One Woman’s Lament

I got a call yesterday from an older Westport woman. Her voice shook.

Around 11:20 the night before, she said, a flickering light bulb burst into flames. Panicked, she called 911.

Fire DepartmentAlmost immediately, police officers and firefighters arrived — sirens blazing, lights blaring. The fire chief came too. All were wonderful. The fire was put out. They stayed to help her clean up, and calm her down.

But that’s not why she called me.

She’s lived on her private road for 51 years. She raised her kids here, in a friendly, social, tight-knit neighborhood.

But despite all the commotion Friday night, she said, no one came over to see what was going on.

And no one called Saturday, to see how she was.

Several years ago, her son gave her contact information to neighbors. He asked them to check in on her, from time time — and in an emergency, do what they could.

Of course, they said. We’re happy to do that.

This weekend though, no one did.

“Last night was very scary,” she said, hours after the fire.

“But now I’m more hurt than scared.”

20 responses to “One Woman’s Lament

  1. Janette Kinnally

    Give her my name and info and have her call me. I will check in on her from time to time. My parents (who have lived in Westport for over 50 years) now live with us so they have their children to make sure they are ok. But I understand older folks in this community who do not have family near by need to know we are there for them and they are not forgotten! We care!

  2. Joanne Romano

    It’s a scary worl for an elderly person living alone. I take care of elderly people and believe me they aren’t asking for your right arm. While everyone is so caught up in their own world you forget the women down the street or the man next door who you see occasionally getting their mail or tending their garden is just as important as the vibrant neighbor who drops in for coffee or has your same interests. They just need a proverbial hug sometimes, a wave, a smile and a check up occasionally . It’s really not too much to ask.

  3. Robin Polin

    Dan, send me her contact info. I’ll check on her from time to time. I think people are hesitant to get too involved with others. Maybe it’s a privacy thing but I think also it could have been her specific neighborhood because my neighborhood is wonderful along with so many neighborhoods here in Westport. But this story made me feel so sad for this sweet woman so let me know what I can do to help.

  4. Hugh McCann

    My mother is 92 and has lived in Westport since 1959.
    Our family surrounds her with support.
    Yet there are times when she is alone in her rambling split level house.
    We rely on neighbors to fill in the gaps. Hopefully.
    Thank you all who stepped up and volunteered to check in on the lady mentioned in this blog.

  5. Bonnie Bradley

    This story illustrates just one of the dozen reasons why seventeen years ago I moved an hour away from Westport to Litchfield County without looking back. In spite of its storied “charm,” the only Westport I regret is that of my childhood. My Bradley family had lived in Westport since the early 1800s and I was the last one to live there.

  6. That’s a heart-breaking story about how cold and anonymous society has become. Email me her name and number, Dan, and I will make sure my children and I visit her this summer and bring her flowers and warm wishes and check on her from time to time. Kristan Hamlin

  7. Amy Saperstein

    Hi Dan,
    I would also also be happy to check in on her – I always thought it would be great to connect older people living alone with younger people in town.
    If she is open to visits from new people, please me her name and number. My kids and I are home this summer and would be happy to visit as well.

  8. I am sending the contact info of all who have volunteered to this woman. She may not respond to all — she does not want to be overwhelmed. But she is grateful to all who have offered to help.

  9. Believe it or not, Dan, this ties into the need for more pedestrians, bike riders & a safe walking community. We have big yards, busy lives, and cars we use to go, go go.
    Communities that are considered livable, bike able, walkable are more neighbor friendly. Why? A slower pace, a chance to notice things & people, an interest in connecting to the community via recreation, shopping, or exploring.
    Does anyone under the age of 20 even remember “checking in on neighbors”? I remember neighbors checking in, sharing veggies & gardens, popping over for coffee, taking evening strolls together.
    Every person in our community matters- their safety & well being- the young, the old, and everyone in between.

  10. Tell this nice lady to check out the Senior Center — she’ll connect with other people in her situation and most likely get some good ideas/support to make her life less isolated. She is not alone.

  11. Insightful and telling about “us” in general.

  12. Carolyn Doan

    Our family would love to help her when she needs anything.
    The Doans 203 227-5650

  13. Cathy Barnett

    It might be helpful if she got a Life Alert. It would be helpful if Dan’s bloggers checked up on her. However it’s often difficult for a senior citizen to cope with stresses like accidental fires, power outages, etc, especially when they might fall down. This isa major worry for seniors. My mom had to use her Life Alert when she fell in the shower several times and first responders came immediately.

  14. Polly Temple

    Give her my number. I’ll be happy to check on her anytime.

  15. Elaine Marino

    My family was fortunate to have become very close to our former neighbor, Ruby Brotherton. She lived next door to us until 2005. Early one winter morning – about 2:00 am – Ruby called us in a panic. I could barely understand her due to a loud commotion in the background. I dashed over and realized that her heating system had broken down. I called her oil company (won’t mention the name) but was told they would charge several hundred dollars for the call, and they could not come right away. I called the oil company that my family uses (Gault) and explained how Ruby lived alone, and her heat was no longer working. Even though Ruby was not a customer, could they help? I told the dispatcher we would pay the charges incurred. The kind Gault technician arrived within 10 minutes, and fixed the problem in no time.

    Last year, Gault was at our house for a service call. The technician asked, “Do you remember me? I was the one who fixed your neighbor’s furnace in the middle of the night.” I told him how grateful we were that he was able to help Ruby in such a time of need.

    “It takes a village” to look after the vulnerable elderly. Gault didn’t even charge for that middle of the night service call, which is why we are loyal customers for 18 years and counting.

  16. lorraine harrison

    this for me is not about the ederly only… there does not seem to be in general a concern for neighbors or a sense of community… I had an ambulance come to my house and not one neighbor called to see what happened.. I even had the police bring a key to one of my neighbors to let my dogs out if I was hospitalized.. I called that neighbor to say I did not need their help with the dogs but I never got a call.. In Westchester when I left my disabled car on the road near my house.. 3 neighbors checked on me.. There are always those who are caring such as those
    who offer to check on this woman but they are not the usual.. sad.. this is not a great community as Dan Woog would like you to believe.

    • Hi Lorraine,

      Thanks for commenting. Obviously, there are plenty of good people here as well. Just check the comments above yours, for folks who are reaching out to this woman.

      As for your comment about my wanting to believe this is a great community — I try to highlight the good and the bad (as, obviously, this post about the woman shows). There are plenty of great things going on here — and some areas we can do better in. That’s true of any community, probably — but it’s ours, so we have to work at it here.

  17. Jann Colabella

    this story is so sad! I’m here for her. Sounds like Grove Point Road