It has been said that my parents neighborhood must be built over the Fountain of Youth because most of the people that live there built their houses and still live there. They have always been very active and vibrant people and many of them are in their eighties and nineties. Within the last 12 months, I have seen some of them up on their roofs cleaning out their gutters.
Lately, the fountain has been failing us. Earlier in the year we lost a couple that had lived at the end of the street. They died within a few weeks of each other. We were friends with their kids growing up, and they had a ton of kids. There are many grand kids and I am sure there are great grand kids as well. It was a devastating loss for their family, as well as the neighborhood. Their house is still in the family which makes me happy. The yellow house will always be their house.
A couple of weeks ago we lost a another member of the neighborhood. He was a 97 year old Pearl Harbor veteran who lived a very full life. He and his wife had been married for 66 years. He didn't appreciate us when we were younger and tried to eat his apples, but as we grew into adults, we got to see another side of this man, and to appreciate him as well. This past summer we had a picnic on Memorial Day and he told us a little bit about his Pearl Harbor experience. It is hard for me to wrap my head around how scary that must have been for him as he was only a 19 year old boy. He really didn't want to talk about it, but we pushed him, and now I am glad we did.
Last Saturday was a crushing blow for me. We lost our next door neighbor who was only 53. He had lung cancer that wasn't discovered until it was too late. He fought the good fight for three years, and I watched as he got weaker this summer. Still, I was shocked when I got the call that he had passed. He was an incredibly generous man that watched me grow up from a snot nosed kid to a productive member of society with a job and kids of my own. He was a big man that had gotten a scholarship to play football at the University of Akron. He had a deep booming voice that could draw the attention of even their cat when he would try to leave their yard. When he and his wife moved in, they had a big boat and a motorcycle and a huge dog. After a few years, the toys disappeared, and in their place came a baby boy. That baby boy is now in his twenties and is the spitting image of his dad. As I was looking at the pictures at his memorial service yesterday I realized that as he was only 11 years older than me, but he always seemed so much older than that. I realized that as he was watching me grow up, I was watching him grow up as well.
The old neighborhood will never be the same, but I know I am better for having lived there.