A Tiger Never Changes His (or Her) Stripes

The whole world has gone mad, I tell you. Mad. Mad. Mad.

When I was a kid, a millennium or so ago, old people were nice. Weren’t they? They waved at us and smiled and gave us candy or cookies and let us roll on their lawns. They listened to us jabber on about our lives, calm and peaceful. They helped us learn new tasks with patient hands and words.

Old people were nice.

So, what is wrong with my 80 – something year old neighbors that they are just the opposite?

Sure, there’s always been the crotchety old neighbor living in the giant scary house  mansion that threw rocks at the dog and shot a pellet gun at anyone who dared touch his overgrown weeds lawn. We see them in movies. Even old movies like “To Kill a Mockingbird” had the scary old crazy neighbor.

And yet, I never imagined I’d find myself living next door to them.

They’ve always been a little odd. (I’ve known them most of my life.) Mowing the lawn after dark was just their “thing”. And NO ONE was ever allowed to go inside their house, not even for a drink of water. (I now know why … ) But who knew that they would turn out to be some of the most insane obsessive a^^holes in the world?

Could we have predicted it?

I guess. I mean their kids obviously did. That’s why none of them visit. That’s why their youngest child left home never to return. Ever. But we didn’t know them well enough.

A tiger never changes his/her stripes. They can’t. They are ingrained into them, written out by the genetic code, painted on for life.

But I always thought people could. Intuitively, I have always had an overwhelming idea that people are basically good and want to do good and want to care and spread happiness around them. Every last human being a face with a big smile and a caring heart.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been proven wrong, though, just by people in my own family.

You’d think at 48 years of age with two college degrees and years of experience in life I wouldn’t still be so naive as to trust everyone I know … but I do. And then, I get hurt.

Can you get PTSD just from being hurt repeatedly by someone you trust? I’m thinking the answer is yes … because there are some people that I can’t be around, look at a photo of, or even read their name that I don’t want to run screaming from the room and put my head through the nearest concrete wall so I can hurt myself before they hurt me. It’s less painful that way.

My cousin is one such person. She’s my age. A mere six months older and I always wanted her to be my friend. She is beautiful and funny and has the best smile of anyone I’ve ever known. But … when we were kids, the six month age difference meant we couldn’t be friends because she was always “older” and she could “make the rules”. I tried anyway, accepting whatever she would give me of her time or attention. She liked my sister better because she was “older” too. Not a “baby” like me.

As teens she became a cheerleader. I wasn’t so, again, anytime we would visit them, she would leave with her friends and never even speak to me. College was the same with her even leaving me at a grocery store one time because her friend wanted to leave and I wasn’t done checking out yet.

I won’t even enumerate the things that have happened since then. Me always trying to gain an ounce of friendship from her, a kind word, one of those glorious smiles … and her raking me through the coals all over again.

She’s just like my neighbors. Tigers that can’t change their stripes.

After the past couple of weeks between her and my neighbors, I’m beginning to believe there are people that can’t/won’t change their stripes either …

… and it makes me sad.



2 thoughts on “A Tiger Never Changes His (or Her) Stripes

  1. Am enjoying your writing and empathizing with your ‘condition’. Your stories remind me of my 25th high school reunion (the first I’d attended). When I walked around to talk with everybody, the people who wouldn’t speak with me in high school – still wouldn’t. And also I’m reminded of riding in an Aid car as a medical student. The older woman was bleeding out both ends, and was lying on the stretcher trying desperately to say something to the medic in the back of the speeding ambulance. I thought, “Oh my goodness. These are her last words. She has something important which must be said.’
    She was clutching the medics arm with all her strength and saying, “I want a SINGLE (private) room!” Jeeze.

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