I can’t help but think of the phrase, ‘what goes around comes around’ as I write this one. In a way I feel it applies. I won’t mention any names and I'll leave out some details so I won’t feel guilty about ‘allegedly slandering’ anyone, which could be a serious issue. Apologizing to a whole family including its extended members could be a strenuous affair as we'd found out from this family who had to apologize to half a neighborhood.
There's an old guy who was once always smiling and saying nice things and very polite with everyone. He'd tell us how he'd buy only good fishes, the best meats and fresh vegetables for his dear wife who was very choosy about her food. But we were to learn much later he wasn't such a nice person after all. One day, after his wife had passed away, he was trying to clear away some of the wife's things from a storage space in the air-well ledge. While backing down on the ladder, he lost his balance and fell off and landed on his head hitting something sharp. (The superstitious would say that the vengeful wife came (back) and gave the ladder a push.) Bleeding profusely, he was carried into a neighbor's car and sent to hospital. The hardy old guy survived somehow. But he's never been the same again, or so it seems. From being a 'Dr Jekyl' he became 'Mr. Hyde' (from Robert Louis Stevenson's novel: Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde).
There were those days after he'd fully recovered from the fall, he'd wander, tottering around the market place in the morning. Then when he got near a group of ladies, he'd pretend to fall down suddenly. Those kind-hearted ladies nearby quickly grab him and helped him up. But then, after a few repeat performances with different ladies, they started to compare notes about him. They discovered his habit of falling down only when ladies were around and when they helped him up, his hands groped them in the wrong places. After that, the ladies avoided him like the plague.
He then became an outright dirty old man, speaking dirty, making propositions and staring lewdly at neighborhood ladies who took to his fancy. He'd spend his days walking the neighborhood for exercise and the rest of the time sitting at home rattling his iron grills whenever he heard wifey doing something out on the porch. I thought we'd be spared the embarrassment of his lewdness or dirty talk on account that we used to treat him and his family pretty well. (I'd even installed a ceiling extractor fan for his spare-room when wifey heard his wife complained about the heat and stuffiness in that room.) I continued to treat him with due respect, but wifey avoided him as best as she could. In fact he even address me and wifey by name. But one day wifey told me he'd called her name out loud and said some unmentionables attributing to her person while I was away at work. The next day while I was at home, he said the same things again. Perhaps he forgot I was around.
While wifey got on the phone and told one of his daughters who lived nearby about the situation, I stood out on the front porch and gave him a high decibel earful about how I used to respect him as a senior citizen, but since he'd stopped respecting us, I now refuse to respect him. I told him in no uncertain terms that his actions were totally shameless. He remained seated in his rattan chair on his front porch and stared blankly at nothing. Somehow I knew he heard what I said. There wasn't a pip from him the rest of the day. It seems his children weren’t aware of his hearing capabilities. They used to yell for him at his front gate but he always pretended to be hard of hearing. But of course, they’re now aware of his sickly behavior owing to the countless complaints they’d received from friends and neighbors.
That afternoon, a whole gang of his children from out of state showed up at his house. The son (and a grandson, whose size would suit nicely for him to moonlight as a club bouncer) came over to my house and apologized profusely for the old man's behavior. That was when the son told of his hard time he had with his father, the thrashings he received from him when he was a teenager, and how he had to rush home once to prevent his poor mother from being battered to within an inch of her life.
The old man was aware of what was going on. He showed up in my house and started telling us that he'd done nothing wrong and we'd been saying bad things about him. But when he began to get too loud I had to tell him to leave. The son and grandson (the 'bouncer') then bundled him out of my house. Before they could break into fisticuffs, the son-in-law showed up, grabbed the old man and led him back into his house. They were joined later by another daughter who also apologized to another lady neighbor who had to bear some of the worst profanities because their house was just next door to the old man's.
The ambassadors did a pretty good job and we were soon appeased and the episode ended in a jovial manner. The daughter even remarked that the next time they come to visit her father they'd have to hide their heads in paper bags to spare themselves the embarrassment.
We'd try as best as possible to avoid the old guy. He'd sometimes walk by the front gate, stop and stare into the house. He never talked to us and we wouldn’t speak to him anymore. Wifey would stay indoors until he's out of sight. I used to pray that she'd be protected from harm in any form from him. But now I changed my views. Instead, I now pray for him to somehow, be spared the prolonged agony of a lonely and tormented mind. He could actually stay with any of his children, but he insists on living alone. Judging from the way they had to handle him, I can understand why.
I don’t believe any harm would come to my dear one at home. Besides, the neighborhood people are all aware of this ‘menace’ and everyone does keep an eye on him. We have the phone numbers of his children, including that of the ‘bouncer’ grandson. They ask that we call anyone of them immediately if he gets ‘gatai’ again. I do feel sorry for the old guy, but this is the best I could do.