Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thinking out loud: Some things hit too close to home


I’ve been in a pretty mellow mood tonight; people are literally disappearing to the left and right of me.  It’s bothering me, and parts of me are both sure and unsure why.

Saturday morning I was at the local gossip shop (for a haircut) and my neighbor-of-sorts Jim (who lives 3 floors below me and is the eyes & ears of our apartment building) was there, and asked me if I knew where Vanessa had moved to.  (Vanessa is my next door neighbor, a nice but very shy woman who’s lived across from me since 2000.)  I laughed & said “Jim where do you get your info?  She didn’t move anywhere, I think I’d know if she did.”  Jim said “ok, ok”.  I decided right then & there, as soon as I got my haircut I was going to come straight home, knock on Vanessa’s door, say hi and properly introduce myself.  My god, why did I wait this long?  We’ve lived a couple feet apart for 12 years, often I’d hear her tv when I was coming or going and I’d think “I should really make an effort to be friendlier to her.” 

So, after my haircut I stopped at the drugstore to pick up some items & came straight home.  I walked up to her door, knocked, no response.  Put my ear to the door, no sounds from within.  I don’t know what I was thinking, but I carefully tried the doorknob.  The door swung right open, revealing a completely bare apartment.  Her keys and a receipt for carpet cleaning lay on the kitchen counter.  Vanessa, you were a good neighbor & I’m going to miss you.

That was Saturday; the following day, I’m outside reading on my patio when I hear someone buzz my apartment.  It’s the local police, they’re trying to locate Dr. Steveson, my neighbor on the other side.  (I’ve written about him before, a psychologist in his late 50s, friendly but quiet, kept to himself.)  Apparently he called the hospital Friday night complaining of chest pains, was admitted that night but released himself Saturday.  The hospital had been doing a follow-up but was unable to reach him.   The police entered his apartment and found his body, he died in there sometime Saturday.


The medical examiner’s SEALED notice is across Dr. Steveson’s front door

So earlier tonight, I am sitting here playing on the computer & watching the news, someone knocks on my door.  It’s the deceased doctor’s brother-in-law.

He said “Hi, I’m sorry to bother you but did you know your neighbor here?”  I said yes, he lived beside me for several years.  He said “I’m his brother-in-law.  I was married to his sister, but she died some years ago.  Me and my daughter, we’re his only kin.”  I said hello and I was sorry for his loss.  He said “Thanks, but we haven’t talked to the man in 7 years.”   

He went on to say “He never married, no kids. He lived with his mom until she died, then he moved in here.  The guy was a pretty odd duck for being a head doctor… were you friends with him?”  I said no.  He said “I’m not surprised, he was hard to know.  Did you see his place?  It’s a pigsty—when I knew him he took 3-4 baths a day.  Smoked like a chimney too, had triple bypass surgery 5-6 years ago but couldn’t give up the weed.”   (I knew the doc was a heavy smoker, when he passed me in the hallway he reeked badly of it; and when they found his body, the walls were streaked with tar & nicotine.)

He said “Well, they contacted me, don’t know how they got my name but I told ‘em, haven’t seen or talked to him in years. After his sister passed, my daughter tried to talk to him but gave up.  So am I responsible for clearing out his apartment?  What about his car, do I have to take care of that too?”  I told him I didn’t know, but I’m sure he couldn’t be held liable for anything.  Well, unless he wants the man’s estate, whatever that may be.  He said “Who wants any of that stuff?”  He thanked me and left. 

So I’ve been sitting here tonight, thinking about this poor man who had no one in his life, and no one to mourn his loss.  His car is still sitting outside, parked next to mine.   And I can’t help but make comparisons between us.  Never married—no kids, lived alone.   I always saw my living here as one chapter in my life, certainly not the final one.  I’m sure the Doc didn’t either. 

To my former neighbors on the left & right of me, I hope they both find themselves in happier places.


  1. As always, I like your writing but this was very, very sad. I'm sorry for your neighbor, but you will never die alone, no matter where you live or who is with you. Sophia and I love you too much.

  2. Thank you Shawn, I wondered if I should share this on here--I just feel funny, seeing both my neighbors whom I've known for years, gone in one weekend. Anyway, I love you guys very much too, your words were appreciated :)

  3. Doug, this is a beautifully written tribute to your neighbours and an affirmation as to the kind of person you are: a thoughtful and kind soul. The feeling of sadness is so palpable in your writing. I feel for the man who passed all alone. At least he had a neighbour who cared. And now you've shared his story with your readers around the world...and we care too. Wow, life eh?

    PS: what your sister wrote above is just so beautiful.

  4. That's a sad story. I don't know what else to say except I agree that I hope they both are finding happiness in other places.

  5. Aw Chelly, thanks very much for your beautiful words here--I just told my coworker that you were making me tear up a little.

    And Pam, thank you for your kind comments too. I worried this was a little too strange or sad to post on here, I just wanted to share the story. Thanks again for your feedback here, ladies. :)

  6. Wow...kind of scary. It is sad how we can pass by people so close to us everyday and not even know them as aquaintances.
    It reminds me to pay attention to what is in front of me.
    It sounds like comparisons aren't in order though since you have such a loving sister and beautiful neice that love you.
    Thank you for posting this Doug.

  7. Thanks for the kind words, Holly Marie--and it is sad how you can live right beside someone for years, but not know them. It's sort of an unspoken rule with "apartment living", but I'm going to try and think a little more out of the box from now on. This sounds corny, but I know for me, just a kind hello goes a long way. Thank you for sharing HM :)

  8. Doug, that was indeed a sad, touching post, and I'm glad it's had a resonance within your own life - further to this, maybe a note, somewhere prominent that says 'I leave all my Superpets funnybooks to Andrew'...?

  9. Andrew, haha--thanks for the kind words (and the chuckle); you & Frank aren't ever going to let me live my appreciation of those DC comics down, are you!? :) Well, I could think of far worse things to be uncovered in the teepee after my departure, my friend! Hope you are well :)


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