Monday, May 06, 2013

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 67


The Time Mookie Yelled At An Old Woman

Yep, you read that right - Mookie yelled at an old woman.  Why did I yell at an old woman?  Well sit down and I will tell you why I did it...and best of all....why I would totally do it again.  Sadly...it wasn't because I enjoyed it....it was because dammit....I care.

(Side note: This episode almost serves as a "part two" to last week's episode.  Last week my story was about getting yelled at by the elderly.  This week my story is about yelling at the elderly.  Circle of life you know.)

When my wife and I bought our house, we were advised by the previous owner that the old lady living next door - “Gertie(*)” -  was a bit on the crazy and cranky side.  Its common-knowledge that old people are cranky and eccentric anyway, so we figured we’d try to make the best of the situation when we came to it.  Even still, I couldn’t help but wondering if we were going to end up having a “Winchester(*)” -type-situation on our hands. 

For the first few years we lived in our new home, we rarely saw the old lady.  If we did see her outside, she made no effort to greet us, acknowledge us, or even recognize our presence.  There were times we would see her sitting outside on her porch and we’d wave at her to be friendly, but she never returned our wave.  She would just sit and stare us down with a cold and intense glare.  One could argue that maybe she thought we were mocking her or something (sometimes we were, but that’s not the point - our original intent was nice).  So we sort of accepted the fact our old-lady-neighbor was an anti-social crazy lady.  To make matters worse, over the years we had also heard stories about Gertie and her "past" from other people in the community.  This did nothing to nullify our suspicions about the apparent level of "crazy" that was residing next door either.

A few winters came and went, and each time it snowed I would try be a "good neighbor" and continue shoveling the sidewalk from my house all the way down past her house to her driveway.  HOWEVER - If for some reason she shoveled her sidewalk before I was able to get outside, she would shovel EXACTLY to the crack in the sidewalk that was understood to be the property line.  Not past it - RIGHT TO IT.  Not even so much as a scrape on our side of the property line. It was hilarious and bizarre all at the same time.

Oddly enough, the surgical precision she exercised in her lot-line snow removal was NOT utilized during the summer with her mowing technique.  There were times when we swore she had to have been drunk when she mowed because her path up the property line between our yards was all over the place.  Sometimes she would end up mowing against our garage - which is easily 5 feet from the edge of her yard.  Normally I wouldn't care if she strayed into our yard, but because she mowed the grass so short - it would almost always get torched and die in the hot summer sun.  


"Ninja Gertie" sneaking down the side of her house.
Even still, it was hysterical seeing the wobbly line she made between the yards.  Another humorous tidbit about her mowing was her wardrobe. No matter how hot it was - she either wore long pants or weird shorts that went past her knees, a white long-sleeved button up shirt, and a sweat-band on her head.  She already had greasy-straight white hair, so it was extra-funny seeing it pasted down even further under the sweat band.  Between the sweatband and her hunched over mowing style, it led us to make jokes about how she was probably secretly a super hero or a nighttime ninja or something.  We pictured her hunched over, sneaking through the neighborhood, fighting crime under the cover of darkness, and giving out hard candy to the neighborhood children who needed one.

Then finally!  On New Year’s Day after probably 5 years of living there, Gertie finally said something to me.  I was out shoveling off some freshly-fallen snow, when off in the distance I heard in a weird-old-lady voice: “Mr. Mookie!”  I stopped shoveling for a moment and wondered where that came from.  Again I hear “Mr. Mookie!”  I look over towards Gertie’s house and see her on her front steps waving at me.  I turned to see if my Dad was standing behind me or something, because no one had seriously ever addressed me as "Mister" before. I started walking towards Gertie wondering what she wanted, and truth-be-told.... my previous experiences with old people led me to believe I was probably going to get my ass chewed over something.

“Mr. Mookie!  My name is Gertie, and I wanted to thank you for shoveling my walk all these times.”  Slightly taken aback at her sudden conversation and gratitude, I told her she was welcome and that I didn’t mind doing it.  She continued on, and talked my ear off for a good thirty minutes telling me vague details of her life, how long she lived there, and how she was proud that she was 81 years old and still able to mow/shovel.  She felt the need to tell me she was quite healthy, and didn’t take any meds of any kind.  OOO-K then.  Plus when she talked, it was almost at a yelling volume.  It was obvious she was a bit deaf, so I almost had to yell when talking back.  We eventually concluded our conversation, and my wife was shocked when I went inside and told her about the new friend I had made.

