The tears & fears of my departing neighbor

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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.