Saturday, July 1, 2017

Grief, good and otherwise, part 2

A maroon station wagon was making its way slowly down the long driveway toward our house. I walked as fast as I could without looking too alarming about it, still clutching the eggs I’d just gathered from our chickens. Maybe. Maybe they’d found her and were bringing her home.

“Hello! My husband used to live in this house 20 years ago! We live in Iowa now but we’re passing through the area and he wanted to see the old place again.”

She looked so nice and sweet, it was hard to believe she could have been so cruel. Of course she had no idea our dog was missing, so I put on my good country folk face, shifted the eggs to my left hand and offered her my right. She introduced herself, and her teenage daughter still in the car, while another car pulled up and a man, presumably the husband, got out. A third car pulled in behind his, with a teenage boy at the wheel. Four people, three cars. ‘merica.

There was more handshaking, and smiles, and general cheerfulness. “How do you like living here?” 

Right at this moment, I couldn’t be more miserable, but thanks for asking. “It’s great! We love it!”

They told me a little about the history of the house, what they’d done with it, what the owners after them had done, or not done, since most of the deterioration and decay that we inherited had happened during the interim when that other family ran out of money and split apart. “They tried,” the husband said with a sad smile.

Another car pulled up the drive in the evening, this one going all the way around to the back of the house where we park our own cars, as though the driver was one of the family. 

I went out to meet him, a man who looked a little like Fred Gwynne, with just as jovial a demeanor as Herman Munster but no cracked forehead. “Hello there! I’m your neighbor.” He pointed south, to the farm nearly a mile away. “Are you the owner of …”

A dog. Yes. Yes, we have a dog. The dog you have in your car right now, correct? Yes. Thank you. Bless you, Fred Gwynne’s rural Illinois kid brother.

“… a couple of parrots?”

It took me a blink or two to slap on the GCF face again and exclaim “yes, yes we do!” and enthusiastically answer his questions about our macaws, which he had just seen flying over the soybean fields. I apologized profusely for any noise they were making—a large part of the reason we moved out here was so that we could do our own thing without bothering people—or people bothering us. Our neighbor waved the apology aside—there was no bother at all.

His name was Floyd, or Lloyd, or maybe it was something else I didn’t catch and I just had the stereotypical mindset that people who live out here have names like Floyd or Lloyd. He had seen the flier we’d put in his mailbox, about our dog, and he asked about her. I told him where things stood, which was still. We had no leads.

He shook his head. “I’m so sorry. Hope you find her soon.”

Me too, Floyd Gwynne. Me too.

An hour later, yet another visit, this time a young couple in a go-cart-looking vehicle in the now familiar green-and-yellow of John Deere. There was no raising of hopes this time; clearly they did not have a dog in the go-cart.

“Hello! We’re your neighbors!” They pointed north, to the farm nearly a mile away in that direction. “Are those birds yours? They’re beautiful!”

More introductions, more pleasant conversation, more curious questions about the birds, more well-wishes about our dog, since they got the flier too but had no information either. They, too, assured us our macaws were not bothering anyone. “They’re just so cool,” the man said, and his wife nodded vigorously. “It must be amazing to get to see them fly all the time.” They were so enthusiastic, I found myself telling them to feel free to come on over to watch them fly whenever they wanted, even though that was not something I really wanted.

“I think you’ll like living here,” the young woman said as they waved their good-byes. “This is a great place to live.”

I agreed with her, and up until a few days ago my agreement would have been sincere. Now my words felt just a little hollow. I said them anyway, all of us smiling, gazing around at the open fields and the great big sky.


Move to the country, think you’re getting solitude and privacy, discover you’re getting something else entirely. The vast spaces you so longed for have turned out to be a nightmare when you think about what you’ve lost; meanwhile the neighbors are stopping by like it’s some kind of summer block party even though the block is a mile long and there are only two houses on it. That’s not to say these visits were unwelcome. Sometimes solitude and privacy are exactly what you don’t need. I guess I’ll keep waiting to see who comes down our driveway next.

No comments:

Post a Comment