My Neighbour Pat
My neighbour Pat is moving this week. Pat is a lovely 87 year old Greek lady who has lived beside me for the entire time I have lived in the house. We are both original owners of houses on a street that was a brand new neighbourhood almost 20 years ago. Let me tell you a little bit about my neighbour Pat.
Every summer Pat created a very large vegetable garden. By large I mean this garden could easily feed a small European country for the summer. Pat would be out tending to her garden every day from April to September. Watering, weeding and every task a smart experienced Greek lady would know to do to ensure vast harvests each year.
During the winter, 80 yearly Pat would be out at 5:00 a.m. shovelling her driveway with perfect precision to ensure neighbours could park their cars in her driveway. Yes Pat offered her driveway to all who’s single lane driveway could not accommodate the overflow of too many cars.
Pat raised her grandson who lived at the house since I moved in. A tragedy occurred and her son died when this little baby boy was barely 2 years old. She selflessly took on the responsibility of taking care of this child as he grew from childhood to adulthood.
When I first moved in I was a single parent and too many summer nights I would end up over there drinking her husband Jocho’s home made wine. Neither Pat or Jocho spoke English too well, but frankly neither do I, so that never stopped long fragmented nightly conversations. Her husband was a renowned Greek musician and would offer music and vocal lessons to improve my ability to perform.
Jocho had a serious heart condition and passed away 5 years ago. Pat wore black clothing every day for the rest of her time to honour her husband’s passing.
There was just one little thing about our twenty year relationship that some might describe as slightly odd. Pat thought my name was David. For those of you unfamiliar with documents like my birth certificate, my Passport or all the damn bills I receive with monthly regularity, the rest of the world calls me Dennis.
I have no recollection of how this happened but it didn’t matter to me what she called me because whenever she called “David” I would always respond. I didn’t respond because I was a nice neighbour, I responded because I always benefited from the calling.
“David here are some tomatoes from the garden “
“David would you like some hot peppers?”
“David here are some onions and cucumbers.”
“David take all the lettuce, I have grown too much again”
Pat would always carry the vegetables in her black pulled up top to carry more than she should. We would meet at the same spot at the fence near her garden and she would selflessly hand David over way too much food.
Never correct a person bearing gifts.
Every Easter, Christmas and other religious holiday, there would be a knock at the front door, (I really should fix that 12 year broken door bell), and deliver freshly baked bread desserts and other Greek delicacies. She would always explain that the orthodox Greek holidays were later, but always delivered treats for our unorthodox celebrations.
Pat had never been to a restaurant, she had never owned a computer, she attended church every Sunday and she always said hello David every time we saw each other in our backyards. She coached my wife on how to create a vegetable garden. Our garden was one tenth the size of hers, but she put as much energy into our feeble attempt at growing things, as she did for her own plantation.
This neighbour relationship was highly unbalanced. Pat owned property in Greece and every 5 years would make a month long trip to her home country. She would ask me to watch over her house and her grandson while she was away. My only task was to ensure the grandson cut the neglected lawn on the day before she arrived home. Yes David would occasionally help her out.
There was a year where Pat would come to our front door and ask me to come over and restart her tv with two remote controls that never seemed to work for her. Pat could create a garden for the world, cook Greek delicacies, but working two remote controls was not a easy task for her. Every day I would figure out the tv and the cable settings so that she could watch her two Greek language stations. Not sure what package she had with the local cable company but watching only two Greece language stations must have saved her a little money.
In 2004 Greece beat Portugal at their home stadium in Lisbon to win the UEFA final in the European Football finals. Great celebrations took place next door to mark this Greek victory. In 2010 and 2014 Greece lost in the finals of the World Cup and let’s just say the mood next door was not as celebratory.
Words fail me, just like my high school biology teacher failed me, but the difference is, to this day I think I understand the Greek language more than the language of biology. I doubt that Pat’s favourite movie was “Grease” but “My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ might rank a little higher, as it is played regualarly on her two favourite TV stations. You can’t pick your neighbours, but you can pick your life long heroes. Pat is one of mine.
People tell me, “David remember good fences make good neighbours.” I would slightly disagree. 87 year old Greek widows named Pat, are what make good neighbours. David and Dennis will miss her more than she will ever know.
Cue the Blong. Tender is the way I like my steak and my good friends…