I’ve found myself quickly running into the house everytime a certain someone passes by the house. It makes me feel bad, like I’m not being very friendly. I feel guilty. I also feel annoyed.
“Frank” is a late 40’s/early 50’s-ish neighbor up my street. We met briefly a couple months ago when he stopped by to talk to my husband, a local police officer, about concerns he had regarding a foreclosed home further up the street. He also wanted to let my husband know that there was a position open on the Homes Association Board, thinking he might be interested. Since my husband wasn’t home at the time, Frank and I ended up chatting in the driveway.
While on the subject of neighborhood concerns, I asked about a creekbed at the corner, mentioning how unkempt it was, completely over run by brushy undergrowth and vines of poison ivy. I was also disgusted by the amount of trash collecting there, particularly the number of Old Milwaukee beer cans that seemed to be increasing daily. Since the creekbed is actually the run-off drainage system the city put in, I wondered if it was the city’s responsibility to trim back all the brush and clear out the bed. It was blocked by sand drifts, fallen branches and a whole tree which had completely toppled over, ripping up it’s root ball and leaving it standing on it’s side and about ten feet in air. I could see a coming problem with flooding if the bed wasn’t cleared of all the debris. And frankly, the whole area looked horrible and jungle-like. If it was the city’s responsibility, I was going to call and see about having them tend to it. If not, I was willing to organize a few families to go down there and clean it up. Frank suggested I go to the upcoming HOA meeting to ask about it.
I learned that the area was actually private property, and despite the fact that it was indeed the city that dug out the creek bed as a drainage ditch for run-off from the streets, the city wasn’t responsible for keeping it cleared out. If I wanted to clean it up, I’d have to talk to the property owner, and elderly man who wouldn’t be able to do the work. I asked for a name and mentioned that I was hoping to talk to him about getting some people together to help clean the area up.
The very next day, Frank came by to apologize on behalf of the HOA president, saying that he hoped I wasn’t offended at the meeting. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. He said that the president shouldn’t have brushed me off the way he did and should have given me more respect. I assured him that I took no offense and didn’t interpret anything that the president said as “brushing me off.” We chatted a little more and he left. Later, my daughters and I went down and collected three 33 gallon bags of trash all along the bed. Most of it was beer cans. Frank drove by and waved, slowing down enough to roll down his window and say that he’d help if he wasn’t on his way to a doctor’s appointment.
The following day, Frank was down at the corner, chopping down brush. He’s been down at that bed for the past three weeks, puttering past our house everyday, clearing out brush and even burning it. As hard as he’s working, he still has more to do. My wonderful neighbors across the street planted some pompus grass and flowering bushes along the tree line. It’s really starting to look nice. I have a bunch of daffodil bulbs I’m going to plant down there as well. What once looked like a wild, untamed thicket is looking lovelier and lovlier every day.
So why am I annoyed?
Every time Frank rides by on his little riding mower, he stops by to talk. To me. I now know everything there is to know about Frank. He especially likes to tell me about his ailments and show me all the scars and battlewounds from taming the neighborhood jungle. After the first couple “stop to chats” I started getting a little uncomfortable, like maybe he was flirting a little, if I dare say so. But then I quickly chided myself for even thinking such a thing. I’m 42 and overweight for goodness’ sake!
A few days later, I was out front putting in a flower bed around a small tree, when Frank stopped by again. I tried not to think about it. After he left, my girls started teasing me. “Mom, I think he has a crush on you.”
“No,” I said, “He’s just being friendly.”
My 13 year old chimed in, “No, he totally has a crush on you! The other day he was cutting up those branches and I passed him when I got off the bus and he asked me if you were my mother.” Did that really mean anything?
This past Wednesday night, I attended another HOA meeting. Afterwards, the president approached me and took me to the side. “Mrs. Keeney, I just wanted to apologize to you. I’m sorry if I offended you at the last meeting. I certainly didn’t mean to brush aside your concerns.”
I was honestly confused. “You didn’t offend me. I’m not sure what you’re talking about.”
Then it dawned on me. Before I could say anything, he turned to the secretary and quiety said, “Nancy, isn’t this who ‘FC’ said I was rude to?” She nodded her head. He continued, “Oh, well, someone called Nancy and gave her quite a fit, complaining that I’d offended you and brushed aside your questions about the creek bed and said I owed you an apology.”
I gave the HOA president my word that nothing he’d said had offended me and that I’d even told Frank as much. I was so embarrased! And I wanted to shoot Frank!
Yesterday I was weeding the bed around our front tree. Suddenly, I heard the familiar sound of a riding mower coming up the street toward my house. Without even looking to see who might be driving, I got up and went into the house.
As he passed by our big picture window, my girls started laughing. “Are you avoiding Frank?” one of them asked. I gave a quick smirk, then the doorbell rang. I went into the kitchen, leaving the girls to answer the door and quietly told them to say I was busy.
It turned out to be one of my daughter’s friends. As she came inside, she grinned and said “Mrs. Keeney, Frank said to tell you hi. I think he has a little crush on you!”
Ugh! How does this happen?