The Wall

My neighbor (lets call her “J”) has recently been diagnosed with cancer of the lower esophagus. She’s already been through a surgery where they’ve placed a gastric feeding tube on her stomach because she can’t eat. In a week, they’ll add a “port” for chemotherapy and also start radiation. J also has to have cancer surgery and the nearest surgeon is in Gainesville, an hour away.

This is really bad news. Yet, it gets even worse!

J is 70 years old.  Her house is right behind mine and our contact has mostly been over the back yard fence (like Tim and Wilson in Home Improvement). A six-foot wood fence separates us, and though I probably should, I don’t know her very well. She lives with her dear dog Molly and has an 82-year-old friend who takes her to nearby doctor appointments and helps her with her shopping needs. That’s it. J has no one else. No spouse, no siblings, no friends. No one.

We’ve offered to care for her dog while she undergoes treatment (J seems to be more concerned about Molly than herself). I’ll be driving her to her surgeon’s appointments in Gainesville. But J needs more, so much more! She needs someone to care for her when she comes home from chemo and from surgery. She needs someone, but who?

I work full-time and so does my husband. Our time and resources are limited. I could say that she’s not my responsibility. I barely know her. But I ache for her. J is sick and lonely, scared and sad.

I just don’t know what else I can do to help and I’m sad. I see myself in her eyes and I’m scared.

Why do we build these walls and fences around ourselves and our homes? What do they protect us from? They only seem to limit the possibilities of comfort and joy, of family and friends, of love and support. And yet, we build on.

… ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors?…
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’
– Robert Frost, Mending Wall