You know that really old, crabby guy that lives down the street from you? Well, he is the lovechild of Mr. Rogers and a Care Bear compared to my old, crabby guy that lives on my street. I don't care how grouchariffic you think your old man is, mine is grouchier. Mr. Al is not your run of the mill, neighborhood meddler... those guys are nosey, sure, but Mr. Al actually trespasses, peeps, spies, swears in front of the children and just plain makes stuff up.
My two best pieces of evidence that Mr. Al is the worst neighbor in history are these:
- When new neighbors moved in across the street, Mr. Al told them that I had just gotten out of the hospital because I have an eating disorder. This is categorically untrue. I had just gotten out of the hospital because I had surgery. (I had a "floating kidney" which basically means that one of my kidneys totally hit the fan, lost composure and started bobbing around my torso like an apple. This left my kidney dangling below the protection of it's ribcage home, which is dangerous. Plus it was really weird to have my kidney on the loose like that. And painful. So they stapled it to my back muscles. True story.) So, yes, I had been in the hospital, but it was in no way related to an eating disorder. Mr. Al thinks I am too skinny. I think that he and I could probably share pants, so he can stuff it. But, whatever.
- When I was suffering from the world's worst pregnancy (think dehydration, home IV's, home nurses blowing all my veins trying to get some electrolytes in me...) Mr. Al would stop anybody who came over to help out with the kids or bring a meal, and he would fish for information and then tell my helpful guest that I should just have an abortion.
Can I stop there? Is this enough proof that he is a bit of a challenge to live by?? Now, as a family, we choose to love Mr. Al. We have offered to bring him to church with us, we allow him to put his garbage in our bin so that he doesn't have to pay the monthly fee to dispose of the 3 ounces of garbage he produces every week. We honor his bucket (which he keeps in the middle at the end of his driveway year round to discourage people from using his driveway to turn around.) We have the utmost respect for his bucket. We talk to Mr. Al, we help him with his computer problems, we unload his discount lawn mower under the most dangerous possible conditions, while he is forcefully directing, we help with his online banking password problems, we let Mr. Al tell us exactly how to vote, we patiently explain the Google, and why we are okay with "the blacks" moving in.
Occasionally I have threatened his life behind his back, but for the majority of the time... we are cordial and polite and pleasant. Now, I already confessed that I am not really all that pleasant. So, if I seem pleasant, it might be because I am trying not to maim someone. In my pleasantness and civility toward Mr. Al, I have not really been loving to him at all. Sure, we have done nice things... but I can admit that my heart has not always been loving and kind toward him. So... I decided to bring Mr. Al dinner. Day 8.
I kinda dread going over there because he is just so pushy. One time I ended up in his basement, where everything was covered in plastic, and I spent two hours separating all of his Christmas ornaments and wife's old jewelry. I wanted to impale myself right there on the Christmas tree. 'Tis the season.
In hindsight, I may have overcompensated with my kindness today because I did a few things. Perhaps I knew my heart wasn't really bursting with kindness toward Mr. Al. So, I sent apples and pears with Tom to give to the newest pastor at our church. He is doing an awesome job, and his family was totally uprooted and they all just jumped right in, serving and connecting right out of the blocks. So, they get produce.
Then, I made almond butter to share with some people.
Then, I served the kids their dinner to start letting it cool.
Then, we got their drinks.
Then I realized that I simply had to stop stalling and bring Al his dinner. So, I did. And he must have seen me coming because when I got to his door he flung it wide and fast and ushered me in so intensely. He seemed like he had been waiting all day for me to get there with this dinner that I had promised him... even though I definitely gave no warning and in fact considered just leaving it on the doorstep like a humongous jerk.
When I gave it to him, he grabbed it with a huge smile and put it directly to his face, smelled it, and then kissed me right on the mouth. YEP. He was so excited and thankful, and he wanted to make out about it. Okay, not really that kind of kiss... but he really did give me a big, elderly smooch. I tried the quick mouth twitch to one side, so he got a little lip corner and a little cheek. But, he seemed glad about the whole interaction.
It was the happiest I think I have ever seen him. The kiss was a little upsetting. But, I learned a few valuable lessons. I learned that you can act pleasant and civil, but only intentional acts of kindness are really gonna get an old man riled enough to plant one on ya. You can twitch your mouth faster than the speed of light, and Mr. Al will still get a little lip. And last, but certainly not least... everyone grouch on the block needs a little kindness. And maybe a little action from time to time.