the golden rule – temporal variant

Today, an errand that should have taken an hour took quite a lot longer. And that’s okay.

This afternoon, I hiked out to a friend’s house to feed the cat, water the plants, and check the mail while the family is away. I didn’t realize that an elderly neighbor (an acquaintance of theirs and of mine) had seen me pop in the door. When I emerged, she instantly opened her front door — with a rapidity suggesting she’d been lingering there waiting to catch me — and waved me over to her porch, where we stood chatting out of the rain.

The neighbor (I’ll call her N) managed to tell me how happy she was to see me even as she railed against the unkindness of life, the unfriendliness of all her neighbors, the misery of New England weather, and the stupidity of requiring someone to visit a cat.

When she asked me to step inside, I hovered for a moment on the edge of escape. I really mustn’t, I have so many errands to do floated through my mind.

Then I thought how lonely a person must be to lurk by the front door for half an hour on the off-chance of some conversation.

I went in, we chatted, she showed me around, and she advised me in far too personal terms about my upcoming marriage, my reproductive future, my schooling, my health, the upkeep on The Fella’s car, my potential income, his potential income.

She told me which of their neighbors were likely to die soon, and told me how little she liked the friendly cat I was caring for and how useless my task was.

She told me how much she liked Obama, and how happy she was that that other man (“who, let’s face it, is going to die soon! How can they think he won’t die? And then she will be President!”) didn’t get elected. [This was a little bright spot in the conversation, this and when she was talking about her late husband.]

She invited me and The Fella out “anytime! Spend the night! Plenty of space!”

When I started saying my goodbyes, she stopped me long enough to advise me once more on marriage and babymaking.

It’s little wonder she’s lonely.

But if she waves me over again next time I’m on cat patrol, I think I’ll go for a few minutes… if only because I hope someone will be patient and friendly to me when I’m a cranky old broad (which I think is a dead certainty), and especially if I’m a lonely cranky old broad.

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2 thoughts on “the golden rule – temporal variant

  1. Good for you. When I was at school I took part in a scheme whereby every Friday afternoon I went to visit a local elderly gentleman just to hang out, chat, and help him out with anything he couldn’t manage to do himself. It wasn’t always the most thrilling way to spend two hours, but I like to think he appreciated the company.

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