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Weekly Confessional: More Neighborly

I confess that yesterday I found out my neighbor across the street died. On June 6th.

This woman was an elderly woman living alone with a dog who felt its job was to tell everybody to stay the hell away from its property. It took this job very seriously. About three weeks ago, my wife pointed out that our neighbor hadn’t put her trash out for at least a month.

At first, I didn’t think too much of it. She’s left to visit family for long stretches. Maybe she had a surgery or something and was just recovering at the home of one of her children. The more I thought about it, though, the more I feared I was being optimistic.

Once my wife pointed out the trash thing, a few other things clicked. I hadn’t heard that little dog in a long time. Her car was never in the driveway anymore. Her children’s cars – whose out of state plates stick out – were around much more frequently. None of these were good signs.

So yesterday, when all her children’s cars were parked either in the street or in the driveway, I decided to do a Google search on her name (which, shamefully, I had to find through the city’s online GIS) and “obituary”. She popped right up, and my heart sank at seeing her photo in the notice. Our neighbor of eight-and-a-half years had died and it took me two-and-a-half months to realize it.

This filled me with quite a bit of guilt. I’m a city planner who spends a good deal of time trying to foster improved neighborhoods and communities and have often said that a lot of our neighborhood problems could be solved or avoided if we just gave a shit about our neighbors. I won’t say I didn’t give a shit about this woman – I used to speak to her whenever we crossed paths – but when she can be dead for nearly a full season without me noticing, I can certainly confess I didn’t give enough of a shit.

Since our neighbors on the other side are selling their house, we’ll conceivably have new neighbors on either side of us. This would seem to present a good opportunity for a fresh start as a better neighbor. I’m not sure what form this effort will take. A “welcome to the neighborhood” basket? Inviting the new neighbors over for dinner? Making mental note when I haven’t seen them for the past month? Regardless, I’ve decided to make sure I never again have to use the internet to remember my next door neighbor’s name.

How about you, good reader? How well do you know your neighbors? Do you wish you better knew them or that you knew them less? Feel free to confess on these matters or whatever might ease your load.


August 21, 2013 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional


  1. I confess that I have yet to write a thank you note for any of the generosity that attended the birth of Baby Φ nigh these five months. Including the lovely dress brought over by my new next-door neighbors Sal and Ophelia of four and a half months, an occasion that was made somewhat awkward by the baby being asleep in the living room & so us not inviting them in properly.

    OTOH I can confess that I scored another neighbor some firewood today. So I’m not a total loss.

    Hooray Confessional!

    Comment by Josh K-sky | August 21, 2013

  2. After my wife purchased a book of Johnny Cash stamps for me, I’m looking for excuses to write letters to people. Perhaps you could benefit from the same strategy.

    Comment by mattintoledo | August 22, 2013

  3. Nice.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | August 27, 2013

  4. I confess that I had no idea this was still a going concern.

    Comment by ben | August 31, 2013

  5. ben – Do you mean concern as in the business of “The Weblog” or concern as in for our neighbors? Either way, I’m glad you stumbled back across it. I’ll try to keep my part going now that it’s up and running (perhaps limping) again.

    Comment by mattintoledo | September 3, 2013

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