So I live by myself in my new place and my next door neighbor is a little old Italian lady named Antoinette. She considers herself the matriarch of the street and has told me she’s lived there 51 years. Every time I run into her I am given some kind of life lesson, because she knows I’m on my own and so is she, and she wants to impart her wisdom to me. The first time we met I was moving in to the house. I saw her and went right over to introduce myself. She didn’t let go of my hand after I shook hers, so I knew I was in trouble. She told me, while the movers waited in the street, to marry a rich man and not to talk to anyone on the street if I didn’t want to go to jail. And when I see her when we’re getting in and out of cars she has more life advice for me, like “Make sure you eat at the right time and sleep at the right time.” I helped her bring her groceries in once, and she had a speech prepared about how people used to help each other in her country.
Yesterday topped it all. It’s been snowing here, with some melting and refreezing making parking a challenge because my street is inclined a bit. I did not have the forethought to buy a shovel, so yesterday when I saw some other neighbors outside with Antoinette working on clearing snow away from her car, I thought, perfect – I will help shovel her car out and maybe she’ll lend me her shovel. Well, there is a price to pay for using Antoinette’s shovel. It involved her calling me over and pointing out what areas to shovel and in what order and where to put the snow. “You go do it and I’ll watch you. You don’t have a mother.” I’m not sure what she meant by this, but I went ahead and shoveled and took orders from Antoinette all the way.
And THEN! Eventually she went inside and told me to knock when I was done. So when I did, she asked me to come in and told me she had a question for me. [Oh no.] She told me that she had met “the man staying with you, who said he was your father.” I said yes, my parents were staying with me over Thanksgiving. She told me that she had spoken to my dad on one occasion and he seemed very nice, and then on another occasion my father had turned his head away and ignored her when she said hello. She told me she “felt bad for three, four, five days” because of this.
“I ask, what did I do?” she said. “I am just trying to say hello.” I was caught like a deer in headlights, having no idea how to smooth over the unnecessarily hurt feelings of my little old next-door-neighbor.
So, Dad: I totally bailed you out by telling Antoinette that you were hard of hearing and had no intention of hurting her feelings. This seemed to work. We definitely don’t want to be on her bad side, because she also told me her next door neighbors on the other side are actually related to her deceased husband and, she said, “I call the cops on them all the time because they are good for nothing and don’t believe in anything or even go to church or nothing.”
I think I am still in Antoinette’s good graces… as long as I shovel her parking spot if she’s not home and it snows, like she told me to when I was leaving!