Is it wrong to feel angry at an elderly person? Something inside me keeps telling me that it is, and that is why I’m feeling like a total bitch today.
I’m upset with my elderly neighbor Sofie. You know, that little old lady that lives next door and spent her winter peeking at me through her dining room window as I sat on my computer typing away? The one who calls me when she hasn’t seen me for a few hours to find out what I’m doing? The lady who sits on her front or back porch watching me when I’m busy trying to work or relax in my yard? Right- you’ve got it now, she’s my elderly stalker.
We’ve lived next to her for nearly five years. Her husband had passed away 4 days before we moved into our house, and that first year her adult children and grand kids would come over frequently for visits and would do things around the house and yard for her. By the second year they were still coming regularly but doing less for her.
From day one we had been friendly with her and offered to do things for her such as get some groceries when we were going to the store to get our own, or cut her lawn. Her kids were doing most of those things for her so she’d decline but she enjoyed coming outside and watching us as we created what is now our beautiful garden.
By the second year we were shoveling her sidewalk and walkway when it snowed, and cutting her lawn at least half the time, and she would occasionally cut it herself. Now this is a lady who told us she was 84 when we first met her and still tells us to this day that she’s 84. I’m not really sure that she knows how old she is, but lets say she’s in her mid- to late 80’s. By the third year we were doing most everything for her but getting her groceries.
Now when her kids come to visit they actually visit. Her youngest son comes nearly everyday, her eldest a few times a week and her daughter comes over once a week.
We don’t mind doing these things for her. We have a tiny yard, our grass area is very small and takes perhaps less than 10 minutes to cut, so how much trouble is it for us to cut her small area of grass as well, or shovel her sidewalk? Not much. I could go on with a list of things that we do for her but that’s not what this post is really about. Let’s just say we do things for her several times each week.
She is crafty though. If she sees us cutting our grass she’ll come out with SCISSORS and slowly kneel down on her lawn and start cutting her grass with the scissors! Geez, talk about a hint. How can you say no when someone does that. She knows exactly what she’s doing when she does stuff like this and she does sneaky things like that all the time. It makes me feel more than a little bit used when she does.
One of the things that upsets me is that I can’t understand why her kids aren’t doing a good majority of these things for her, especially since they live in the area and visit several times each week? Are they not offering, or is she not asking?
My parents are both gone now (I was the last child to already older parents) and they lived in a city that was a 5 hour drive from here. I went to see them at least every second weekend, and my husband and I took pleasure in helping them maintain their house, garden and yard and in spending time with them. Perhaps we took more pleasure in helping them than most since we lived in a tiny apartment at the time and didn’t have to do our own home maintenance or yard work, but still, it was my parents, and I would do anything to help make their lives easier. Why aren’t Sofie’s kids helping her more?
What got me so ticked off actually started on Friday evening. While my husband and I were finishing up some gardening work at about 8 pm in the evening she saw that Chris was putting out our garden hose. She asked if he could set hers up to. Chris said we were just getting ready to go in but he’d do it for her soon. He also explained that it was supposed to rain so she definitely wouldn’t need it for a day or two. Ok, that’s fine.
On Saturday my husband had to work an evening shift, so he helped me do a bit of gardening and then went off to work. I continued to putter in my front yard for several hours. Sofie’s son, daughter-in-law and their two adult children were visiting that afternoon and stayed for at least 5 hours. As soon as they left to go home Sofie noticed me working in my garden bed pruning my roses and she asked if I would prune her two roses in her front flower bed. I said I would and I trimmed and shaped them for her. The branches already had leaves coming out and would likely have blooms within a month or less.
Sunday, my husband had another evening shift and he was going to be late so I drove him over to the hospital where he works as a porter. When I got back home, I noticed from the car window that Sofie’s roses were now cut down to 6 inch STUBS. I just about started to cry. Not just because the roses that would have been beautifully shaped were now shorn almost to the ground but because she had wasted my time when she asked me, no begged me, to prune her roses the night before.
Later I walked into the backyard and I noticed that her Rose of Sharon tree that grows at the end of our shared drive way had also been butchered. It’s not rounded. It was about 6 feet in diameter before it was chopped up, now it’s only about 2 feet wide at it’s thickest, but spreads about 6 feet in length. Picture a tree by a fence that doesn’t hang over the fence as a naturally shaped tree would, picture a tree that’s been flattened in a press and that’s what this tree looks like. I also have rose of Sharon seeds all over my freshly turned garden soil so I’ll probably be pulling out baby trees all summer long.
Her eldest son had obviously come for a visit and had chopped up the plants. Now I’m not the best pruner in the world but I’m not a butcher. Why she asked him to, or let him, savage her tree and roses like that I can’t understand, when she knows that that is one job that I’m more than willing to do for her.
Naturally the hose that she asked Chris to put up the other day is still not attached even though she’s had all her kids over this weekend. I’m sure she’ll ask one of us to do it tomorrow.
After I made my discoveries today I was very upset. I feel used. I feel angry. I feel ashamed that I’m so mad at a little old lady.
She’s not helpless or totally on her own though. She’s quick witted and crafty. I’m almost certain that she tells her kids not to help if they offer because she knows we’ll do things for her if she asks. I’ve also noticed that she always wants her grass cut before the weekend, perhaps on a Friday … and then I’ll see all her kids over for several hours on the Saturday. She’s getting us to do the work so her kids won’t ask to do it or won’t feel obligated to do it. See- crafty.
There is almost no point in talking to her about it. She’ll pretend she doesn’t understand me, remember she’s Macedonian and speaks Greek and Macedonian to me often even though I don’t understand the language but I know she understands everything we say to her. Or if she does understand she’ll get upset … she gets upset easily and cries several times each day, usually over silly things like her grass getting too long, or her son calling at 7:10 instead of 7:00.
So how do I handle this other than hiding in my house all the time so that we aren’t available to do her bidding?
Any suggestions? Please?