The Dearly Departed
By Katina Pontikes
I am one of those people who read the death notices regularly. I want to know if acquaintances of mine have departed this earthly existence, and what circumstances caused them to win the Daily Death Lotto.
It pays to check the paper each day for news of those no longer with us. The knowledge acquired can prevent embarrassing cocktail party moments, such as asking where someone’s husband is, when the chap expired eight months ago.
When I recognize someone in the obituary section, I experience feelings of sadness and regret. If the person is young, the sadness is accompanied by a sense of great injustice, as the person has been robbed of vast experiences such as falling in love and having a family of their own. I am reminded of the fleeting nature of existence.
Imagine my surprise when one day my eyes rested on the photo of an icy-eyed older woman staring back at me from the inked pages of the daily paper. My heart leaped a bit, and I experienced a small burst of adrenaline, or perhaps it was endorphins rushing through my blood. I was definitely delighted as I shared with my husband that we would no longer cross paths with the Wicked One. Perhaps I can enlighten you with a bit of background information.
I had recently married my husband, a second marriage to which I had brought my eleven year old son. I knew the transition to a new life would be challenging for my boy, and I wanted terribly for him to like our changed life. We had just moved to our new home which was surrounded by a four feet high brick wall, about eight inches deep. My son took no time at all to figure out he could hop up on the top of the bricks and prance down the length of the partition, in a sort of boyhood gymnastic feat. I wasn’t concerned about any dangers with the short wall.
Out of seemingly nowhere came a streak of horror, screeching at the top of her lungs. The woman didn’t see me in the distance as she pounced at my son, reprimanding him to get off the wall, and telling him he was on private property. He hopped down obediently, disappointed nonetheless. I comforted him by telling him that she must have been concerned for his safety. We agreed she was quite the witch.
Shortly after this incident, my son and I were swimming one day in the townhome complex pool, which was usually more of a water feature as it wasn’t used often. Here came Ms. Busybody, a lightning bolt of vigilance.
“Can I help you?” she shrilly asked me.
I was perplexed. She wanted to help me swim? “Pardon me?” I shot back.
“This is a private pool!” she announced with great authority.
“We live here, in number fifteen,” I offered helpfully.
“Oh, well… alright then,” she stated with her face moving from a threatening grimace to a smirk of disappointment. She turned on her heels and stomped away. There was no “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
This woman never corrected her earlier messages to my son and me. We were always the outcasts, and my son was made to feel particularly unwelcome as the only child in a small complex of residents.
So even though many years had passed, as I saw the woman’s obituary portrait, I smiled smugly.