September 27, 2009

My Neighbor Elinor, AKA Pet



      When I read the news blurb about an Ohio man who slayed his neighbor “because he walked on the man’s well-kept lawn,” I thought of my former neighbor, Elinor Saylor, a.k.a “Pet.”

     When we moved from Jamestown, PA, to Connellsville, PA, my husband, Monte, did his usual thing: loaded up a U-Haul and drove it from point A to point B. When we arrived at our destination, he backed the van into the driveway. It was just wide enough for a car, so it wasn’t surprising that one wheel rode over a patch of lawn between the neighbor’s sidewalk and the street. Obviously, he left a tire tread mark on the grass.

     He exited the truck and was greeted by a tall, thin, white-haired woman. She was irate enough to kill him.

     “You’ll have to fix that!” she stated, giving no room for argument.

     Monte, being easy going, tried to appease her, and agreed that any damage done to the lawn would be fixed.

     It wasn’t long before Pet realized that Monte was not a “moving man,” but the pastor moving into the house next door, the Wesley United Methodist Church parsonage.

     But Pet was like that, staunchly assertive, ready to dump on anyone who crossed her path. As a result, she never liked the pastors who lived in the parsonage.

     We’d been there less than a week when she told me that she didn’t approve of the way I took care of Gizmo, our pet cat (she loved and rescued cats: ELINOR’S ORPHAN KITLINGS. She also loved dogs and contributed regularly to an animal shelter.

     I took the offensive.

     “If you don’t like the way I care for Gizmo, you do it,” I stated, too worn out from the move and the extreme heat of that summer to argue with her. And so, for two years, she came over and fed, watered, and paid special attention to Gizmo.

     It went that way with my plants, too. I just was neglecting them, and she complained vocally. I gave her the same answer: “If you don’t like the way I take care of my plants, you do it!” And so she did, for several years.

     That was the way to reach Pet: hand her back what she gave out. But sometimes it brought me trouble: people were concerned at the way I “sassed” her. So much so, that one lady confronted me as Pet and I were “conversing” while walking through downtown Connellsville.

     “That’s no way to talk to your mother,” she scolded me.

     “She’s not my mother,” I shot back, using my best Pet style.

     Pet smiled, telling me I was the only pastor’s wife she liked. I wondered if our relationship was toxic, but decided if this was what it took to be in relationship with my closest neighbor, so be it.

     Pet didn’t attend church. Of course, she said she couldn’t get along with the members. But she couldn’t resist going when granddaughter Jordan was baptized. After that, she went quite regularly.

     After five years of a successful relationship, Pet became the concern of the neighbors as we discovered her displaying, on numerous occasions, signs of mini-strokes.—unsteady on her feet, drooping mouth, drooling. It was during our initial observations that she needed cataract surgery, with the requirement that someone stay with her for three days post-surgery. I reluctantly agreed (I am a poor caretaker). Between the time I agreed and the surgery was scheduled, we all noticed the worsening of her symptoms—so much so that two neighbors spoke with her doctor. I made a point to talk to him about the cataract surgery, and he said there was no concern, that she was fine—nothing showed up on the tests.

     Suddenly it dawned on me: I did not have to stay with her. I could change my mind. On the day of the surgery, I drove her to her doctor’s office, where I requested to meet with the doctor. Pet and I were received in a small conference room, with about five staff members present.

     After I expressed my concerns, the eye doctor, after contacting her personal care doctor, told me that Pet was perfectly physically qualified for the surgery.

     I wasn’t moved. I held my ground.

     “I’m not qualified to stay with her,” I asserted. “If she loses her balance and falls, I won’t be able to catch her. I know my limitations.”

   Pet was glaring at me, obviously livid.

     “Look,” I said, “I am not required to do this. I’m only her neighbor, not a professional, and I do not feel I have the competency to be her post-surgery caretaker.”

     The room went quiet.

     “You’re not her daughter?” I was asked.

     “No, I’m her friend and neighbor.”

     The staff backed off, telling Pet that they wouldn’t do the surgery.

     Five days later, Pet was hospitalized due to a stroke that paralyzed one side. When she returned home, the neighbors gave the wheel-chair bound woman as much assistance as they could, as things became worse. One day when he arrived, she answered the door wearing no clothes on top. He saw that her clothes were washed. She couldn’t care for her cats—Tom took over that task too (of course, though, not to her liking!).

     An agency finally became involved, calling her daughter to come (her daughter had just sold her house in the north, and was packing to move to a location in the deep south). The neighborhood’s meddling neighbor had her convinced that I was the enemy—until Pet’s daughter heard the neighbor dissing her and realized who the real discordant was.

     Pet moved south, and was unable to communicate, so we didn’t call. She died several years later, and her daughter asked Monte, a pastor, to do a graveside funeral.

     Every time I see the red teakettle, or use the green plastic plates, that were given to me by Pet’s daughter, I remember Pet and our unique relationship. And I miss the persnickety old woman who I had to sass in order to relate to.

          The Ohio man who killed the neighbor for lawn-walking said he was sorry, but the teenager was aware of how much he cared for the lawn, and provoked him by walking on it.

     I sometimes wonder: would Pet have gone that far if Monte had become defensive and provoked her? I hope not!

This story raises some questions.

When I was expected to care for Pet following her cataract surgery, I was put in the position of defending myself, even though I recognized my incompetency. If I had been her daughter, the expectations would not have been released.

Second, what weight should doctors apply to outside information on a patient? Our entire neighborhood was concerned about Pet. The doctor, whose office was a block away, knew us all, and knew Pet. We were persons with integrity. Why did he dismiss the observations we made?

And third, does the fact that a condition doesn’t show up on a test mean it doesn’t exist?

Respond to this post and these questions in the comment box below.


Honey’s Coming Home! Our cat must recuperate.

Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven



CAT by Brendan K.






Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

What is your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: