It's been a wild ride, these 15 or so years. I called her place "the Haunted House." When she first moved in, she had a husband (abusive), a 6-year-old daughter, and a toddler. The husband was soon no longer in the picture, and good riddance. It was because of him the cops first started paying calls to the house. I watched out for those kids for years, because Crystal was old before her time, and would confide in me things like "I'm making dinner tonight, because Mom's not coping again." Markee...I made him Halloween costumes and treated his cuts and scrapes, and as a teenager took him in and tried to turn around a life that was going down the tubes on a rocket-sled. I was the last, best hope, and it ultimately didn't work out. He spent a lot of time with us, checking in with his Mom daily, but the fits of rage, the cutting classes, lying, bad company... I set rules, and he violated them, lied, tried to create drama... We lasted longer than most, including the troubled youth mentor, but ultimately, one has to draw the line.
And as for Michelle, she had terrible taste in men, constantly repeating patterns. I tried to talk to her. She always retreated behind the excuse of "when you love someone, you put up with anything." Including, ultimately, her son's behavior. I've been her friend, the hard-talk lady next door, I paid for Landmark Education coursework (being in control of and aware of her life stuck for a little while, but then she slid back into old familiar patterns), I threatened abusive boyfriends with swords, I've watched her house, and I've called the cops when it was necessary. I called the EMTs when she had a particularly bad episode of whatever this thing was with her abdominal blockage. She threw them out and refused care. I also will say I'm not proud that I got into a screaming match with her last fall when she left some old junk out for pickup in front of my house, not hers, and I politely asked her to remove it. She started screaming and calling me names, and I ended up ultimately screaming right back.
And yet...she let us turn her junk-filled back yard into a garden, and would happily wander through it, picking tomatoes and just enjoying plants. She let us build a chicken run for some of the hens at the rear of the property, and would sometimes sit out and watch the birds, particularly Elonwy, the crippled hen. But the last year and a half, with the mystery ailment that had her constantly throwing up and having abdominal pain, and the garden allowed to overgrow, this spring...it was like the forces of the universe were seeing an end in sight. Her friend David lost his house in the recession and moved in. Even though she screamed at him regularly, he bore it like a saint, and watched out for her and the house.
Last night, it was David who came by and let us know she'd passed. I saw them cart her away in the ambulance, and had a feeling it was not good. I found out he'd been giving CPR when they arrived. I couldn't help but think that the cops were going to be relieved that one of their regular stops probably was no longer on the agenda. But we talked for a while with David. No one knows what's next. Her current (fortunately wimpy) boyfriend and David are living in the house, but it belongs to Michelle's mother, and who knows what she will do. I hope David is allowed to stay, as the place is a dump, and he maintains the place a bit, and I don't want it to be a haven for squatters and gang types. And he needs a place, being seriously under-employed because of the recession.
I don't know what we'll do with the chickens. Maybe there will be an arrangement, come what may.
It's strange to realize she's gone, though in some ways, I've been expecting it for years. She was a sad woman, so caught in self-destructive patterns I don't think she would have ever had a life that worked, and even if she did, wouldn't have known how to be happy with it. I wish her peace, whatever peace comes with the quiet of the grave. It is the best the universe can grant her.