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Grandson says what was done to backyard is form of ‘elder abuse’
letter to editor

Editor, Manteca Bulletin,

In 2006 my grandmother became a widow, losing her husband of 50 plus years. My grandfather was not himself in his final years with us, as he battled dementia. After about a year after his passing, my grandma decided that the home in Manteca she lived in for, again 50 plus years, had become too much for her to take care of. As a family, we decided that there was no way we were letting her go into a nursing home. I believe she was 77 at the time. My aunt and uncle decided that an apartment, that was literally 30 steps away from their home, would be most suitable.  This way, my grandma could still be independent, but my aunt and uncle would be within an ear shout if anything should happen.

My grandma is now 89 years old and still lives in the same apartment. As always, her neighbors love her and the kids always come to her door for candy. My wife, 2 sons and I actually lived right next door to her two years ago, as we were transitioning from selling our first home and looking for a new one. The building is well maintained and besides a few issues here and there, as any apartment building may have, it was a cozy little spot. The 10 foot by 5 foot back yard area was mainly weeds and dirt and the occasional neighbor beer bottle, but it was the tenant’s responsibility to keep it well kempt. 

Well a few years back, my step father gave my grandma’s backyard a complete makeover by planting vines, plants, flowers, laying down bark and utilizing an old focal point in her old backyard, a stone bird bath that she has owned for a long time. And though if you asked him, my step father would say it doesn’t hinder his function, he has nerve damage in his dominate hand which makes it impossible for him to grip. All this work was not easy for him. So hundreds of dollars later and hours upon hours of work, my grandma had a nice place to sit and relax and enjoy the beauty of her new backyard. Here and again, it would get a little overgrown, but between the 6 of us family members we would make sure it was trimmed back to get it looking nice again.

About two weeks ago, my grandma received a letter from the property manager stating that in two week’s time, workers would be there power washing and painting the building. They will also be there tomorrow, to start prep work and to please move all items away from the building that may be in their way. How do you give tenants one day notice to move their items, especially if they are elderly or work all day?

Nevertheless, they were there the next day knocking on her door. She opened it and gave them permission to look in the backyard. They informed her that some of the vines were touching the building and the bird bath needed to be moved. She told them to do what they needed to do, as she hardly goes out there anymore.

I’m not sure how my aunt or uncle came to discover it, either by a visit or phone call from my grandma, but the workers had completely destroyed her backyard. The vines were torn out of the ground, the plants were gone, the flowers absent, the bark scattered all around. All that remained intact was the unmoved bird bath and a neighbor’s beer bottle. When I heard the news my blood boiled and immediately went to see for myself. As I opened the back sliding door, my heart skipped a beat as I stooped down to pick up the beer bottle.

I guess my aunt had called the property manager who did not offer her an apology or compensation, but told her Mrs. (Anon) told the workers to do what they needed to do.

My whole family was livid, besides my step farther, which surprised me. But nobody wanted to push the issue as they feared retaliation such as my grandma getting kicked out of her apartment.  But that is not who I am. And instead of calling the property owner or building manager and probably losing my cool, I decided to use the media to inform the residents of Manteca and its surrounding communities, that this is elder abuse. Not your typical abuse of stealing, physical  or fraud, but certainly taking advantage of an elderly lady who lives alone in order to make ones job easier. They had no regards to anyone but themselves and this job and did not even think twice about destroying this gift that my step father worked so hard on and spent a lot of money. And in a way, that is stealing. Be it, the flowers were not in bloom and its true beauty was not in bloom, you would have to be from another planet not to know the difference between plants and weeds. 

So shame on all those involved. If you have any conscience what so ever, you need to correct this. I have been kind enough to not include the names of anyone involved, but if you are reading this, you know who you are, in fact, I’ll make sure you get a copy. What you did is wrong and you need to make it right.


Kevin Johnson