Distress is the state of having a different view of what you think the world should be from what your senses are telling you the world is, and my situation with my neighbour is distressing.  She has upped and given her house not to her daughter but to the son of her boyfriend.  The boyfriend was a sweet old codger, but the son is a skulking little weasel.  He will get the land when she sheds her body and meanwhile he wants to use it for a large fishing pier, though she thinks he is just rebuilding what was once there, a small personal dock.

The neighborhood is objecting the large pier, but he has poisoned her against us all.  She’s an old coot, opinionated and spiteful, but we all love her for her independence and her spunk – she’ll be out there most of the day at 92, chopping at a stump, whittling it down until nothing is left.

She thinks Quan and I are after her land, but we have enough trouble with our own, we just liked having someone elderly in the neighborhood, made it variable and fun.  Quan took extra food down to her, and I carried her wood and shot the shit, gossiping away about current peccadillos and strange events of 50 years ago when she was in her prime and I was but a stripling, cadging her doughnuts.

But I haven’t spoken to her since June, when this thing came up.  Today, though, as I chopped and lopped the bruch to make room for the dock to go on land at the top of the ways for the winter, I saw her flag – raised every day and taken down every night, despite her deafness and macular degeneration – today it had been raised upside down, the universal naval signal for distress.  The flag is torn, and seeing it buckle and furl upside down was so sad.
Should I believe her and see what’s up?  Break the silence? Or leave her without confrontation in her last days?  I think we should all go see her together, and confront this wrong, but we haven’t built up the collective courage yet.

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