When a neighbor is in denial…

May 5, 2012 | 3 comments

       At the ‘Read to Me’ evening Thursday, my selection was an old (1942) article of Willard Espy’s about “The Aunt House.”  That’s what he called the Heckes Inn just up the road from us because it was run by “four inseparable and unresting sisters – Aunt Ev, Aunt Anne, Aunt Nanny and Aunt Rye.”   There were many ‘newcomers’ in the group who really weren’t sure which house I was talking about.
     “Some people call it the Bottle House,” I said.
     “You mean that one with the roof that’s falling in?”
     I cannot tell you how that stung.  Even though it’s true, it felt like someone saying something mean about an old friend.  As a matter of fact, I’ve known that house for almost all of my 76 years.  I remember the Aunts; I know the ‘kids’ who grew up there; I know their cousins.  I consider the house a family friend.
     And now it’s falling to pieces.  I’m not blind to its condition, yet people tell me about it all the time as if I hadn’t noticed – as if there is something I can do about it.  Two years ago, ‘The Annex’ had to be taken down.  It was the companion building to the Heckes Inn, built in the 1920s to house the overflow summer boarders.  It had been let go, like the house, and finally was such a hazard that it had to be dismantled.
     About that time, someone contacted me and said he’d be interested in buying the place and did the owner want to sell.  (Like, why would I know??? )  I did write the owner, Mike Gray, and asked.  I knew he had been very ill and I thought maybe, just maybe, a buyer for the house would be a welcome thought.
     “Absolutely not!” was his response.  End of discussion.
     Last spring I saw Mike again.  He doesn’t come to town very often and when he does, he keeps a low profile, but this time he came visiting.  I like Mike.  We’ve always had an easy relationship and I knew I was pushing when I asked about his roof.
     “The roof?” he responded.  “There’s nothing wrong with our roof.  It’s just fine.”
     I guess it’s a form of denial.  If Mike was a care-giver for a family member, I think I’d report him.  But, who do you report a falling-down house to?  Never mind that it’s on the historic register and is the second oldest house in Oysterville.  Never mind that everyone is concerned.  It’s not our property; not our business.
     When you live in a small community, it’s sometimes hard to know when to speak out and when to keep your own counsel.  I’ve been quiet for a long time.  We all have.  But now might be the time for an intervention…


  1. Skyler (Flora)

    Such a charming house…what a shame about the annex.


    Enjoyed your blog, Sydney.
    I have quit feeling “close” to the old house, just as I had to with the Greenman house across from Stoner’s in Oysterville. It’s been gone since the mid 1980s and was a combination family house/Swan Hotel when the folks combined the two for more boarders (like the annex). It’s for my peace of mind that I’ve pulled away from that closeness, for there had never been a time in my life when we cousins hadn’t run in and out of them both. The Greenman house was about to be demolished when Don and I happened to visit from California. We were unable to walk through for it was unsafe, with huge holes in the floor and stairway that was almost non-existent, we were told by the workers who were about to take it down. We looked in the old woodshed and I saw the ancient, once beautiful, cookstove. It was not something I wanted to witness, that demolition.
    Hopefully Judy and Pete Heckes won’t have to see that happen to their old “bottle house”, but this news doesn’t sound hopeful. Judy and I helped the owner show people through the house when there were 4 open houses in Oysterville, about 8-10 years ago. It was all painted white inside which was a huge change, but there were a few new things I liked—doors opening onto the east side deck, and the kitchen facing that same direction.
    But none of this is what I remember so well, the old maroon house with the huge kitchen with it’s stove for baking pies by the dozen for 50 to 60 to eat, roasting whole fish and beef that only Glen could hoist in and out! Now that’s what I remember, and why we pass through Oysterville without looking closely at the house that’s changed color and repair.
    When I wrote the family history I “went through” both houses, room by room, down to the kitchen drawer contents, of both the Heckes Inn and Greenman house. It was as though I were a kid again, for it’s as clear to me as ever (while now many things are gone in an instant!).

  3. Stephanie Frieze

    Does the owner have financial difficulties? Understanding why people let their places fall into the ground is beyond me. It’s happening to Viola’s house next to ours. The nephew did put in some sort of re-enforcement in the foundation last fall so maybe they will paint this summer. We have had inquiries about their selling it and received the same stonewalling–definitely not. Their mother was born there. Well why in heck do they want to let their mother’s birthplace fall to rack and ruin? And there are five of them. It seems that between them they could do more than mow the yard once per month.


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