 2005, Dad stayed with us for a couple days while he went to medical appointments at the University of Minnesota. After eight years of chemo treatments for chronic lymphocytic leukemia, he qualified for a bone marrow transplant, and we celebrated. Our celebrations were muted, though, when early one day Dad and I spied something strange next door. Glenda’s garage door stood open with her car inside. She didn’t go anywhere without her car. I noticed she hadn’t collected her mail either. I called her. No answer on her home phone, and her cell phone went right to voice mail. I knocked on her door. No answer.
Hours passed, and the sky grew dark. Still, nothing changed next door, and no one flipped on the lights at Glenda’s. I called her number again and again. Now I was too afraid to look into the windows of her car, still parked in the open garage.
“Maybe I should call the police,” I said to Dad.
“I’d say so.”
A police car pulled up in front of Glenda’s within minutes. Although a public school superintendent by profession, Dad had been knit together with a healthy dose of curiosity and adventure. From inside our house, he surveilled the activity next door like a TV cop, and he delivered a play-by-play even though I was watching too.
The officer closed Glenda’s garage door. Then he chatted with the guy across the alley who had strolled over. While they talked, they pointed at the garage and nodded. Then the guy went back to his place. The officer walked through Glenda’s yard and swiped his flashlight beam across her front porch and into the windows. He returned to his squad car and sat for a few minutes. Then he came to our door.
“She’s in there. Said she’s okay, but sick, and that’s why she didn’t pick up.”
“Thanks,” I said, relieved.
When Husband got home, Dad and I told him all about it.
“Then the police patched a call through to her house,” I said.
“You mean they called her?” Husband said, cutting through the drama.
“I guess you could put it that way. Turns out, she’s all right.”
Glenda finally phoned me the next day.
“It was bronchitis. Couldn’t get out of bed to get the phone.”
“Glad you’re alive. I was worried, Glenda.”
“Sorry. I guess the guy across the alley was worried too. Nice to have neighbors like that.”
A week after the scare with Glenda, I heard the still, small Voice.
It’s not often the future is so clearly outlined for us. But for me, this time it was. I told Husband about the plan I believed was laid out for me. He agreed but said it was meant for us—not just me. After Dad’s medical procedure at the end of December 2005, I would be his caregiver. I didn’t have any medical background for taking on a post bone marrow transplant patient, but I knew it was for me—for us. And I wasn’t afraid.
“Dad, come to our house to recuperate after the transplant,” I told him. “You should be with us.”
Dad didn’t question my sincerity. He didn’t argue about how it would be too much for me with a kindergartner, a four-year-old, a one-year-old, and taking care of three-year-old Willow too. He just said okay.
A gentle tug this way and that in life—the giving and receiving of help—when we’re sick with bronchitis or cancer. I had needed help too in the past—with vertigo and with a botched epidural that left me unable to walk for weeks after Flicka was born—and I had accepted it gratefully, because I couldn’t help myself then. But now Strength would see me through the next adventures, and I was ready to take them on.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date/
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.