Last Thursday our beloved neighbor, Don, passed away. I stood watching with the kids in the window as another car pulled into his driveway. At the time I wasn't sure what was going on, but an hour earlier a paramedic pulled up with a police car and firetruck not far behind. The car in the driveway emptied and the woman, who was obviously crying, came walking up to the house with a man and young boy. The paramedic was gone by then, but the police car was still there. Earlier I had gone out to ask the police officer if Don was all right, if there was anything I could do. I should have known then when he said, "I'm not medical; I'm sorry I can't tell you anything" that things weren't right. By then I saw that Don's daughter's jeep was in the driveway so he wasn't alone. That made me feel better.
I started to feel a lot of guilt. A year ago I made plans with him to take him on a driving tour of our town. He spent his whole life here, in three different houses, had so many stories he wanted to share and I was eager to hear them. Why didn't I put off going to the grocery another day, or fold laundry after the kids had gone to bed instead of wasting a perfect afternoon for taking Don out for a drive? He called to talk on the day that happened to be the day that my Grandpa died. I tried my best to make my voice sound like I hadn't been crying and answered the phone. I couldn't not talk to a guy who was someone's grandpa, and we ended up having a really great half-hour conversation. That was when we made tentative plans to go for a drive.
The kids were really cute while watching all the commotion in the window. We said a prayer for Don and then the sun came out from behind a cloud. Louie informed us that from his extensive worldly knowledge from movies that when it gets brighter it means that good things will happen. The sun kept ducking behind and in front of clouds over the next few minutes, so they kept a running commentary. At that point we didn't know that Don had passed overnight, that the paramedics didn't have a chance to save him. Charlie asked why all the people were going to Don's house and Lou told him that Don had an accident. Benny shared, "Wouldn't it be funny if the 'accident' was pee?" Oh, to have just the concerns and worries of a child.
The first impression we had of Don as a great neighbor happened after we moved into our house. At that time it was an older neighborhood and we worried that a party we were having for Louie's Baptism was going to be too noisy for those around us. On the contrary, Don told us that he was happy there was noise in the neighborhood again. As the boys grew older, he also loved that they hit baseballs in his yard and had no problem with them having free reign to go into his yard. He was a big Reds fan and often sat on his patio, listening to a game while watching the kids play in the yard.
Even though he remained independent until the end, the past couple of years were hard on him and he couldn't answer the door each time trick-or-treaters rang the bell. That didn't stop him from having a special bag of chocolate for the kids. He also made sure his feeder was filled for all the birds that visited his yard; he sang in his church's choir each Sunday; and as a veteran of the Korean War, he played the big bass drum each year in the Memorial Parade that the boys walked in for their baseball team.
Obviously, this man will be missed by Casa Llena. I realize how blessed we were to know and love our neighbor as we did. Goodbye, Don!