Who is your neighbor?

My friend, Kate Hall wrote a tribute seen below,  in memory of her 97-year-old neighbor and our parishioner.

It got me thinking about neighbors, and the loss of what it means to be a neighbor.

When I was little girl we lived across the street from an elderly man named John Newnan. John lived in a little brick house with a red door. He was a retired professional jazz drummer. He had an eclectic collection of drums and percussion instruments in his basement. He smelled like coffee and cigarettes. He always wore soft sweaters and plaid shirts. He had yellow canaries.

Every time he paid us a visit he always brought Hostess Ding Dongs. I think it was the only time I was allowed to eat Ding Dongs – was when John came over. Mom would make a pot of coffee and I would sit next John and lick out the center and then eat the chocolate, while he and my mom talked about politics.

I had no idea what they were talking about.

It didn’t matter. When John was at our house, I felt like I was home.

He was our neighbor.  He died over 30 years ago.  But he is still with me.  He is  still my neighbor.

Here is Kate’s tribute:

Driveway Moments on December 9, 2012

My sweet neighbor Wayne passed away yesterday. He was ninety-seven years young and he taught me so much in the twelve years of being his neighbor. He was frugal (to the tenth power), a child of the Great Depression who understood the value of hard work and being a good steward. When his peers were slowing down he could be found in his kitchen putting up thirty quarts of tomatoes for the winter. This fall he tracked down an old family recipe for apple butter and promptly made it and shared it with his friends and neighbors. His wife passed away when he was eighty-nine and I remember asking him how he was doing and his reply was, ” Well, sometimes the walls feel like they’re closing in on me; especially when I watch the shows we liked to watch on TV, so, I’ll let myself feel sad for a while but then I get up and do something or change the channel and watch a good old movie.”

Wayne and I had so many driveway moments. I’d be in our garage refinishing furniture or out weeding my garden and he’d sidle over and start chatting. You name the topic, we covered it. Old memories, currents events, politics (his choice—we were on opposite sides and I eventually had to tell him we’d have to leave that alone) his children, my children who he doted on like his own grandkids, gardening,etc. He was ever-curious about life. I remember the times he and I went out to a local farm to harvest strawberries. The farmer gave us boxes and indicated where we could pick. I joked that maybe we should have a contest of who could pick the most berries. Later he laughed with glee when the farmer weighed our boxes and it was clear who the winner was!

I could go on and on about this wonderful old gent but I’ll sum it up and say this: This neighbor’s friendship was a blessing and gift. He taught me countless things about growing old gracefully and embracing life with gusto. I will try to honor this gift by passing it along.

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