Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A little over two years ago, new neighbors moved in two houses down from us. They were a young couple, late 20s or early 30s.

I instantly liked them. They were a lot like us—except… a lot more hip. He had crazy curly hair and wore shorts and baseball hats to work. She was always dressed in hip clothes and had a funky haircut—and I often looked at her wishing I had the same sense of style. They often had friends over—grilling, cheering for the games on TV, drinking beer, playing catch in the common area behind our townhomes. You could tell they were free spirits.

As neighbors, they were very friendly, but not overly so—not the kind of neighbors that engage you in a 30-minute conversation every time you run into them while taking out the garbage in your pajamas. And I was secretly hoping that they would become our friends—they seemed like the kind of people I’d love to hang out with. But somehow we just never got around to getting to know them outside of friendly ‘hello’ and ‘isn’t it a beautiful day’ conversations.

After their first winter in the neighborhood, when layers of clothing were packed away in the attic, it became apparent that she was pregnant. We chatted about babies, deliveries, registries. In late May 2007, they had a baby girl.

This summer, a For Sale sign appeared in front of their townhome. Next time I saw him outside, I asked where they were moving to. He got a job offer in Ohio, a job that would allow his wife to be a stay-at-home mom. And being there would bring them closer to family. He was heading out there in two weeks, and his wife and the baby would stay here until the house sold. I saw her and the baby a lot after that—they’d go for a walk any time someone was looking at the house, and I wondered how tough it must be to have a house on the market when you have a young child.

On Halloween, I noticed that she wasn’t home. And I did not see her car for days after that. I figured they decided that the sale was taking longer than they’d expected, so she and the baby moved to be with him. I was sad that I didn’t get to say good bye.

But yesterday, I saw her outside. She and her dad (whose truck with NY plates I recognized right away—they came down to visit frequently) were taking a lot of stuff out of the house to the trash. They house must have sold, I thought. I saw her from the window of my living room several times and could not help but notice how sad she was. Even though it is an exciting change for them, it must be tough to say good-bye to the house that they brought their first baby to, I thought, justifying her sadness.

Eventually, I walked outside to say hello. ‘You look so sad,’ I said. And then I looked in her eyes, and before she said anything, I knew it was more than the sentimentality of leaving her home.

‘He died two weeks ago. He was walking home, collapsed and died. We are waiting for autopsy results. They think it was a brain aneurism. I was driving to see him. I was an hour away, and I got a call to go to the ER. I was too late.’

The grief is everywhere, and it is overwhelming. I will, eventually, come to terms with the death of my dad and my grandma. I feel devastated for my boys’ nanny, who lost her dad and her mom within four days of each other last month. But all of them lived long lives. But this? This I can not understand. I wish I was a more spiritual or religious person who could understand the higher purpose behind this, who could see this as part of a bigger plan. But I simply can not wrap my mind around it. I don’t understand why he had to die. I don’t understand why her life has now taken a turn she could have never imagined. I don’t understand why their sweet little girl has to grow up without having any memories of her dad. I am beyond furious... at God, the universe, whomever is in charge.

I hugged her, I cried with her, I held her hand, I offered my help with anything she could possibly need. And as I walked away, I kept saying to myself, ‘I can not imagine...’ and I waited for my husband to get home. And she went back to her house to empty out the memories.


Rachel said...

That is sad. A couple weeks ago I found out that a friend from high school had been a widow for a month. We aren't old enough to be widows!

Lindsey said...

Life is so short. Sometimes much, much too short for some of us. We just have to find our peace and joyous moments where we can and relish in them when we can.

I'm sorry for your friend and her little girl. It doesn't seem right, especially when there is no one that can answer "why?"

It's good she has your empathy, though. Maybe the two of you can find mutual understanding amidst your sorrow.

Anonymous said...

Oh how tragic! How sad for her and her little girl, and how terrible that it stirs up all the sorrow of your own recent losses.

Brandy said...

I am so sorry for your neighbor, I will be thinking about her and her family.

Three years ago the girl my husband went to his senior prom with (he graduated in 1995) lost her husband to an undiagnosed heart condition. It was just as sudden and there were also no goodbyes. They had two small children, one of which will definitely have no memories of her daddy. It is almost unimaginable for someone so young to be gone so quickly.

Sarah said...

oh god it is just to terrible to think about. and still i do think about these macabre possibilities, is it a natural thing that all mothers do? in the back of my mind i often have thoughts about things i'm doing--like writing in her baby book--so that she will have something from me if something happens and she has to grow up without a mom.

it must be very hard to go about the daily life of motherhood with all the grief and loss surrounding you lately. i imagine it makes it all the harder to be away from them at work. i guess the best we can hope for is to go to bed at night knowing we did the best we could for them each day.