Over the next several years, conversation was shared intermittently between her and one of us.  Each time she would mostly re-tell the information she had previously mentioned (80+ years old, being able to take care of herself, and how she had been by herself for many years).  I often let her carry on - so as not to seem rude - but also because on occasion she would let out nuggets of information that she hadn’t previously told us about.  Often times these nuggets would (unbeknownst to her) confirm or deny the rumors we had heard about her.  Sadly, ALL the stories I heard turned out to be true. While this information basically confirmed for us that she was indeed totally crazy, it was hard not to feel bad for this lady based on what had happened to her in life.  Here’s a few of the biggies:

*  Her first husband went missing in action during World War II, was never found and eventually declared dead. 
*  To make that situation even sadder, she was pregnant at the time with their 1st child (a daughter). 
*  She later married Husband #2, and had some kids with him. He turned out to be a raging alcoholic and rumored womanizer.

then
*  Husband #2 ended up hanging himself in their basement. 

Naturally when things like this happen in a small community – people like to gossip.  She never elaborated on what people said about her, but she said she “knew” people “talked” about her.  Then she would stand there and bad-mouth everyone in town for anything and everything. Sometimes I felt badly for her, but sometimes I wanted to say “Wow Gertie.  Bitter much?”  I figured she thought people said she was a bad wife or that she was the real reason her husband killed himself.  Whether this was true or not I do not know.  What I DO know is that all of this drama had shaped her into a sad and bitter old woman.

As the years continued by, the conversations with Gertie were less-frequent, but increasingly more strange. Eventually the conversations would become strange and then confrontational.  Example: One day she struck up a conversation with my wife, only to dismissively tell her that we needed to “do something” about the weeds in our yard.  Gertie felt that any weeds in her yard were there because they had moved from our yard.  My wife politely told her that we already put stuff down a few times a year, and that we wouldn't pay a professional lawn care guy to treat our yard just to keep weeds out of her yard.  You can imagine that did not sit well.

To combat the apparent weed infiltration from our yard, Gertie started doing “spot treatment” on the weeds in her yard.  She would take Round Up and spray spots in the yard where there were weeds and dandelions growing.  BUT as you know - Round Up kills everything – weeds AND grass.  The end result (naturally) was yellow/brown dead spots all over her yard.  In her quest to kill the weeds, her activities carried her over into our yard where she sprayed weeds there as well.  So like her yard, our yard had a few random dead spots too. Whether it was intentional, or if she was just hyper-focused on weeds in general - I do not know.  I just know we didn't care much for the dead spots.

Then one winter we hit a stretch for about a week were it was butt-ass cold.  I’m talking minus-10 to minus-20 overnight.  The way Gertie’s house was situated next to ours, we had a clear view of her back door whenever we went out to our garage.  One morning during this cold stretch, I noticed Gertie’s back door was ajar 3 or 4 inches.  I knew this door led into her back porch area where you could go down into her basement, or up some steps to another door that went into her house.. I didn’t know if she was in the garage or something (ninja reconnaissance), so I didn’t think much of it and headed to work.  The next day, I noticed the door was still open.  Adding to the mix, I noticed the windows on the house were more frosty-looking than usual.  While I definitely wondered what was going on, I didn’t want to be meddlesome so I left things alone and went to work.  The next day I again came out to go to work and the door was still open.  It was wicked cold that previous night, and all the windows on her house were frosted over big time.  I stood there for a minute and knew I should do something, but I didn’t know what.  I wasn’t going to go in the back door because that wouldn’t look good.  Plus it was early in the morning, so I didn’t want to go and knock on the door.  I decided that when I got to work I would make some calls and make sure things were OK.

When I got to work, the first thing I did was look up her number and call her house. Ring. Ring. Ring.  I let it ring like 10 times and there was no answer. Shhiiiiiitttt.  My thought was "That's great...she's dead in there."

So I thought I should let the authorities know what I saw, and ask if they could do a “wellness check” on her.  I called the police and they were more than happy to check it out after I told them what I had been seeing.  I hung up and called my wife - who happened to be home that day - and told her to peek out the windows and watch for when the cops come to Gertie's.  Sure enough, while we were on the phone together a squad car pulled up and an officer went to Gertie's door to check things out.  From my wife's vantage point, she said she could tell Gertie had opened the door and spoke with the officer. Whew. She wasn't dead.  The cops then quietly left, and that was that.  While I knew I had done nothing wrong, I had a feeling that Gertie would probably think otherwise and wondered if I had an ass chewing coming my way.

