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Lonely old lady’s poison pen

I used to have a good relationship with an elderly neighbor, but then she started leaving me nasty letters under the door… How can I resolve this peacefully?

Our elder thinks it might be a matter for the police.

Dear EWC

My husband and I recently bought our dream home and moved in three months ago. Within a week of moving in, we started getting notes from our elderly neighbor. It started with a welcome to the building note, then notes for Christmas and New Year. This was followed by cakes and flowers. I was initially wary of replying or getting friendly (we had overbearing old neighbors at the place we had rented before and wanted to be cautious this time.) But for Christmas, I baked the old lady a cake and said hello. She was a cheerful and friendly person and came across as very warm and caring. Soon, the frequency and length of the letters started increasing. She would talk about where she went, what she did, etc. Then she had some unusual requests- she wanted me to print out a map of the country of my birth and mark all the places where I had lived in. She told me that she didn’t mean to pry, but that she was simply curious about our culture and where we were from. My husband found the request very odd. However, I convinced him that she was probably just a lonely old lady. I made two maps of where my husband and I had lived. She later sent me a message saying that she had them laminated. She continued to send letters and clipping of newspaper articles — cookery, art shows, music and other things that she knew I was interested in. I would reply when I had the time. I told her at one point that I was looking for a guitar teacher for my daughter. Next thing I know, she finds me the best teacher in the city.

Then came the most unusual offer — she said that she wanted to pay for my daughter’s music fees for a term. I sent her a very polite reply declining. I told her that I was very grateful but I couldn’t accept. The next letter that was shoved under my door had a very nasty tone to it. She told me that I shouldn’t think too much of myself, that I should learn to be humble, that life wasn’t fair or fun and that she hoped my marriage was solid and not like “engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.” I found it all to be completely uncalled for and was shocked at her reaction to my polite no to her offer. After that, I stopped replying to her letters. She kept pressing, asking me to reconsider her offer. My husband, in the meantime, was furious and wanted to talk to her face to face. I told him that confrontation was best avoided. She has not threatened me or my children anyway but I feel panic when I get out of my house. The other day I saw her and I tried to act like all was fine. I wished her good morning but she was cold. I started having panic attacks every time I passed by my front door thinking that there would be a letter shoved under it. We put a barrier under the door. Now, after a lull of four days, she has started dropping letters to us in the letterbox. My friends think I should go to the police. But I feel bad. I want to resolve this peacefully. There seems to be no way she will leave us alone. There has been no face to face confrontation or talk about this. Somewhere, I feel bad for her because she is a lonely old lady. But at the same time, I am afraid of her. What should I do?

Terry-Anne replies

Thank you for writing to Elder Wisdom Circle. I agree that your neighbor’s behavior does seem overly friendly. I think it would be helpful if you spoke with other neighbors regarding her behavior. They may have the most information that would be helpful to you. They may have had similar experiences and may have the best advice.

I would also suggest speaking to the local police department. They may also have information that could be helpful in explaining her behavior. It’s not necessarily illegal but it certainly could be addressed as harassment. If it becomes even worse you may be able to have her served with an order to “Cease and Desist” her bothersome behavior.

Keep in mind that we teach people how to treat us. Certainly, in the beginning, you were gracious and kind and that was what you expected in return. My advice is to continue to ignore her as best you can. She needs to see that you won’t conform to her wishes or requests. I do think you should keep her letters so that you have proof of harassment when you go to the local police. If she begins to do things like destroying your property, then you do need to report her.

I hope my advice is helpful and that you will contact Elder Wisdom Circle again if you need us. We are always here.

Letter #: 419041
Category: Friendship

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