I didn’t make the call!
In my recent posts, I mentioned somewhere that I live in a small estate (20 Bungalows). A quiet estate that I have called home for almost 39 years. I quickly learned the names of all the residents, those who spoke to me, those who tolerated me and those who chose to ignore me.
It would have been considered a ‘proddy’ town thirty nine years ago, and everyone seemed to be related. At the height of the troubles, having a strong southern brogue was worse than a dose of the plague. Anyone with a southern accent was considered to be Roman Catholic and a member of the IRA.
Jack had lived here since the houses were built forty six years ago and I joined him in a ready made home, seven years later. We were blissfully happy. I remember saying to him a few times, that it was a good job I loved him so much, because had I not done so, I would be gone long ago. Not because of anything he did, but because of the way some people including neighbours, had treated me. The strange thing was that the people who treated me badly, were not behind the door when they wanted help or to make use of my skills!
That is all past now and As of today, our house is the only one with the original family name. I am now the longest resident. Not the oldest, but the longest.
There was one man who never spoke to me in all the thirty nine years. He would speak to Jack and totally ignore me, I was invisible to him. He was a peculiar character, had very gifted hands for woodwork, he made ladders, tables and bird boxes. He regularly had arguments with his neighbours and at times was rather a recluse.
This man lived around the corner from me, directly opposite my friend who had her hip replaced. In her absence I called to her house each day to move the post, leave back freshly washed clothes collect other items she required etc. All the while I noticed the blinds on the windows opposite were never opened. No sight of the man who lived there.
I asked my friend when I visited her when she last saw him. She could not remember.
“He is often in there and does not open the blinds or appear for days at a time”. She said. I let it go.
A week later I mentioned it to two different neighbours who lived closer than I did. Neither had seen him for some time. I should have phoned the PSNI (Police Service for Northern Ireland) at that point, but because he chose to have nothing to do with me. I let it go.
If he was there and knew I had called the police there would be hell to pay for interfering. I let it go.
My questions must have disturbed the people I shared my concerns with. They asked others and the answers were all the same.
Today two male neighbours tried ringing the bell and knocking on the door. No reply. They went around to the back of the house but there was no sign of him. They finally phoned the PSNI.
The PSNI had to break down the door to gain entry.
He was lying dead in the living room. There was a bundle of untouched mail lying in the hallway. As yet, I have no idea how long he has been lying there.
In today’s world, we are inclined to live in our own bubble of busyness and not give time to check on the frail elderly, particularly those living alone.
Perhaps we should all adopt an elderly person to check up on… particularly in the cold weather.
None of us are getting any younger, and it would be nice to think that someone would check up on us when we are frail old and cold!
How awful for him to die friendless and alone. Yet I’m inclined to think of the old saw, one reaps what one sows.
The news tonight is that he lay for four to six weeks, so as Elly says… my calling would not have made a difference.
You had many good reasons for not making that call. But your actions inspired others who could, and that does count. If you were my neighbor I’d look out for you 🙂
Thank you, spiders, I think my questioning unsettled quite a few people.
No one can blame you for not checking on him. You had no reason to be nice to him. But it is too bad someone didn’t check on him sooner.
Nowadays people come out of their houses, take a short few steps, jump in their cars and away like the clappers. The reverse happens on their return so there is no chance of and chatting or sharing news or concerns. They are oblivious of what is happening around them.
What an incredible story and your intuition was bang on. Terribly sad way to live isn’t it, alienating those who might have been friends. Interesting you should write about this as we had a survey done in our town and this was one of the items listed “check up calls.” So we will be instigating a few of these suggestions.
I’ll whip them all into shape one of these days 🙂
Jack often called me a ‘witch’ because of my intuition! You whip away, WWW. In days gone by the elders lived out their final years in the heart of the younger family home. Modern life and work patterns means the senior generation are often on their own.
You pushed and prodded until…
blessings to you, GM ~ maxi
Maxi, I can only hope that the everyone learns from this and becomes watchful and more caring towards their neighbours.
One cannot choose not to get old. One can choose whether or not to do it gracefully. Reclusive people make their own beds – literally! – and must lie in them. There is also the point that someone who doesn’t want contact would take it as an intrusion being checked up on.
Col, I actually agree with most of what you say, but we cannot let that stop us from showing care for others. Three weeks ago had I accepted my friends suggestion that she stay home and rest after a fall and not gone down to check on her… how much more damage could she have done to her fractured femur by staying on her feet? I go by my gut instinct & intuition!
Indeed. So one should, at least, let people know that one is available – and sometimes overrule stubbornness with common-sense action!
At least you noticed and made others notice too, even if it was too late. We don’t have close neighbours but this has made me think that I should check more often on an old chap who lives nearby instead of presuming that his next door neighbour will do it.
Thank you Anne. My reason for posting about this situation was to remind all of us to be aware and check on frail elderly who are living alone.
A sad story. I think you did all you could; but it’s a lesson for all of us not to hide away but to make the effort of reach out and be friendly to our neighbors.
Tom, the idea behind the post was to remind everyone to think outside the box – their own little boxes and be aware of the needs of those around them.
great post, even if a sad event…
I try to operate on an open curtain/blind policy – even when I just wanna lie around all day in bed [like with a cold]…plus I have a neighbour across the ROW who says they like to see one of my back room lights on at night – then they know I’m okay…[one time I was away a few days, and they checked with another neighbour…now I let them know, when I’m even away overnight]
Most houses around here are 2 story but with living/grd & bed/1st floor – mine is different – everything is on the upper floor…the ROW neighbour looks up as they have a bungalow type house…
I open my door curtain early in the morning, it lets my neighbours opposite know I am in the land of the living. They keep a key and check my house when I am away from home.
You did well but it is a sobering thought for all those who live alone and I hope that your readers will take your advice.
I am one of five women and one man living alone in the small group of houses.
You may remember I wrote a blog post once about an elderly man who lived in the house behind ours. He was very reclusive and I hardly ever saw him outside his house. He never showed any interest in me so I left him alone. I only knew he had died when a policewoman rang my doorbell asking if we knew anything about him. I had to say, no, nothing at all.
Yes, Nick, I remember. This is the second time a person was found dead in my estate, but the other man was found the next day still sitting in his chair. I only hope I made people think.