Cranky Neighbours, Walls, Lovely Parents

What a week. You won’t be interested in this post if you have lovely neighbours, or if you live in an apartment that doesn’t include a yard. If on the other hand you know what it is to lose quack grass wars and have miserable people next door, it may resonate.

The yard and house have never been in better shape. And my parents, 77 and 83, must be exhausted.  “No, not at all,” they tell me, “we didn’t work hard at all.”

They triumphed over the salt- and sand-filled garage, a broken doorframe, dandelions and quack grass, holes under the deck and porch, rabbits, moldy windowsills, wrinkly shirts, and thick stubborn sod.  Now the bushes are in the ground, the flowers are blooming, the windows are sparkling, the wind chimes are musical, the birdhouse is perched at the edge of the yard, the front door stays closed. And they’re not tired.

The visit culminated on the next-to-last day, when I finally had the opportunity to ask my neighbour why he’s always so cranky. Before I tell you exactly how this opportunity to ask The Question I’d long been dying to ask presented itself, I have to explain why I’d been dying to ask it. It isn’t, after all, something you go around asking people you live next door to and are trying to get along with.

He truly is cranky. All the time. He doesn’t appear to have a friendly bone in his body. He looks the other direction when we’re walking or driving up, so he won’t have to say hello. And we do happen to come face-to-face accidentally and sneak in a “hi”, he’ll nod, but never smile. Never.

For years now, our only conversations have been hostile. He, or his wife, will ring the doorbell only to scold us (loudly), about the ball that bounced into their yard, or about our parking. A five-car family a few years ago, we did occasionally spill over our drive and stick out the tiniest bit in front of their property, though always and only just near their property, never on it. The street, after all, is public.

This week though, my 83-year-old father was digging a hole for some bushes my mother was eager to help me plant near the property line between us, along which runs a low brick wall. Mr. Cranky approached me and gruffly demanded we take down the low brick wall between our properties. 

“Why?” I ask, truly innocently, to which he barks, “they’re on my property.” I look hard to see how this might be. Perhaps an inch or so. I tell him the ground has been settling and shifting (it has; we have a number of home and walkway cracks to show for it), and that maybe it has moved in an inch since we installed it, but suggest that it isn’t really a problem.

“A good neighbour stays on his property,” he half-mutters, half-barks.

“You really need that inch I ask?” before heading inside to make lunch.

In my absence, my father tries to fix the wall, but Mr. Cranky, according to my mother’s report, was clearly not pleased and continued to complain and treat my father with an abundance of disrespect, which finally culminated in his actually kicking some of the freshly-repaired wall over.

I know, he’s unhappy. I’ve never in 11 years seen friends show up at their home to visit. An inch of property becomes a big deal. Still, I’m angry that he’s treated my father this way, which is how I justify my asking him why he’s always so cranky.

The front looks lovely again. Somewhere around Day Five, after all the sod for the raspberry patch had been dug up, and the holes for the bushes dug, and the bushes and flowers planted, the window washing started. Window washing involved screen removal, which lead to a few (minor) injuries, the discovery of a damaged open/close mechanism on one of them, a search for the right repair tools, and a load of laundry done with unchecked pockets and tissues nicely shredded on everything.

At lunch, my father reminds me that some politicians lie about everything. They do. Except I disagree and say it’s not just some of them; they all do. We agree on everything and nothing, my father and me. We both want a better world. We both think we know who is responsible for the trouble, and how to fix things. I know he wishes very much I saw things his way. But love is enormous, bigger than difference.

And I owe them, big time.

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4 thoughts on “Cranky Neighbours, Walls, Lovely Parents

  1. His answer was a gruffly mumbled repetition that good neighbours keep to their side of the property line. We’re the reason he’s cranky, though he was clearly cranky well before we became neighbours. You know, the ol’ blame game. 🙂

  2. I don’t particularly care for my neighbors. On the right is a triplex. It used to be a single house. The people who lived there then dumped three truckloads of gravel against my fence, They destroyed it, then didn’t do anything to fix it. Even after their small children started showing up trying to get into my pool. I couldn’t afford to fix the fence, so I had to remove the pool. The next owner lived one province over and rented to his son, a crack addict. Soon he was entering and exiting his house from his front window. We thought someone was breaking in, so we called the police. He was a little upset. The police were happy, they had an excuse, finally, to take a good look around the areas known crack house. One day he showed up to say my cat was in his house. My cat had a gangrenous broken leg, was obviously unable to move. I had to put the cat down. He was never able to explain how my cat got into his house. He didn’t know how long it was there.

    When that house sold, it was turned into a triplex. Then garbage started showing up on that side of my yard. Beer bottles (lots of those) fast food wrappers. Landscaping refuse. Cement blocks from renovations. If they didn’t want it, they tossed it in their yard. When tenants moved out the so called landlord moved the tenants leftover possessions onto the front of MY yard. I spent two days playing “lets move the trash into the others front yard”. Eventually, I simply got fed up, broke it all into little pieces and yelled at her open window “I don’t want your ….. trash!”
    Eventually I also tired of playing the same game with one large concrete block they tossed over after they replaced it with a new one, I put it right in their driveway. Their tenant almost lost the bottom of his vehicle. I explained the situation to him, and he spoke to his land lord. The block has stayed on their property ever since. At one time they had six cars, four of which they parked in front of my house, even though there was plenty of room on or around their property. They live on the corner.

    Most recently I got into an argument with a tenant and her boy friend, who were enjoying a small two person party, quite loudly, on a hot summer night right next to my bedroom window until 3:30 am on a Wednesday night. I waited that long to say something because I expected they would eventually realize it was late. They didn’t, and felt I was being rude to them when asked them to be quiet. Then I really was rude to them.

    The ones behind me got themselves a hot tub. They like to toss their used condoms over my fence. Or did. I returned them to their deck. I’m pretty sure he stole some brass fittings I had that he wanted me to give him. They put an incinerator in the corner, right at the fence, under a tree on my property. They started the tree on fire, as well as the fence.

    His kids live on the other side of me. I was sitting in my backyard, enjoying the sun when a garbage bag full of garbage came sailing over the fence into my yard. The fence is 10 feet high and you can’t see through it. They didn’t know I was there. This wasn’t the first time I found garbage on that side. I threw it on their roof. They often drove their car along the boulevard in front of my house at high speed, almost hitting my children and mother in law.

    They blamed me for calling the city bylaw enforcement on them for operating a business at home without a license. Personally, I didn’t even know. They had some machine going all the time, it was a metal shaper, but I didn’t know that at the time. I could only hear it at night when my window was open, then it was only a light tap, tap, tap, tap,. It didn’t bother me at all.

    I’ve also had a few neighbors who didn’t like me, because I am not able to keep the yard up to their preferences because of my arthritis. Too bad. It’s not the most important thing in the world to me. I do my best. I let the grass get four inches long. Sometimes 5. I don’t worry about dandelion weeds.

    This is a small sample of the neighbors I have had while living in the same house for the last 30 years. I’ve left a lot out. Believe me, things could be much worse than what you have.

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