Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Late Neighbors

When we moved here 15 years ago, we admired their style. Though in their early 70s, the couple was preternatrually attractive. He was tall and thin, with cobalt blue eyes. She was tiny, bleached grey-blonde and perfectly turned out -- her mouth an artistic triumph of thoughtfully chosen lipstick over thin flesh. In fact, I was told she modeled still as "Grandmother of the Bride" or "Older Woman" in New York shows. Every time I saw her, she was wearing a St. John Knit suit (a cool $1000, if purchased on sale).

They have an interesting house -- modern. Like a house designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright it sits low on the lot, but it's one and a half stories and two distinct wings. In the backyard, maybe 100 yards from the house, is a freestanding square deck, lit from below with spotlights. There's terrific sculpture visible from that vantage point too -- a red metal structure that looks like an extended concertina, a smear of metallic yellos in another corner. (I saw it all while chasing our then-young and curious dog through all the yards in the neighborhood). Some days, I'd see him down at their springhouse, doing garden work. All in all, I remember thinking to myself: "This is so unlike most old people!"

When the lights are on you could see the bright colors of the interior, orange and metal and picture perfect 1950s style. Apparently, they've lived long enough for their views to come back in style.

We met them at neighborhood barbecues, or we'd see him walking their old cocker spaniel past our house for our dog to meet. He greeted our Samoyed as "Whitey!" and pet her happily. They drove a convertible in most weather, and my heart jumped whenever I saw them head out; she with a headscarf and glasses like a surviving Grace Kelly and he with a devilish gleam and their golf clubs in the backseat. I saw them and prayed, prayed, that my "sunset years" would look like theirs -- blessed with health and looks and fun.

Lately I've seen how much changes in time. About 10 years ago, the fire department had to be called when they put a not entirely extinguished cigarette in the kitchen garbage. Over the last year or two, I've seen him outside multiple times, dressed inappropriately for the weather, looking confused. I saw her once, looking for their dog, and the beautiful mouth was a slash of misapplied vermillion wax. She was hunched over and hysterical. I called their next door neighbors, who are durable, decent, interesting people a decade or so younger. They told me they were also worried, but that the couple's children were involved, and would step in. But I never saw them.

This Spring, on one of my early-morning perambulations, I found pages of their brokerage statements in front of their house and blown about for blocks. I tracked it all down, every page of it containing social security numbers and account information, gathered it up, put a rubber band on it and returned it with their morning Newspaper. I wonder if they noticed.

My husband saw him wandering aimlessly a few months ago about 10 blocks from home. He offered a ride home. The man accepted, and kept introducing himself to my husband, who said just once, "We've been neighbors for 15 years." He didn't remember. He still walks a dog (they seem to adopt elderly cockers) past our house, but has become afraid of Whitey, who is too beset by arthritis to get within 30 feet. He's cursed at us for not locking her up, and appears genuinely afraid. We didn't know what to do anymore -- I don't know the names of their children, I don't want to burden the neighbors, I don't want to insult them. But it's increasingly obvious they can't care for themselves.

Yesterday when I came home from work I saw some more papers strewn in a perfect arc from their neighbor's house to theirs. I stopped the car and gathered a manila folder and some stapled sheets. Clipped to the folder was a card of the Admissions Director of our newest area "Care Center." Its a gorgeous place, with first rate facilities and stunning views of the local Black Angus and sheep farm. On the one hand, I'm thrilled -- they need help and this is precisely the sort of place they belong, where other interesting people who are having difficulty congregate. But I know in my heart that as they approached the house, he (or she) threw the folder out the window, seeing its contents as the beginning of the end, the prison from which they will never escape. For these intelligent, free-spirited people, this very last part of their lives must be the worst. Their considerable beauty is gone, their bodies shrunken, their sanity and freedom on the run. They don't want to give up the afternoons in the convertible. I can't blame them.

Friday, September 07, 2007

I Hate My Job.

This is not unusual. I've hated a lot of jobs. What sucks is that I am a "Big Mahoff" and make a lot of money here. But the business' owner is a jerk. I call him Mr. "Dog with a Flashlight" because he chases each "bright shining object" without anything approaching an overall perspective or understanding. He's also passive aggressive and not bright. I used the word "waif" today in conversation and he asked me what it meant. He also tried to blame me last week for something someone else did. An evil, self-centered and altogether too rich little man.

Today he fired someone I like. Not for bad reasons, though not for particularly good reasons either. The guy is young, his wife is pregnant, and his undeniable screw-ups were not nearly as bad as a lot of other people in the business. This was all about "feeding the wolves" -- the people who kiss his ass who he knows are smarter than he. And who were jealous, and snarky about this fellow. At 6, I was asked to meet up for a drink. I thought we were drinking with the fired guy. Instead, it was an informal "celebration" -- at least I can find no other explanation. I am disgusted.

Send me your pie orders. I need out.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

An Homage to Claude Scales

Those of you who read Claude's engaging blog, Self-Absorbed Boomer (see link over there on the right), know of his dry wit, wry observations and exceptional photographs, particularly those of ships/boats/water things. They always inspire me and make me wish I were on a boat, wind behind, spinnaker up and headed for someplace with alcohol and crabs. The kind you eat.

The one I let run away but not fast enough was a sailor, and through him I got to both subsidize a boat on Cape Cod and learn how to sail (a little). For the latter, I thank him still. The former was just another in a litany of things I accepted because I thought it had to be. It didn't.

Anyway, since then, I've loved the way boats, but particularly sailboats, look. On our recent trip to da Vineyard, I had lots of opportunity, both from the ferry and the beach, to indulge. So these are for you, Claude:

Yep -- gratuituous sunset shot. But from a boat, heading back to Woods Hole. Someone tell me again why I don't live up there?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Vacation Love.

I was away from the office for more than 5 business days. I haven't done that since I gave birth 11 years ago, and to do it now felt illicit and wonderful. The weather repaid my sneaking around on my job by being gorgeous. 80 degree days, 60 degree nights, and a beach within walking distance. God, I hate to come back to sitting in my hovel, reading dry documents, engaging in the odd skirmish and trying to track down people who don't really want to talk to me.

Fortunately, I can be a real jerk sometimes, and the night I left work (having had a knockdown dragout with my boss in a very public way), I wrote a late email to all persons reminding them of their many obligations to the law and pointing out the SEC's enhanced budget for looking into them. Apparently, it created quite a stir and I was treated like a queen or anthrax on my return. Solitude is solace.