This morning TheDad and I are on our way to a funeral in our old neighborhood.
When we bought our first home, we were one of only two or three young families on the block. Most of our neighbors were retired military. Although it was hard not to have kids around for Big Brother to play with–and I didn’t know anyone else with kids, since we were brand-new to the area code, we had lovely neighbors.
The people across the street, with the well-tended home, were “Mr. John” and “Miss Martha” to Big Brother. Mr. John had served over 25 years in the Marines, including deployments during two wars. He was in his late sixties by the time we moved in to the neighborhood.
Every day, Mr. John inspected every inch of his yard and sidewalk, sweeping up leaves and bits of trash. He always had a friendly word as I wandered by with the stroller, taking Big Brother and, later, Middle Sister, for a walk around town.
The only things that were ever out of place in his immaculately-groomed yard were the plastic Easter eggs–filled with pocket change and dollar bills–that he strewed around every Easter before his grandkids came for dinner. In the fall, a leaf would barely hit the ground before Mr. John had swept it up.
TheDad has always looked forward to their Christmas card, which is less a card than a booklet filled with inspirational stories and poems. After receiving it, he’d give them a call and see how they were doing. He’d also call after every snowstorm–and once or twice he just drove to the old neighborhood to help Mr. John shovel his driveway and walk. And we’d run into them at our church carnival and Polish dinner, because they loved the pierogi!
Today we’ll say farewell to the man who, with his wife, took care of five-year-old Big Brother so I could bring Middle Sister to the ER for stitches in her forehead when she cut it on the edge of the coffee table; who always took time out of his sweeping or raking or mowing or relaxing in a lawn chair to come down the driveway and greet us as we passed on our many walks through the neighborhood.
Rest in peace, Mr. John. We were blessed to have a neighbor like you.