When I was a child of the seventies, living on a cul-de-sac, playing hide and seek and running around barefoot all summer we had some interesting neighbors. I didn't know this at the time but Mrs. S was a battered woman and not the only one we lived around. Mrs. L was an alcoholic. There were a few normal neighbors. The I's were a lovely family whose daughter babysat for me and my brother. I was very good friend's withe the A's daughter and we had many sleep overs. And then there were the P's. The P's were super-neighbors, at least that's how they seemed if you were a child of the seventies. I don't recall what kind of day job Mr. P had but, in his spare time, he invented things. Not goofy amateurish things but innovative machines that turned into patents that are still being used to this day. The man was a genius. I learned about the FDIC $100k insurance limit because of the P's. One day Mr. P got a check so big, for one of his inventions, that he had to go from bank to bank depositing $100k at a time so his money would be insured. After one deposit he came back into the bank and asked if they would validate his parking. When they said "No" he promptly closed his account and took that $100k to another bank. That Bank Manager was very sad. When Mr. P bought a car he got all the way to the point of signing for it when he stopped and said "Where's my discount?" "What discount" said the salesman. "Well," said Mr. P. "You put your dealership logo on the back of my car without my permission. I figure that kind of advertising must be worth at least $30 a month." The dealership removed the logo from the car.
My favorite memories of the P's have to do with their cool house. They were the only ones on the block with a pool. They had the pool and a pool house built before they moved in. We used to ride our bikes around the giant dirt hole before the pool came in. Mr. P was a Pepsi junkie. I'm not talking about your average soda addiction. I mean Mr. P LIKED Pepsi. A Pepsi truck would actually make a U-turn on our street, park and drop off about 4-6 cases of Pepsi every other week. The P's opened an arcade for a while and when it closed they just brought the pinball air hockey machines home to sit in the garage. I can tell you that was the best summer ever. We would go to the P's to swim, play pinball and drink Pepsi for hours and never need so much as a quarter to do it. We just walked across the street the best house in the world. I mean who could ask for better neighbors?! My parents were good friends with the P's. They used to play bridge late into Saturday nights together. When a new babysitter brought a bunch of friends over and started a party it was Mr. P who came over, told her off and brought us to his house where Mrs. P gave us home made cake and let us watch Love Boat. They were nice people.
We eventually moved away when my Dad got a promotion. Our families exchanged Christmas cards but we eventually lost touch with the P's until about 10 years ago. Mom was reading her morning paper, as she does every morning, and came across an article about a Mr. P who had been convicted of some sort of sex crime and was going to jail. Mom couldn't believe it but the details were awfully close to the Mr. P we used to know. She decided to call Mrs. P to check in and see how they were doing. Mrs. P answered the phone and began crying immediately after recognizing Mom's voice. Poor Mrs. P. It seems Mr. P decided to show his grandsons some x-rated videos and teach them how to masturbate. I know, it's gross and inapproriate and criminal. Let's just say Mr. P sons and the State of California frown upon what he did. It was all true and Mr. P was going to jail for about 10 years. Mom went to lunch with Mrs, P a few times but so much time had passed and they didn't have much in common anymore so they again drifted apart. We would often think of them while driving past the trailer park Mrs. P now lives in since we pass it on the way to my brother's house. We also wonder how Mr. P is doing. He wasn't in the best of health and we wondered if he was even alive or not. We also know that pedophiles don't exactly do well in prison. We hear they are the lowest of the low in there. I'm sure these past years have been very difficult for the P's but what could we do?
Nowadays the most difficult thing Mom and Dad are having to deal with is the hassle of having their house redecorated. (Well, to be fair, Mom had some vision trouble but her health is otherwise very good as is Dad's.) The stucco has been removed from the ceiling, the walls have been painted and carpet and plantation shutters are about to be installed. The hardest thing Mom is going through is the fact that she hates the high gloss white paint the painter's put on her shutters and doors. She was pacing around very upset about what to do about the despised shutters the other night. She didn't sleep much but was getting ready for her day the following morning when the phone rang. It was an automated voice requesting a collect call from a prison somewhere asking if she'd accept from Mr. P. Here it's important to understand my mother. Mom and I tend to like the off beat crazy folks of the world. We don't think those folks should have to hide. Maybe it's a Southern attitude, you know, bring out your crazies and seat them in the parlor with the rest of the family. We also happen to be very curious people. Needless to say, Mom couldn't resist a call like that. Curiosity won out and she quickly accepted the collect call. She immediately asked when Mr. P would be getting out and how his health was. Turns out he's had a couple of bypasses and his diabetes is a problem but he was getting out this Monday, that was why he was calling. Mrs. P recently moved because she lived too close to a school. Registered sex offenders cannot live within a certain distance of schools. When she got her new phone set up it had a bock on it that he couldn't get through. He needed to speak with Mrs. P to give her instructions on how and where to pick him up on Monday. Mom said she'd call Mrs. P and have her take the block off her phone so Mr. P could call her tomorrow. She also told him that if he had any more trouble calling Mrs. P that he could call Mom and she'd pass along any messages or instructions he might have. Mom said she actually felt sorry for him, like he didn't get to talk to people much and he was hesitant to hang up the phone, but what do you say? Again, it's all very sad. What Mr. P did was wrong and God only knows what else he did in his life but when it's a person you know only as a good neighbor from many, many years ago it's hard to get your head around the whole thing. Mostly we feel bad for Mrs, P. What a nightmare she has lived through. I was proud of my Mom for being so open minded. It can't be easy to get a long lost friend to accept a collect call from a prison. Mr. P never would have gotten a call through Dad, not because Dad hates him but, because Dad would have heard that automated voice and would have hung up before he knew what it was about. Mom said she would have felt terrible if Dad had hung up on the message and the P's thought Mom and Dad hated them forever when it was really just automated voices that dad hates.
Part of me wants to know what exactly put Mr. P behind bars. The other part of me just wants to remember him as a quirky, Pepsi drinking super genius who used to be the nice man living across the street with his nice family.
When Mom started freaking out about the super-shiny-glossy-white shutters I said "Calm down! It's not like you have to go spring your pedophile husband from the clink on Monday." Mom just looked at the shutters and, without a trace of irony, said "I don't know. Glossy white shutters are pretty bad."
Mom, I love you, but you're loopy.