A little over nine years ago, Matthew and I bought our very first house. It is the same house that we live in today. We’ve spent a lot of time renovating this home of ours and I cannot see us uprooting our family any time soon.
We live in an area that I affectionately refer to as “The Sticks”. We’re a ten minute drive behind the small town where our kids go to school and where we go to church and where the majority of our friends live. We refer to it as “Town”. As in, “We’re going into town”. Quaint, yes, and also sometimes a pain in the arse. Mainly because I’m tired of people making comments about how we live “so far from town”. It’s ten minutes, people. TEN MINUTES.
Our home is situated on three acres that back onto Crown (government) land which we use to garden, to play and to house chickens, a dog and a cat. We have neighbors on either side, and down the road, but I am the first to admit that maybe we could be better neighbors. We keep saying that we should make the effort to get to know them better, to have them for dinner or over for coffee, and then six months have gone by and we haven’t done a single thing to remedy this. Let’s just heap that onto my never ending guilt and carry on.
We have not been totally remiss in our neighborly duties. The neighbors to the south of us are ones that we’ve had an pretty neat relationship with ever since we moved in. John and Doris and their once-upon-a-time dog, Duke.
John is eighty-eight (EIGHTY-EIGHT) and spends his days puttering on his own acreage. He’ll often wander over to give gardening advice to Matthew or just to see what’s going on. We bring them Christmas baking every Christmas Eve and sit in John’s den while the kids admire all of his carvings and stuffed animals. Matthew will help John with anything he needs: setting up/taking down the pool used for fire prevention, dealing with a truck that has broken down, firing the paint gun at wild animals that cause chaos on our properties.
John is gruff and tough and also, a BIG OLD SOFTIE.
The way his eyes light up around our kids, ever since Graham was a newborn, shows his true heart. He may be an outdoors man who smokes a pipe and barks out his words but his eyes show his true spirit. He adores all three of my kids and chuckles whenever he can make out what they are saying despite his poor hearing. He adored Sir Duke, who passed last year. He adores his fair Doris, even though he would give her a (good-natured) hard time most every day.
Things have changed for John recently. Doris has been fighting throat cancer and has been discharged into their daughter’s care. Upon finding this out, we invited him to join us for dinner this past Saturday. He showed up on Friday, and while it may have been a result of his weakened memory, it did not matter. We sat him down at the table with a beer and a plate full of pizza and had a conversation that still gives me (good) shivers.
He came back on Saturday, wine in hand, and we continued on where we had left off. He told the kids stories from when he was an anti-aircraft gunman in WWII. He talked about the fishing resort he once owned. When Graham asked, “So what was the war actually about?”, John explained it in a way that all three kids understood why there was a war and why the soldiers went to fight. He lived history and hearing his stories left me riveted.
I found out that his wife had married a Moran (my maiden name) who died in the war. Moran was her surname when she met him. Wow. Just, wow.
He hugged me when he arrived, he hugged me mid-visit and he hugged me when he left. I see many more hugs between us in the near future. And many more dinners, for the record.
His beloved is on her way out and I cannot even fathom that. He cannot fathom that, even though eighty-eight is a “reasonable” age to go. He has the same questions and doubts that I would have if Matthew were to have cancer right now. “Why her?” “Why me?” “Did I do something wrong to make this happen?” “Is God mad at me?”
I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do have a lot of love. I’m going to love on him as much as he can handle.