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My Neighbor Died


He was a nice, somewhat reclusive older fellow. He lived three houses up the hill from me and my family would see him from time to time, taking a walk on the community path through the foothills. I didn’t know much about him though I had met him at one of the neighborhood parties. I think he must have been retired, but I’m not certain. He did have a pleasant and old fashioned manner of greeting…a slight bow and a smile, reminiscent of a tip of the hat from days gone by.

I missed him and wondered why I hadn’t seen him in many months. I thought perhaps, that he was no longer interested or capable of taking his walks.

Yesterday, my wife was having a conversation with another nearby neighbor. My wife asked about this fellow and was surprised to hear that he died two years past.

How sad it felt to have time slip by so fast that I had been unaware of his lack of presence. How sad that I didn’t know him better, walk with him or check up on him from time to time. How surprising, the feeling that someone living so close by could have died without my being aware.

When I think of it though; I like my neighbors but I really don’t know many of them. This just appears to be the way we live our lives these days. I see joggers, bikers and cars traveling to and from work. I see the kids returning from school and I occasionally see neighbors working on their yards. Mostly though, I see repair trucks, moving trucks and lawn service trucks with their grated trailers in tow.

When I grew up in Bovina New York, with its population of some four hundred people you couldn’t avoid knowing what happened everyday to everyone. We had the town paper that listed who visited who, who was hospitalized, promoted or even who had a barn completed. We actually didn’t need a newspaper though. News traveled so fast via the party-line that anything minor and seemingly insignificant was discussed by phone within minutes.

Once we were at the Fireman’s barbeque and our car was momentarily stuck in the mud. With help we were off and rolling back home for our ten minute ride. As we approached our farmhouse our neighbor flagged us down. She came to the window with a grin.
“You folks OK? I heard you were stuck in the mud for awhile”
She grinned because there was a satisfaction of knowing as much as you could about the town and its people. We loved this.

Now as I think about my neighbor, I wish I knew all those insignificant things about him. Those silly columns in the paper reporting social events actually did bring us all closer together. More importantly though the neighbors cared to know and took the time to know. This made them rich in many ways we fast paced folks will never appreciate.

I can change, but the reality is that people lead very busy lives these days and socialization is sacrificed for rest and a sense of home privacy.

I think I’ll go borrow a cup of sugar…