THEN.  A few months later on a warm spring day, my family and I were outside working in the yard when Gertie decided to pay me a visit.  From across the yard I hear "Mr. Mookie!"  My first thought was "Oh shit here we go."  She came up to me and said she wanted to thank me for looking out for her and making sure she was OK.  Pleased (and shocked) that she wasn't pissed, I explained what I saw and why I did what I did.  From this, she seemed genuinely grateful that someone cared enough to check on her.  She thanked me again and went back into her house.  Wow.  I have to admit I felt good knowing I did the right thing.

Less than ten minutes had went by when I noticed she (again) was coming back across the yard.  I stopped raking to see what she wanted, and out of no where she UNLOADED on me.  "YOU KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF MY BUSINESS!  I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU CALLED THE COPS ON ME! I CAN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF! MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! I WILL NEVER FALL DOWN AND GET HURT!"  She went on and on as I stood there in disbelief.  This lady had just profusely thanked me, and NOW she's screaming at me?  WTF?  I tried to explain my situation again, but it was apparent I was talking to a "different" Gertie than I was 10 minutes ago.  Her tirade seemed to go on forever.  Finally, in a huff she went back home.  My wife - who was a safe distance away with the kids came over and was like "WTF was that?"  I was still shell-shocked and had no idea.

But it didn't stop there.  Another 10 minutes or so went by, and I happened to be in the garage doing something while my wife and the kids were on the driveway playing.  Gertie came storming back across the yard again, this time addressing my wife.  "DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR HUSBAND DID???  HE CALLED THE COPS ON ME!!"  

That was it.  It was time to throw down.

I came out of the garage and totally caught her off guard. Very loudly - I said "Gertie, you NEED TO GO HOME."  She started in on me again, and I cut her off and yelled "Fine.  I'm sorry I cared enough to check and make sure you were alright.  I'm sorry I thought you were laying in your house hurt or dead."   She continued her "Nobody needs to care about me, I can care for myself" rant, when I said "You know what Gertie?  I called the police for your kids and grand kids.  I couldn't bear the thought to know some one's Mother or Grandma was laying somewhere hurt and possibly frozen.  I called for them because I didn't want them to have to find you like that."  This stopped her for a second, and then she continued on berating me.  I noticed that my kids were huddled around my wife, and it was because Gertie was scaring them with her yelling.  I finally said "Gertie, you need to take your ass home.  You are scaring my kids! Go home."  At first she didn't even realize my kids were there (or scared), second she did not like me cursing at her.  Finally she went home, ranting the whole way.  

After that, we never talked again.  Enemies forever.  Much like my Dad and Winchester.

I knew in my heart what I did was right, and that if that were my Grandmother, I'd want someone to do the same for her.  It still bothered me that she hated me though.  I did feel bad that I told her to "take her ass home," but I could have said a lot worse.

Sadly, her health took a major turn in the coming year after that.  She fell walking somewhere and busted up her face really bad.  In the fallout from that, her family descended upon her house and realized she was not taking care of herself at all.  Bathing, laundry, and eating were not being done like it should have been.  While she was in the hospital after her fall, the doctors told Gertie's kids that she had Alzheimer's, and it had progressed beyond a point of any real intervention.

For the next several weeks, one of Gertie's children was at the house 24/7.  It was that bad.  At one point, when I was outside working one day one of her daughter-in-laws came over and made a point of telling me what was going on, even though they said they "knew" Gertie and I didn't get along.  

It was then I felt the need to tell her "my side" of the story, and what I saw and did that caused Gertie to be pissed.  They were shocked.  I also re-told the story to her son when he was staying there.  They all thanked me, and apologized for her behavior as she wasn't in her right mind.  I said that I appreciated that, and that while it was sad news - I wasn't surprised to hear what they found out about her.  Eventually, they moved her into a nursing home and she died there a year or so later.  I considered going to her funeral out of respect, but I knew her soul would be on fire knowing I was there.

So yeah, I yelled at an old lady.  A mentally ill old lady at that.  Does that make me a bad person?  I don't think so.  I did it for the right reasons.  And I'd do it again.


(*) - Names changed to protect the guilty/innocent.

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