Jottings: A good neighbor
Recently, in wishing to describe an event in the life of Max-the-dog, I went searching for descriptions of good neighbors. I found many discussing fences and boundaries but none seemed to express the sentiment I sought. A few favorites did emerge, such as Mark Twain's, "Good exercise for the heart! Reach out and help your neighbor." I also liked Harper Lee's, "Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives." Fred Roger's song "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor" spurred happy memories. Yet, it was the familiar insurance ad that best expressed my feelings, "Like a good neighbor, _____is there."
I live on a small cul de sac with only two other homes. One rests on a steep cliff above me, recently purchased by a delightful young couple. On my right sits what has been termed, until recently, "the derelict house," so named because it remained empty for over eight years after selling at auction. Even prior to the sale, its yard was covered in blackberry vines, the siding and chimney in ivy, and the roof in moss and leaves.
Approximately two years after the sale, a work crew arrived for a month, living in the home. The house was quickly gutted to the studs with windows and doors left open to curious children and animals. It was a dangerous situation with exposed, dangling wires, etc., and was reported to the city. Shortly after, the doors and windows were locked, the latter covered with thick plastic. The police as well as city inspector visited but could not enter because the home was unoccupied.
Periodically, the work crew would return, arriving and leaving in the night or early morning hours, always in a large dark pickup with various state license plates and always with the foreman and two or three Hispanic men who varied with each visit and would appear to furtively enter, exit the home.
My imagination went on alert, questioning drug-human trafficking or other nefarious activities. The constant person with each visit was the foreman who early on introduced himself very politely as Humberto. His manners and friendly smile were somewhat anxiety-abating, though not totally.
As the years ensued, the visits continued with no apparent rhythm. Humberto shared on one trip that the crew was working on multiple projects in the area. Yet, nothing seemed to be happening next door.
About two years ago, nail pounding was heard one morning. I grew hopeful only to wake up a few days later to find the crew gone. Months later the truck again appeared and hammering intensified. Humberto shared that they were now sheet-rocking. The roof and driveway were cleaned. Hope again loomed until one cold December afternoon when Humberto said they would be leaving for the holidays and wished me a Merry Christmas.
Silence reigned through winter and then spring months. One late April morning I opened the door for Max's walk and there was the pickup. Pounding commenced in a flurry. Ivy was sheared, the house and deck railings painted, new floors laid and cement poured.
Max had daily doggy entertainment as well as petting by the crew. Humberto began to share progress updates. He showed pictures of his own three dogs in California while scratching Max's ears.
One night in early July, Max's leash became entangled in a bush, pulling his collar off. Free, he escaped into the darkness. I was calling for him when Humberto's pickup appeared. He asked which direction Max had gone, saying he would look for him. During the next hour we passed each other several times on the neighborhood roads, calling for Max, but to no avail. Dejected, I returned home and was giving one final yell when I felt something brushing my leg. It was Max who'd been waiting in the garage for me to return.
Twenty-five pounds of dog were in my arms when Humberto's pickup came up the hill. Jumping out, he proceeded to give Max an immense hug and a little Spanish scolding.
Thanking Humberto that night, I told him that although I have known many lovely neighbors, none have ever gone to such lengths to help me. He is THE BEST!
Humberto and his crew left a few days later with an enormous batch of homemade cookies for their journey homeward. The house has now sold and soon we will have new neighbors. Yet, it will be hard to replace Humberto. As the ad says, "Like a good neighbor…" Humberto was there.
Josie Seymour is a member of the Jottings Group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.
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