Right, the hard bit. This is going to be part story, part brain dump, part me working it through right here as I write. Which is why I’ve been doing things like cleaning the inside of the fridge and suggesting a dinner that I have to cook – I don’t want to go there, and I don’t think I have enough time to go as far as I need to. Well, we’ll see.
Sunday, iDJ took Neko for a walk, as he tries to do about every day and always does on the weekends, weather permitting. I was huddled out back reading in the sun and wind, wrecking my skin in determination not to lose a rain-free Sunday by wasting it indoors.
When he returned, he came right out to me and said, “You’re never going to believe this.”
“Oh dear. What now?” I said, expecting another tale of how some idiot tried to pet Neko and scared the hell out of her.
“You’re never going to believe this.” Now I’m really looking at him and can see he’s pretty upset. I think maybe someone nearly ran them over – again.
“You’re never going to believe this. I was just followed and shouted at by Mr Smith (false name) in the church yard!”
Hubby was on his way home and was across the street from the church. He was waiting at the crosswalk when the church sacristan drove up, saw him, pulled over, got out, and went up the church steps to stand at the top. When iDJ and dog crossed and approached the steps, Mr Smith shouts at him, ‘Don’t you dare bring that dirty dog into these grounds.’
Hubby has his iPod on, takes out the earbuds…
‘Excuse me? You can’t stop me, I’m a member of this community and I’ve every right.’
‘I don’t see YOU at Mass! You dare bring that dirty dog in! I’ve seen you, desecrating the graves with the dirty thing.’
‘Excuse me, my dog doesn’t wee or poo in here and the rare time she did, I cleaned it up.’
‘You’re a rotten thing. Get out!’
Mr Smith is blocking the steps a bit, so Neko, to avoid the strange shouting man, jumps up into a small grassy area that has the graves of important clergy. She’s not scared any more than usual, though.
‘You see, you see! Would you desecrate your mother’s and father’s grave like that, you dirty thing? How dare you! Get out, get out!’
Hubby ignores him as best he can, trying to stay calm so the dog stays calm too, and walks around the side of the church as we always do – it’s paved, and then there’s a wall that starts off close to the ground but gets higher and is about 2 1/2 feet wide. Neko loves to walk up there. This is her routine and has been for over two years. They are followed, with more shouts, and eventually threats when hubby has had enough of being polite in the face of this bizarre attack. This what hubby wrote right afterward, when I said it needed documented right away:
‘Get out you rotten thing! Clear off. I’ll make sure you do!’
‘Mister Smith, it’s not very Christian of you to chase me out of here.’
‘Get out, get out, I’ll make you!’
(trying to control the dog walking on the wall with all this going on)
(he runs up to me)
Get out, get off!
Mr Smith, would you ever fuck off!
Oh that’s it you rotten thing, I’ll, I’ll… (fists clenched & raised)
Go on then, try it or just fuck off & leave me alone. You’re a disgrace, Smith!
I’ll I’ll…! You’re not even worth punching!
Get out you rotten thing I’ll I’ll…
Go on, if I ever see you in here again…!
And by then, hubby was out of the grounds and into the parking lot.
Wow, and ow.
Now, a little back story – this isn’t the first time Mr Smith has said something about the dog to iDJ, and has given me very nasty looks while talking under his breath as I walked past with her. He’s never said anything to me outright, though. I can imagine as the man in charge of mowing and keeping the grounds neat and clean, he probably gets quite incensed when he finds a dog turd or three on holy ground. But they aren’t her turds, never have been or will be. We don’t even walk her on the grass at all after the previous incidents, just to keep any hard feelings from increasing.
But…hubby looks distinctive with his long blonde hair. And the dog – well, no one has a dog like her in town, not even close. We live behind the church, and the safest and best way to get to the main street is via the church. Just like everyone else does, we walk through. So Smith sees us ‘more’ than he sees other dog walkers, because we stand out… I can get that. But he has not one shred of evidence we’ve dirtied the grass – and even if Neko took a big steaming dump right in front of Smith, it wouldn’t be an excuse for this sort of reaction on his part!
iDJ rang his mother, at my behest, for advice on who to talk to about this. She said to let it go! No. Can not. He walked up to the priest’s house but he wasn’t home, so when iDJ returned he rang the priest and left a brief message about the upsetting altercation he had with Mr Smith. He even admitted to using bad language, as he felt a bit bad about it despite the provocation. Yes, we are potty-mouthed, but not to our elders.
Neither of us could get it out of our minds for the rest of the evening, though. It was just too much, too surreal, too weird, too upsetting – in ways that I am still trying to come to grips with.
What upset iDJ the most was being accused of ‘desecrating’ the graves. That really hurt him, to think anyone would think him capable of that. To hear that someone thinks our dog’s feet on grass next to a grave is a desecration.
This is the part that upset me the most: because we don’t go to Mass we are ‘dirty’ and can’t even WALK on ‘holy ground?’ Hubby is born and bred in this town, and did his time as an altar boy. The idea that because we aren’t warming a pew every week we are somehow not part of the community? That we are less than those that do? That we aren’t welcome in our own town: the place I chose to live and the place hubby chose not to leave like so many of his generation did. No, I have never been a Catholic. I didn’t get married in the church, or any church. I attend for weddings and funerals, but I don’t kneel and I don’t cross myself and I don’t know the rosary and I for sure do not take communion. Me doing these things would, in my mind, be making a mockery of the people who believe these things have meaning. I attend when I do because this is my community, but I cannot and will not participate because it would be false to me and everyone around me.
Hubby is no longer Catholic himself – but ‘legally’ the Church won’t let him go. So for him participation would be forced and unpleasant, and just as false. Out of respect for ourselves and others, we don’t go to Mass. For this, we are dirty and told we cannot even walk on church property?
I don’t feel welcome here any longer. That’s the short version of what is in my head. I still can’t seem to put what I feel into any logical box where I can study it.
As I said to hubby last night, because I wrote this last night and didn’t have time to finish: we are outsiders, we know this. You and I, we’ve always been outsiders. I just didn’t expect it to hurt so much to have a reminder thrown at us in such a way, at our age, after this amount of time, and by an elderly man who has seen you grow up.
And… I walked into a conversation at work on Friday that didn’t bother me at the time, but after the church incident it is another layer of discomfort. My supervisor, as I opened the door to the office, was laughingly shouting across the room to the others, ‘Did you hear what Spiders did?’ I of course said, “What did I do?” and she quickly and obviously covered herself with an answer that wasn’t true. I can’t imagine what I have done that would be a source of office gossip that couldn’t be said to my face… which means, to me, that yet again I am being misunderstood, this time in ways I can’t even conceive of as I just do not think that way. It’s not a big deal – the church incident is much worse – but as I said it is adding to my muddled mind.
Next time: what happened with Mr Smith the next day. I’m going to leave you all to stew like we did, waiting for some sort of action, resolution, anything… Maybe you’ll see why I couldn’t sleep well Sunday night.