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The tears & fears of my departing neighbor

June 11, 2012

By Caroline Miller
Write Away Blog
Portland author of Heart Land & Gothic Spring

Yesterday my neighbor of almost twenty years moved away. She was a paranoid schizophrenic who often fought taking her medications. Sometimes, during a fearful spell, she’d call to ask me to sit with her. I watched, sometimes for hours, while she wept, or laughed or ranted about being spied upon by the FBI. Once I had to call for an ambulance because I was afraid she would hurt herself.

She and I have grown old together and, like me, she attended Reed College and lives in a Victorian house. Unlike me, she has neglected her property for years. That level of order was beyond my neighbor’s ken. Sometimes I’d look out from my kitchen windows and grumble at the eye sore opposite. Sometimes, I wished she would move away… And now she has and all I feel is the pain left by the hollow.

I watched her nephew pull away from the curb in a U-haul carrying all her tattered belongings. As she and I had already said our goodbyes, I didn’t appear on the porch for a final wave. The truck disappeared and suddenly I realized I had no idea where she was going and that I would probably never see her again.

Tears clouded my eyes. I thought I knew my feelings but until that moment, I hadn’t a clue. I would miss this flawed but gifted poet who feared the FBI. All the years between us, all the worry and laughter was broken with the slamming of a truck door. My neighbor was already a memory.

The closing lines of a poem I’d written decades earlier sprang to mind. It seems appropriate to repeat them here:

But though we pranced like

Red-nosed clowns

To entertain the moon,

We could not stay its journey

Nor with laughter cancel ours.

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Discuss this article

rebekah June 11, 2012

Thank you for sharing this.

Amy C. June 11, 2012

The saddest partis not knowing where she is going. Our nieghbors slip into private lives and when things get tough get even more distant. She is likely going to a place where the neighbors are closer but even more far apart.

Traveler June 11, 2012

Very good poem.

Christine W. May 25, 2014

This is one of my many favorites of the blogs you continue to write daily. After my mother passed away in November, last year, I added your poem to the end of what I shared about my mother, her life, and a bit about what she meant to those who loved her dearly, before I posted the note on our poetry post in front of our home. I, too, thought I had said my good-byes and was prepared for her to “pull away.” I’m realizing the flood of emotion felt the moment she left, diminished at some point to a river of daily thoughts and now, months later, I’m sitting beside a beautiful stream of memories, comforted beyond words as I hear her voice, she her draped casually over the arms of her favorite chair, and look deep into her dark, brown eyes. Memories are what I have left and thankfully, she made sure there would be enough to last lifetimes. Thank you for so often expressing so beautifully exactly how I feel.

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