Last Friday night a firetruck, lights a blazing, turned down our street. We have neighbors across the way who battle serious health issues–I thought it might be for them. But when I peeked out the front window, I couldn’t see the truck; I could, however, see the lights reflecting in the windows across the street. They were definitely on our side of the street. They were definitely close.
I tried to talk myself into thinking perhaps they just preferred parking on this side. Perhaps it was simply a small fire, easily extinguished. Perhaps it was a false alarm. But even as I rationalized, I kept saying, “I hope it’s not at Dennis’ . . . I hope it’s not at Dennis’‘”
Deep inside, I think I knew. I just didn’t want to admit it . . . even when cars kept stopping off at their house . . . when people came bearing food . . . when Monday came and went, and Dennis’ truck never left the driveway.
It was Tuesday before I worked up the nerve to look at obits. Dennis was there. He was 51.
And the tears keep a fallin’. For Dennis was more than our favorite neighbor; he was the neighborhood patriarch. He knew everyone, right down to the woman who delivers our mail. He knew because he made a point to know. You could always hear him out catching up with one person or another. A quiet man, he was not–and he was all the louder when he really got into a conversation. There goes Dennis, we’d say, which always made us giggle.
Then there was spring. We knew spring had officially arrived with the first ting of horseshoes. A landscaper, he created the most magical backyard; complete with a Koi-filled pond, moss covered rocks, shade trees . . . and a small horseshoe pit–the sound of which echoed throughout the warmer months, as natural as the singing of the birds.
I can only imagine the hole he leaves close friends and family. If he loved people on whole, he loved certain people all the more–I can still see their faces, papering the back wall of his workshop. But he’ll leave a hole for the rest of us, too. And that, my friends, says a lot.
Now he leaves us to pick up the slack. To take the time to get to know. At the very least, to say hello. Not just in this neighborhood, but life in general. After all, we have but one life to do our best. And close only counts in horseshoes . . .