Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Behind us two thirty-something X-gamers (could there be better neighbors for a family with 3 boys?), next to us a guy that rebuilds antique cars with his always amicable wife and across from us the average, all-American family. John a retired union carpenter and Donna a writer. Recent empty-nesters that have a tall handsome son with a new wife and baby and a and knockout daughter in her early 20's. Less than a year before we moved in, they had lost a daughter to meningitis. She was just 15. A sophomore in high school. When we moved in, John told us how horrific it had been. That she just had the flu on Friday and was gone by Sunday. He said they would never be the same. He asked us to understand if they seemed withdrawn. But, he never did.
For ten years we have waved and yelled 'Hello,' 'Good Morning,' 'I can't believe this heat/snow/rain' or 'How are you?' back and forth across the street. We run into each other at WaWa, the Starbucks counter at Genuardis and at Lowes. He watches our cars when we're in the Outer Banks and he and The Man have been known to whisper about catalytic converters and recirculation valves under open hoods. We talk every day...but never really talk. Except when he became a grandfather. He crossed the street to impart that wonderful news face to face, complete with an ear to ear smile. And last Tuesday I happened to be walking on his side of the street while he was having a smoke on his porch and we had our longest conversation to date. Nothing earth shattering, just about the amount of rentals where we live, how big my puppy has grown, and how painful it had been to put down our last dog.
I went home to get ready for my goalie's hockey game and I'm told he went for a customary herbal massage. I'm told after the massage, he had a massive heart attack in the parking lot. He was just 56.
It's a week today. A week of not waving when I leave the house. A week of my stomach turning every time I go outside and see his truck parked in the wrong place. A week of mourning someone that I'm not quite sure how to classify.
How does your brain process the swift and sudden loss of someone you saw and smiled at 3+ times a day for 10 years, but someone who was a stranger in many ways. I have no idea what John's favorite color was, his favorite food or his music of choice. I know he loved his truck, his grill and his lawn. He appeared to be a stalwart husband and certainly a proud father.
But how do you grieve a familiar stranger? And why am I having so much trouble dealing with it?
Rest in Peace John. I wish I would have talked a little longer last Tuesday, but Mason had a game. I wish we would have gone out to dinner with you and Donna. But really, I wish we could smile and wave just one more time...