A tale of a neighborhood and how neighbors help each other, written in 2015 by our predecessors but never posted. (Thank you to whoever.) Seems seasonally appropriate now that we’ve given Thanks and the holidays are approaching. Maybe we don’t all call our neighbor’s cardiologist, but having a Village here would mean Sam could depend on a ride to the cardiologist’s office from a Village volunteer driver. Let’s make it happen! – Ed.
A street, here in the Charlottesville area, is quite short. Five houses, all built in the 1960s, in which three of the five houses have welcomed their second generation of owners during the last decade. The other two houses continue to be occupied by their original owners. In one of those two houses lives a widow whose children live nearby. She’s in her middle 70s, and her children are most attentive.
In the other of those two houses lives a retired man, in his late 70’s. He has no children, no family, and his wife requires assisted living care because of her dementia. Sam, as we will call him, cared for his wife in their home as long as he could, and recognized the point at which her needs exceeded his ability to provide for her. He continues to visit her multiple times each week, and feels that the money he pays for her care is well worth it.
Sam has a long history in this neighborhood. He remembers when the five families on the street would get together, and help each other out as needed. Sam still mows his neighbor’s lawn with his riding mower. He’s seemed a little reluctant to welcome the new neighbors, and even more reluctant to acknowledge that he has any limitations.
But last fall, his neighbors noticed that Sam was having difficulties. He’d push his trash toter out to the curb, and lean over it for several minutes to catch his breath. He’d return from visiting his wife, and it would take him five or more minutes to climb the four stairs to his front door, because he’d have to rest after each step.
One of his newer neighbors began to express concern to him. She’d see see him parking his car as he returned from visiting his wife, and say to him, “I’m worried about you! You look like you are having trouble walking up your stairs”, or “You shouldn’t have to lean over your trash toter to catch your breath. Something must be wrong.”
And Sam would say “I”m okay. I know my heart is a hunk of trash that is held together with wires.” So his neighbor, Abby, started to engage him in conversation. She asked him more about his heart, and Sam told her about his coronary bypass surgery. He told her who his cardiologist was, and about his next scheduled appointment, three months away.
Meanwhile, another neighbor who was one of those original owners who moved in during the 1960’s, Donna, was talking to the widow, Debbie, and told her how concerned she was about Sam. Together, Donna and Debbie told Abby that they didn’t think Sam was safe at home. So Abby, having learned the name of Sam’s cardiologist, called the cardiologist’s office. She left a message, saying “I’m a neighbor of Sam’s. He’s told me that you are his cardiologist, and there are several of us neighbors who have seen and remarked upon Sam’s difficulty getting his trash toter out to the curb, and his difficulties getting into and out of his house. We think he needs to be seen immediately, not in three months. Could you please call him in for an appointment? This week?”
Two days later, Abby looked out of her window, and saw that Donna across the street, was helping Sam into her car. When Donna returned, she told Abby that Sam had showed up at her house, asking for a ride to his cardiologist’s appointment. He told Donna that he knew he couldn’t drive to the appointment, so he’d called for a taxi and the taxi hadn’t shown up. She agreed to drive him, and when she returned, she told Abby, “They’re going to admit him to the hospital,” she said, “But I’m going away for a few days. Can you pick him up if he’s discharged while I’m gone?” Abby said she would.
That evening, Abby called Sam at the hospital. When she identified herself to Sam, he said, “You know, you saved my life. My doctor told me that someone had called and asked him to call me in for an appointment because that person was worried about me, and it turns out, that I was having shortness of breath because of a lot of fluid built up. But I don’t even know you. I mean, I’ve met you. But why should you care about me?”
Abby replied, “You are my neighbor, and neighbors help each other.”