By Elise Seyfried
“I’m gonna kill you, and I’m gonna kill your pregnant wife, and that Jesus you keep praying to!”
So screamed our neighbor Ed late one night, down in our apartment courtyard. How did we know he was referring to us? Well, I was nine months along, and we had been praying the rosary aloud every evening. You could say it was a lucky guess.
Catholics use rosary beads to count when they say multiples of certain prayers. I often used them when I was worried. I found saying lots of Hail Marys calmed me down.
When I was expecting our first baby 35 years ago, I was thrilled. But I also had many fears: fear of miscarriage, fear of labor followed by fear of the terrible twos, of the teen years, of college applications. My fears kept growing, and I needed some help with that out of control feeling.
Enter my rosary beads. During the last few months before the baby was born, my husband Steve and I said the rosary frequently. It felt like a form of holy insurance, our repeated prayers reminding (even nagging) the Almighty to protect us.
At the time, we were living in an old apartment building in Mount Airy. Our apartment had once been much larger, and at some point it was divided into two smaller dwellings. The wall separating them wasn’t terribly thick, and as a result we could hear much of what went on with our next-door neighbor Ed (and, naturally, he could hear us).
Ed was a strange one. He was home most of every day, and at night he had a constant stream of visitors, each of whom only stayed a few minutes. We thought he might be a drug dealer. We would nod to one another in passing, and for a year, that was the extent of our relationship.
One night late in pregnancy, I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep. Of course, that was the night Ed picked to host a wild party. By 3 a.m. we couldn’t stand the noise anymore. Not in the mood for direct confrontation, Steve went out in the hall, knocked on Ed’s door, then came back inside. That seemed to do the trick – it got quiet almost immediately.
Which brings us to the next night. We were sitting in the living room, when suddenly we heard our lives being threatened by neighbor Ed. In a panic, we dialed 911. Minutes passed. Ed’s tirade continued. Eventually, two officers arrived, just as Ed was running up the stairs, armed with a baseball bat. When the police confronted him, he said he’d been at softball practice. At 10 p.m., right. The policemen talked to Ed for a while, then to Steve and me, and finally to all of us together. Like a kid being forced to apologize, Ed mumbled, “I’m sorry I said that.” I was fully expecting the officers to arrest him at that point. But no, they just told him not to bother us again, and let him return to his apartment.
They then explained, “Sorry, we can’t arrest him, because he didn’t actually set foot in your apartment. He said he was angry because your husband didn’t wait for him to open the door last night and apologize for the loud party. That guy seems pretty unstable. You probably should move out as soon as you can.” And on that happy note, they left.
I went into labor two days later. All we could think of was a crying newborn baby – if that wouldn’t set Ed off, nothing would. So while I was in the hospital, Steve was frantically apartment hunting. Our son Sheridan was born, and we moved that same week. We never saw Ed again.
All these years later, I still think about Ed, and wonder what became of him. I open the newspaper sometimes, half-expecting to read that he had committed a crime (maybe with that baseball bat.) But I never find anything – not even when I Google him online. Maybe his explosion at us was a once-and-done event. Maybe Ed isn’t even his real name. Whatever; we’ll probably never know.
We’re Lutherans now, but we still pray the rosary from time to time when we’re feeling stressed. Only now, we whisper our Hail Marys. Because you never know. Somehow, some way, Ed might be listening – Ed, who showed us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the power of prayer.