No One To Wave Goodbye

And so, in spite of the numerous opportunities for social interaction, the residents on my street, an integral part of Olde Dundas, keep their neighbours at arms’ length. Except for a friendly greeting, readily assisting an elderly couple with snow clearing once in a while, or helping with a broken tree branch, there is very little close social interaction. Friendships do develop in some instances because of mutual interests. But as far as I can tell, there is a scarcity of comings and goings between neighbours because of friendship.

Fairly recently an elderly man died within a week of becoming ill. Few neighbours knew that he had even become ill, and fewer still, knew, or cared that he had died. No funeral took place. The modern trend today is to forego funerals and have an informal “celebration“ of a person’s life. Few, if any, neighbours attended. Why would they? After all, except to wave hello, no neighbours really knew him.

Two years earlier an elderly couple died within a short time of each other. As a recent arrival on the street I did become close friends with them, partly because we were all retirees, and so I visited them frequently. We enjoyed each other’s company and did things together. When they died I attended both celebration-of-life gatherings. Their immediate relatives attended, but I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of neighbours who were there from our street where they had lived for many years.

After nine years of living just a few doors away a couple in their mid fifties sold their house and moved away. They had not shown any interest in their neighbours and so kept to themselves. An invitation to attend a wine and cheese party at my house to celebrate my new sunroom went unanswered. They seldom acknowledged a wave of the hand or a nod from the car. When they moved away it was as if they had never existed. No one was sad to see them go because no one cared.

The house next to mine exchanged hands three times since I have moved to Dundas ten years ago. Two bachelor brothers owned it briefly. They sold and moved away two years later never to be heard from again. The new owners, a woman with a teenage daughter, stayed less than a year and made no attempt to make neighbourhood friends. She sold to a young couple who still live there. Although pleasant enough, the couple has made no attempt to become well acquainted, make small talk for more than a few minutes, or make friends.

Many of the people who own houses on my street will live out their lives until they move or die, as strangers. Like the bachelors next door, the woman with the teenage daughter, and the neighbours who left after nine years, there will be no farewell parties to wish them well. The songbirds will keep singing in the treetops at dawn. The freight train will lumber through town on its way to somewhere. And sleepy Olde Dundas will slowly awaken from its slumber to begin another day. Neighbours will no doubt peer out of their windows as the moving van pulls away, but there may be no one to wave goodbye.


No One To Wave Goodbye

Dr. James F. McDonald is a retired elementary school principal who lives in Dundas, ON.
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