Sunday, July 4, 2010

Good-bye to an old friend

I've lived in my house almost 19 years.  For that entire time Mr. P has been my neighbor.  From my perspective, he has always been retired.  When I first moved in he and his wife welcomed me to the neighborhood.  My first summer in the house he jokingly told me that I was supposed to mow BOTH yards as it was easier to turn around on my driveway.  I was mowing with a reel lawn mower as I was too broke to afford anything powered.  The though of mowing another lawn was daunting. They told me later that they had assumed that I was a lawn fanatic because that was what I used.  After that was cleared up I would occasionally be surprised by the sound of a power mower in the front yard.  Gradually this evolved into a trade of services, he mowed the grass in both yards and I shoveled the snow.  Eventually I inherited a power lawn mower and occasionally mowed everything.  But when his mower was stolen, he got a key to my garage and used mine.  This worked out well for both of us.  I took care of the heavy snow, lawn chemicals, sometimes replanting the lawn and maintained the fences, and he kept the grass cut, front and back yards plus the alley.

Somewhere along the way, his wife passed away.  They had a pie cherry tree in the back yard, and I was given permission to pick all I wanted in exchange for the occasional pie.  When the tree died, Dad and I cut it down and I replaced it with a new one.

Every spring it is covered with masses of white blooms, and come summer, if Jack Frost misses us, masses of sour cherries.  This was taken this spring.  I picked over 2 gallons of cherries from it and never had to climb a ladder

We had created mutual gardens, turning the strip of ground between the houses into a garden with a meandering path, back to a hidden bench.  He told me that many mornings he went out there with a cup of coffee and enjoyed the garden.  I grew tomatoes  and shared the bounty.  And would typically share corn and green beans from mom's garden too. 

We watched out for each other, taking turns watching the houses  and getting the mail when one or the other went out of town.  We discovered a mutual love for Scotland, after one of my trips to in the late 90's. He and his friend Nancy belonged to a group of Scottish country dancers and I was invited to the annual Robert Burns dinners.  When I had a stroke in 2000, he checked in on me every day until I was released to go back to work.  When I was sick this winter, he called to see how I was doing.  When he was diagnosed with diabetes, I made sure to check in to see how he was doing.  Sometimes when his numbers were high, we went on walks to burn some of it off.  Many mornings I would see him out walking his dog Rosie when I left for work.

Mr. P turned 80 last fall.  For at least the last 15 years, he hasn't had to shovel snow, or worry about how he was going to get the car out, because I took care of that. When I got sick, I made arrangements with another neighbor to make sure that his walks were cleared, and he parked in my driveway for two reasons.  One to make my house look occupied and two because it meant that he could get his car out in the snow to go wherever he wanted.  But his kids suddenly had to deal with the fact that their father needed a bit of help in the winter.
But this spring his children decided that he could no longer stay by himself and that he would have to move in with his son about an hour away.  So this morning a moving truck showed up, loaded up his furniture and his daughters took him and his dog away.  All told, it took less than an hour.  I barely got a chance to hug him good-bye.

I know that he didn't want to go.  And I don't think that he knew it would be happening so soon.  We had been making plans on Friday night about how we were going to manage the lawn care this year.  He had decided that he no longer was strong enough to mow, and it's not my favorite chore, so we were going to hire my niece to mow it about once a week, at a cost of about five dollars per lawn.  We had her plant flowers in his yard on Thursday night, and I was training a mandevilla vine to climb his porch posts.  We were debating what color of hanging basket I was going to create for his porch this weekend.  All of that has gone by the wayside.  (Although his daughter thinks I should still take care of lawn.)

He had lived in this neighborhood for about fifty years.  He will be missed.