Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I have a neighbor two doors down with whom I have a very close
relationship. One of our mutual friends once described it as “lurking
privileges,” which means in essence, If I am up early and need
something like half-and- half, I have the right to walk around the house
and look in a window or two and see if anyone sees us. We have
keys but don’t use them early or late. For reasons too arcane to
explain, we agreed not to text before 7 am after her mother moved in
with them (the usual aging symptoms plus plus). Yesterday the city
worked on the sewer lines outside our houses. I stayed away from
home a lot of the day. For the record, it is very hard to run zero water
(sink, shower, laundry, flushing, even washing one’s hands). The
caution was, If you do, the sewage may back up and then it is your
problem. Write the script: In a fit of partial lucidity, while my neighbor
was out, her mother remembered not to flush at her house, but found
the key and came over to mine to use the bathroom. When I got home
there was a backed-up mess in both bathrooms and the tub. Ugh Ugh
Ugh. I cleaned it up (we are talking hours not just one roll of towels).
Do I say anything or not?


Dear Disgusted:

For both the safety of your home and her mother, as well as the
integrity of the friendship, you have to say something. You can make
it short and clear, putting the burden on her not for any remediation
but for future planning. Start with: Your mother might not have
understood that what was true about flushing at your house was also
true at mine. I came home to a mess, which is all cleaned up now. It
was gross but there was no permanent damage, so let’s call that the
past. But for the future, I am concerned that if she remembers where
the key and comes in thinking that she’s in her own home and it’s
okay to do whatever she wants, there’s potential for bigger problems
down the line.



It’s like the old story of the frog not jumping out of the slowly warming
water. You friend’s mother’s decline may be accelerating and she may
be in denial about the level of daily care and supervision that is
needed. This is a simple wake-up call for you all. She should secure
your key and get her mother in for cognitive and behavioral
assessment. Better a little bathroom cleanup that a house fire or a
search party combing the neighborhood.