Another Death

March 4, 2009

This morning, I woke up with the same tension headache I went to bed with last night.

Let me explain.  Yesterday, I was having a discussion about furnaces with a co-worker whose husband works for a heating company.  I mentioned that I needed to get my furnace cleaned, and asked if her husband does jobs on the side.  She said he does, but is very busy in the winter, and therefore recommended that I give him a call over the summer.  I made a note to do so.

As luck would have it (my luck, that is), I came home to a freezing cold house.

Fortunately, I was able to get someone from the aforementioned company to come over pretty quickly.  He replaced the thermocouple at the cost of $162 ($125 of which was just for the house call).  This came on the heels of a $940 gas & electric bill.  (We have gas heat.  Still, that’s a lot of money for two months, especially considering that we keep the thermostat set at 68 when we’re home, and 65 during the night and when we’re at work.)

To add to yesterday’s bad news, I also learned that our elderly neighbor died on Sunday.  A few days ago, I asked Daniel if he had seen Helen.  I said I was worried because there had been an unusual amount of activity going on over at her place.  It turns out that I was right to be concerned.

Helen was a tough old broad.  I’ll never forget the first time I met her.  She introduced herself with a handshake that crushed my fingers.  I swear, it hurt so much I couldn’t wait for her to let go.

Helen was on dialysis.  About a year ago, she was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis.  Her cat, Lollipop, was hanging around our back porch late in the evening, so I realized something must have happened to Helen.  We put food and water out for Lollipop until Helen was discharged from the hospital.  Helen’s brother stopped by one afternoon, and I mentioned that we were looking after the cat.  He told Helen, and she called to thank us as soon as she got home.  She said she was especially grateful because Lollipop was the love of her life.  (Helen was a widow.)  I thought that was so cute.

A few months ago, I was out on my back porch around 5:30 pm.  It was pitch dark.  Suddenly, I heard Helen call my name.  She asked if I would help her.  I followed her voice to a spot between our properties, and found her standing there, afraid to move.   She said she had fallen, and, while she was able to get back on her feet, she was too shaky to walk to her house.  I asked what she was doing outside in the dark, and she said it wasn’t dark when she went out.  That meant that she had been standing there for at least an hour.

I put my arm around her and led her to her back door, step by painstaking step.  She kept stumbling, and had to stop and rest every few seconds.  A couple of days later, she sent me a thank you card.

Except for a few waves in passing, that’s the last real interaction I had with Helen.   It’s hard to believe I will never see her again.

Song of the Day:  If I Never See Your Face Again by Maroon 5

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8 Responses to “Another Death”

  1. Sunday said

    Sigh….at least you know that she led a kick-ass life and had a bone-crushing handshake. Also, that she had good neighbors who would lend a hand when needed. How many of us can really say that?

  2. Carol said

    I am glad Helen had a sweet neighbor like you. People need to look out for each other.

    Sorry about the furnace and the heating bill. Do you think the bill will go down now that the furnace is fixed? I am so glad I don’t heat with gas.

  3. LeAnn said

    Yowza! We heat with propane and it costs about $100 a month. $940??!!! I’m never gonna be able to afford living in New York!! Not that I was planning on it, but I would if I could! Sorry about your neighbor. So um, what’s gonna happen to Lollipop??

  4. Bex said

    While I was reading about your Helen, all I was picturing in my head was this little movie I watched yesterday on cable tv, called “Camilla” which starred Jessica Tandy and Brigit Fonda. It was such a good movie, I highly recommend finding it and seeing it if you haven’t yet. Your Helen reminded me of Jessica Tandy who is a woman I’ve always admired. And yes, Hume Cronin had a small part in the movie, too, near the end.

  5. goatbarnwitch said

    Little moments can mean so much… I just feel like so many older folks have chosen to leave recently… I wonder if they don’t know something we don’t… Will lollipop be back at your place now?

  6. LA said

    So sorry about your neighbor. She sounded fun.

    Not fun that utility bill. We got zapped for $1,300 last time around. And that’s with me shutting the furnace off all day while the guys are gone and sitting here wrapped in blankets. We have gas too and I cannot imagine what the price of heating oil would have been! I get faint just thinking about it. Old houses are lovely, but they suck giant wiener about being energy efficient. Is your place older than mine? I can’t remember. Mine’s a spring chicken compared to my former house, but the Hobbit House will be 100 next year. 1910! You know, I haven’t lived in a house built with indoor plumbing since 1983? Weird. ~LA

  7. Michael said

    Helen was lucky to have you as a neighbor. It sounds like she left some good memories behind, too.

  8. terri t. said

    I was wondering about Lollypop too.. I sure hope the new thermostat helps with the heating bill. Or maybe you should try to put more insulation in the house later this year when and if you can afford it….

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