Everyone’s Neighbor

 A well-worn path leads straight to the back door of my ninty-eight year old neighbor, Rose. When my family and I were planning a move to the area, she was the first person I met. Earlier that day she had returned from her final visit to the doctor who performed her hip replacement surgery.

“Yes, I am all well,” she said triumphantly. “The doctor said I can drive again.”

 She was ninty-five.

Rose greets her guests with a smile and an open door. Those who know her don’t mistake her welcoming nature for that of a push-over, however. She is every bit as capable as those decades her junior. She speaks up for herself, stating, “I don’t let them get ahead of me.”

One of nine children, Rose fell in the middle of the birth order. She attributes her ability to stand up for herself on the fact that she was often picked on. In response, she became an advocate for others, as well as for herself.

 “My mother used to tell me that if we had money, she would have made me a lawyer,” she says with a smile.

Some are prone to assume certain things of a woman in her late nineties. A nurse once looked at Rose’s chart, and upon recognizing her age, began speaking to her in a thunderous voice. Rose politely told her, “I’m not hard of hearing, dear.”

The limitations put on her by others is a frustration to Rose. “You know, my age is just a number, but when people hear it, they say, ‘Really? What do you eat?’ I want to tell them, ‘I eat shit!’”

 Rose has lived in her house for seventy-seven years—the last eighteen as a widow. She was twenty-one years old when she first stepped foot into her new home in 1941. “I moved in here with my husband,” she told me, and with a sideways glance, added, “And my mother-in-law. She came with the package.”

 In the 1940s, Rose was a hairdresser. She wore a crisp, neatly-pressed white uniform and spotless white shoes. She told me that hairdressers and nurses were hard to tell apart in those days. Even after retirement, clients came to her house to have their hair done. 

Rose is a town historian—a veritable welcome wagon of the neighborhood. People of all ages enter through her back door. Some are newlyweds; others, longtime friends. Some bring their dogs; others, their grandchildren. She keeps a box of crackers for the kids and dog biscuits for the pups. She drinks milk and cooks her own meals. She cleans her house and reads mystery novels. She watches “tapes” with flight attendants and speaks glowingly of her devoted daughter. A phone call is not required; a knock on the door will do fine. I often say, “Hi, Rose, is this a good time for a visit?” Her response is, “It’s always a good time.”

 She has a give-and-take relationship with friends and neighbors. Some cut her bushes, while she prepares their dinner. Another checks her generator while she offers cookies to his granddaughter.

 As a result of a recent heart valve replacement, the doctor said she may no longer drive. She will miss the freedom of leaving home whenever she wishes. She will miss her Tuesday visits to the ACME, and taking friends out for lunch. But, in typical Rose-fashion, she looks at what is good. She is grateful for her health, and her good mind. She is comfortable in her surroundings and with her position in life. She is thankful for what she has and doesn’t dwell on what she’s lost. She stops what she’s doing to have a conversation, and values friendship with her neighbors.

 It is this positive attitude that most impresses me about Rose. She is someone people want to be with. I ask her why.

“I tolerate everything and everybody,” she said. “I don’t fight with anybody. If I’m upset and all tightened up, I control it. I don’t let it bother me. I say, ‘Dear Lord, help me.’”

Though her roots in this town run deep, she willingly welcomes new ones into the fold. As one of those newly welcomed, I am grateful. After a visit, she rises from her recliner to walk me to the door. I tell her she doesn’t have to get up. She tells me she’s got to keep moving.

When I leave, she says, “Visit me again.” I certainly intend to.

-Denise Marotta Lopes

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In a day when much of the news is negative, Denise looks for those things that bring life, and writes about them. She accentuates what is good in order to inspire and encourage others. As a photo blogger and freelance writer, she interviews artists, business persons, and local residents. She meets them in their everyday lives and captures—in both word and photo—what she sees, and shares it with the world. It is her desire for those she writes about to view themselves as special and unique, and for readers to experience within the story, inspiration and possibility for themselves.