A New Year's Gift

Blog Post created by Brenda_M on Jan 9, 2018

Good fences make good neighbors, as they say.


I had a 4-foot chain link fence between me and my next-door neighbor. He is super-neighborly--he had moved into this house after living in a condo for decades, and I think he has a really romantic view of single-family home neighborhoods. He landscapes his yard perfectly, knows all the other neighbors, gives away spinach lasagna baked with spinach from his garden, and to my gluttonous dog's obvious delight, keeps a bag of dog treats in his trunk to give to dogs who walk by, so he can get to know them and their owners. Every time people are outside at the same time as he is, conversation inevitably ensues...


With one exception. He and I would loiter outside in the evenings, separated only by black metal wire, and quietly smoke on our patios. We wouldn't wave, wouldn't speak. I'd kind of slouch against the brick of my house behind the gas grill, like a junior high student hiding in an alley during lunch.


When I moved back from Indiana, I had put smoking behind me for a couple years, and he had built a privacy fence. I'd take my dog out to do her business and could occasionally smell him over there, but wouldn't holler over the fence, because that's just weird and creepy.


Over the last couple years, we've referenced those awkward times and talked about how we hate people seeing us smoke. I avoided smoking at work, and so does he. I did the vast majority of my smoking in the evenings, under cover of dark, and so does he. One time, I told him I quit, because it's "disgusting," forgetting that that might offend him, a smoker, but since then, he'd always say, "I need to stop, because it's disgusting."


In the fall, my husband was in Peru and my leaves were out of control. I always let my yard go and feel guilty because he leaves his yard so pristine. I have a couple rakes, but he has a leaf blower AND a leaf vacuum, so he came out and helped me clean up my front yard. I told him I was pregnant to make him feel better about helping me, and he told me he was ready to quit smoking this spring.


I was really, really appreciative of his help, and my husband came home with a souvenir for him. I figured with the holidays coming up, we could make him a nice gift, so I put together a bag with the souvenir, some candy and trinkets and included a copy of Allen Carr's Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I gave it to him last week, saying, "This is to help you meet your goals in 2018."


Then, I immediately regretted it. What am I doing, giving a self-help book to a casual acquaintance? I hoped he didn't take offense, and with the weather we've been having lately, he hasn't been outside as much.


Today, I took my dog outside for her businesses, and she immediately went nuts near the fence. My neighbor was outside, so it was Trunk and Treat time! He was talking to me about the sling his arm was in--he slipped on the ice yesterday and dislocated his arm. No mention of the present, so I was relieved.


But then, he said, "Thanks for the book, I set a date."


"Really? I thought you'd make the date for March or so. I am SO GLAD you like it!"


"No, I'm tired of it. It's disgusting, and he's right. I don't enjoy it, I'm just an addict. What he says makes sense, about just getting relief from the symptoms. I need to just move forward and enjoy life without it. It's better without it, isn't it?"


YES! Yes, it is!


So he set his quit date for Wednesday. I know it's not a sure thing, or even a safe bet, because, I mean, it's called the 6% Club, but I know from experience that it's really hard to enjoy smoking or pretend to enjoy it once you've read Allen. He's VERY difficult to unsee, even through privacy fences.