For almost 20 yrs I lived in the same neighborhood not far from downtown Nanaimo,BC. ( pronounced Nan-i-mo). It was a small 2 bedroom duplex just off the main road on the alley. There were six houses between us and one of the main road that ran vertical to our street. It’s name was Albert St. The name sake of this story lived seven houses away from us, her house was facing Albert St. almost directly across from a busy corner store.
It was a non script old house with plywood covering the front windows,paint pealing away, the yard over grown but with trails of bent grass circling the home. I never really payed heed to whom ever lived there until one day I came across a small note hanging from a tree, written on it was a description of an act that was seen on the street, followed by a verse from the bible condemning the act that was viewed.
It wasn’t long after, I saw the person who was writing and leaving these notes all over the neighborhood. She was a small lady, maybe in her late 60’s, wearing (at all times) a washed out blue London Fog type overcoat, a blue green handkerchief over her hair. tied beneath her chin. She wore on her feet a noticeably too large (for her) pair of men’s Hush-puppy shoes, and always seemed to have on a pair of blue leggings. Under her Kerchief it looked like a plastic margarine lid that sat on the top of her head to hold the handkerchief off of her graying dark hair that poked out the sides. She always seemed to be in a hurry to get to where she was coming from or going to. Not one glance at anyone, she stared ahead of her or at the ground, if anybody greeted her she would totally ignore you and just keep walking.
This lady intrigued me over the years, but as the notes left on tree’s or bushes around the neighborhood dwindled, more and more seemed to be hung on her overgrown rose bushes and plants in her yard.
I started noticing not one light was ever seen on in her house when the dark came, not one iota of garbage was ever put out on garbage day and when I did see her it was the occasional bus trip from downtown and all she would have with her when returning home was a can of tuna. I made the decision of trying to make contact with this woman.
It was the middle of summer and we had made space in our small yard for a garden, I would be outside for hours tending to it and gazing at the ocean view we were so lucky to have. I had a small table and chairs on our so called patio and often I would invite neighbors over for tea, when one day “The Note Lady” went marching past, I called out to her and asked if she would like to come up and have a cup of tea with me, all I got was a polite “No thank you” and on she went. OK, now what?? My next step was to take some extra baking and go knock on her door, the door was never opened or was I acknowledged. Later that summer I was out in my garden and she went marching past again, this time I thought she couldn’t refuse some freshly picked lettuce and green beans but she flatly refused and kept going… I rarely saw her after that. The seasons soon changed to winter, cold and damp and dark all the time, still not a light on. I was really starting to question this woman and her ability to survive and how I could reach out and help her.
My friend Bernie lived down the alley, her house was backed up against “The Note Ladies”yard and very close to her house. I asked Bernie what she knew of this woman and what she divulged to me that cold day was not quite what I wanted to hear.
Bernie started telling me that the lady had lived there many, many years, her husband died and they had no children. Some nights Bernie would hear “The Note Lady” crying and sobbing and having night terrors loud enough to wake Bernie herself. She (Bernie) also tried to reach out to her and got a curt “No Thank You!” My friend also started to notice her wood pile dwindling, just a few pieces every few day’s or so, enough to mystify her. One morning quite early Bernie was looking out her window when she saw the “Note Lady” filling her arms up with Bernie’s wood, she went out and asked her if she needed more, another “No Thank You” came from the woman. Bernie never noticed anymore wood missing from her wood pile after that.
She had no way to heat her house, no electricity and no phone listed under her address. Then one evening Hubby was walking home and noticed a gang of teenagers in her yard banging on her door taunting her and calling out to her that she was a witch and should be burned at the stake! Hubby ran them off, and after he did he stuck around a bit to make sure they didn’t come back, he noticed her front door open a crack and she peaked out at him, as soon as he turned to look her way, she slammed the door! Now I was alarmed!
The next day I got out the phone book and started to search for an organization that might be able to help her, I made many phone calls and just got passed on to another sector or government office, I was getting frustrated! Day two of calls I finally made contact with a woman in the Seniors Advocacy Office she seemed quite alarmed at what I had told her, she was personally going to go this woman’s house to check on her then get back to me. She contacted me a few days later, “The Note Lady” wouldn’t let the her come into her home, said she was fine then closed the door on her! There was nothing the Advocate could do! Wow! I couldn’t believe it.
It wasn’t much longer after that I got called to Bernie’s house, she had a story to tell me, “The Note Lady”had been seen running up and down the sidewalk in front of her house and the neighbors house yelling that she smelled gas, she did this for quite some time before someone across the street at the store called the Fire Department, after they had gotten there they didn’t find any gas leak, but “The Note Lady”was so hysterical they decided to called an ambulance. They showed up and took her away…
Within one week of her being taken away, a dumpster showed up in front of her house, tons of garbage from inside was being shoveled out… Her house was condemned and torn down within 2 months and the lot was put up for sale.
I never knew her real name and I felt somewhat responsible for her spiraling mental illness but I know it wasn’t anything I had done, I tried to help her but it was way too late “The Note Lady” was gone forever. ❤
I’m sorry this was a sad story but I thought it must be told…..The photo accompanying this story is just a resemblance of what ” The Note Lady ” looked like.