Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mrs. Busybody

I imagine if you live in a neighborhood or small town, or did at one time, you have experienced the local busybody...the neighbor that knows everything about everyone, she has an opinion about everything she knows too, and she is not afraid to tell one and all.

I have a client who is one. She is 83, a widow, retired RN, mother of 3, grandmother of 10, when I first heard her voice on the phone, I would have guessed her in her late 50's, she was so cheery, so articulate, so well-versed on current events, a president of the local AARP,constantly on the go, she is always giving me tips on great one day trips around my home state. Mrs. Busybody lives in one of the first little additions that were built around the city after the end of WWII. She knows every neighbor, young or old, I mean she knows them, everything about them, more than they realize I think, she has at least one story for every house on either side of the street for at least a block. My first thought when she was recounting these tales to me, was "Oh these poor poor people, do they even realize what she knows? What she tells others?"

But as I have gotten to know her, even though living next door to her might be a challenge, she is also a blessing to many of her neighbors. The elderly ones anyway. She created a system for all of them, a way to know each morning that everyone was okay.

Neighbor 1 raises her the blind in her front window when she gets up. Neighbor 2 opens the outer door on her enclosed front porch. Neighbor 3 has a large suncatcher in her front window that is two different colors, she turns it each morning. That is how they begin their day, if they do not see the morning "all is well" signals, then the phone calls start, if they don't answer the phone then Mrs. Busybody gets out her cane and hobbles on over to knock on the door. If she knows they should be home,and are not answering she will use her cane to bang on the windows. One morning she couldn't raise Mrs. 2 so she climbed up on a large wooden box sitting underneath the kitchen window, tried peeking in, when she could see the remnants of a breakfast, when she saw the lady's walker standing in the entrance way to the kitchen, she started yelling and banging on the window with her cane. (during the telling of this story, I am god woman you could have fallen, then where would you be?) She was not going to give up until she knew her neighbor was alright. Mrs. 2 was indeed not feeling well, had gotten up from her breakfast table and gone back to bed. When she should have called the insulin reaction because Mrs. 2 decided she didn't need to check her bloodsugar that morning.

This is just one story she has related to me. She has even gone so far as to call a neighbors children in another state, or a power of attorney, and berated them for neglecting their loved one.

She monitors them, on her daily or every other day visits, she snoops in their medications, making sure (she says) that they are taking it properly. She asks them such personal questions, questions that perhaps only a retired nurse would ask, she asks about their bowel asks them what they have eaten that day. If she feels they are not eating properly, she will then make a special dish just for them to tempt their appetites.

Sometimes she does go too far, sometimes she totally pisses people off, but sometimes, they are very happy she is there.

How far is going too far though? I wonder, as I said, I think it would annoy me no end to have such a neighbor, but as a family member who lives far away, I think I would be very happy that my parent had someone like that looking out for them.


Fiona said...

What a wonderful heartfelt post Sunny :) Probably how she keeps so young is the fact that she involves herself in so much to keep herself busy. She's not going to sit atrophying - not her body and not her mind. And with her having been a nurse, that is so valuable to so many that don't have loved ones or anyone who cares, to look in on them daily. While it may annoy at times, she really is a godsend by the sound of it and she gets so much back from it too.

My mum is in a similar situation. Since my dad died it's only her in the house and for the last year of his life, she was his caregiver. Now she is the one who is ill and there's noone there with her. She fights it by not wanting to face what lies ahead, but I'm the practical one and I persevere and eventually she comes to the realisation that what I'm saying is right, she just needs to think it was her thought I guess. That's OK with me.

She is lucky to have people around her who care so incredibly much - Sheridan lives in the house opposite and they have a similar signal, my mum opens the curtains in her bedroom when she gets up, to indicate everything is fine. A retired fisherman, Stuart, who grew very close to my dad before he died (obviously a common love for the sea drew them together) takes her shopping once a week - my mum never learned to drive. And then there's Hilda who takes my mum out, just rambling around the countryside, lunch in a pub, visiting a point of interest - or she just visits in the morning for a coffee or in the afternoon for a glass of wine.

My mum, and her children, are truly blessed by the people who have come into her life. I know it could easily have been a much more difficult situation for us otherwise, as we all live so far away.

Bless Mrs. Busybody and those like her!

LePhare said...

We live on a small estate of about a dozen homes. Most residents are elderly and are constantly looking out for each other. Many of them have call systems, and several of them are linked to our home.

Fortunately I've only been called out once, for a lady who is diabetic, and that required a call by paramedics.

All have families, but apart from the odd holiday, most are conspicuous by their absence.

We are now making arrangements for my mother to move in with us. She needs more support and is rather isolated where she lives. More work for me, but I'm glad to do it. I look upon it as pay-back time, for all the years she cared for me.

Luckily, we can all live together. Not always possible for some families.

Thanks for your post.


Sunny Delight said...

acushla--this job of mine has taught me to sooo much..served up some sadness too...mainly I guess due our more mobile's so far apart...the elderly and sick so alone, but for some there are the neighbors who are still willing be just that..neighbors...your family is truly blessed with such wonderful sounding ones. it seems are a blessing to your neighbors, to your wife, to your have me wondering..who is your caregiver...who gives you respite when it all becomes too much?

And your mother is lucky to have you, and you the space to have her...but....Do you think she might get tired of roast chicken EVERY night for dinner? :-)

LePhare said...

She will love roast chicken every night. She has 'Meals on Wheels', a service offered from the local authority, at the moment. You just wouldn't beleive what they can do to food. Three day old K.F.C would taste better.

Who cares for me? I have back-up a phone call away, but they don't do it out of love. Anyway, what else would I do? My respite is here and now.

Sunny Delight said...

lephare--you are doing what needs to be done, has to be done out of love, and honoring those that love you...

At some point you have to have something that is just for you, intervals of time that bring you a much needed centeredness of being.....that is what I wish for you to have in your life :)