But for some reason, other than clipping an occasional wildflower, he does not keep up his lawn.The reason is: he is 90 years old.
Now, before you email me saying that I should offer to help him, let me tell you I already thought of that. The first week we lived here, I said to myself, “We should really help him.” Then I begged The Husband to go over and mow his lawn for him. The Husband reluctantly agreed.The Husband spent the next six hours cutting his way through grass that was taller than most second graders. When he was finished, the yard looked like a golf putting green, or at least like a normal lawn.
This random act of suburban kindness did not go over well. Mr. Constantine was at our doorstep within minutes.“Why did you mow my lawn? I like it that way.”
That was the day we learned not to be such control freaks. (Well, The Husband learned. I’m still learning.) The Husband and I had a long private discussion later about elderly people maintaining their independence. So what—he wants to pretend to take care of his own yard by cutting down a few wildflowers? Let him.Not only did the grass grow back, but bushes and trees and various plant life forms grew up and around the house, like a soft green blanket. We knew that under there somewhere was a house, but heck if we could see it.
The backyard was even worse. There was a solid six foot wood fence between our properties, so we could not really see what was going on back there; however, various vines grew up and over the fence into our yard. The vines grabbed fiercely onto our trees and tried to choke them. We called a professional landscaper who recommended cutting back anything that was on our side of the fence.“Those vines will kill your trees,” he said, a Prophet of Doom in a “Trees ‘R Us” t-shirt. “It’s your responsibility to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
For the next two years, The Husband worked diligently to keep our side of the fence safe from rogue homicidal vines.We could see more of Mr. Constantine’s backyard from our second story window, even more when we used our 125x zoom binoculars. Turns out, he had dozens of green clumps of something, maybe they were bushes or trees. There appeared to be some sort of water feature, possibly even a pool. Small animals were nestling in every green crevice. We were sure we saw a monkey. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland and gone on the Jungle Cruise ride, you have an idea of what we were dealing with.
Looking at his yard from that second story vantage point, we realized that his landscape issues were of epic proportions.We did what anyone would do in our situation: we shut the blinds.
Last week, the neighbor on the other side of Mr. Constantine complained to the city about Mr. Constantine’s backyard. City officials showed up, had a brief chat with Mr. Constantine, and the next thing you know there were four illegal immigrants chopping down anything green behind the fence.The boys and I scurried to our second floor window to get a better look at the “progress.” When the workers were done, the yard was a pitiful dirt pit with a few trees and an algae covered pool. Now we could also see a shed or pool house back there, that apparently had been hidden. The walls were falling down.
We noticed a decrepit garage. The roof had caved in.For the first time, we could see beyond Mr. Constantine’s house to the industrial buildings in the distance, buildings that had been obscured by lovely branches. Neon lights that were always there now blink and flash and assault our eyes.
Last night, The Husband lowered the window shade of our upstairs window.“What are you doing? The yard is cleared out now. Why are you closing the shade?”
“I don’t want to see it. I miss the jungle.”MOV