Daily Archives: January 21, 2010

Dr. Seuss knew what he was talking about

While answering question #10 yesterday, I mentioned feeling blue about something and promised to post about it today.

I live in an area that might be called the exurbs. We are about 50 miles away from A Big City, and we live on the outskirts of 2 small towns. It’s not country living; we don’t have a large piece of property –just under one acre– and we do have neighbors. Our neighborhood doesn’t have street lights or sidewalks, and everyone has our size of lot or larger. The house to the east of us is actually quite close, which is a little odd considering the expanse of property, but whatever.  An older couple lives there, semi-retired. We don’t see them very often but we are friendly with one another. When we sit on our deck in the summer, we can’t see anyone’s house and no one can see us.  It’s the illusion of being alone and private.

About 6 months ago, the husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. His wife had already nursed 2 relatives as they died of cancer, so she knew what was coming. -D- had been a smoker for nearly all his life, and despite his illness and chemo, he didn’t quit his habit. After the first round of chemo, he was looking pretty good and his hair was growing back, but certain symptoms sent him back to the doctor by late fall. The cancer had spread. They returned to chemo treatment for alleviation of painful symptoms, but it was just to keep him comfortable.

SuperDad saw -D- about a month ago and thought he’d be with us until Spring. I went over to visit a few days after Christmas and I also thought he had a few months left. We chatted with extended family over the past 2 months, asking how -D- was doing and if there was anything we could do to help. But mostly, a family member would drop by in the morning or early evening and even if I was outside, I didn’t move quickly enough to flag him or her down to ask.  And, I admit, constantly asking seemed kind of morbid.  We knew that -D- was terminally ill.

Tuesday night I was putting out the recycling when their son-in-law pulled up in his truck. I moved quickly and was able to call his name loudly enough to halt his quick steps.
KC: “How is -D- doing?”
him: “How is -D- doing?!?! ……. We buried him 2 weeks ago!”
KC: [awkward silence accompanied by shocked facial expression]
him: “Didn’t you know?”

Um, no, I didn’t. And I felt awkward and insensitive. I know it wasn’t the family’s duty to inform the neighbors; that was probably the last thing on anyone’s mind.  I do try to pay attention to what goes on around me, but I don’t spend my days watching out the windows.
There had been a lot of family and friends visiting over the Christmas and New Year holiday (and yes, we figured some were there to say their goodbyes). When I saw a number of cars there again a 2 weeks ago, I assumed it was for a birthday party (for -P- or -D- or perhaps one of the grandkids) … because it was my birthday and I selfishly had birthday on the brain.

On my part, it was a failure to truly live in community.

Now I’ve been given another chance: I found out yesterday that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with breast cancer.