Monday, December 17, 2007

Looking out

There is an older man who lives next door. Sadly, we've never introduced ourselves to him or him to us because the opportunity never seems to present itself, but I see him walk to his car every morning while I'm on the computer. One of the windows in our office is a perfect vantage point to the handicapped spot he parks in a few steps off his front porch.

He rents the first-floor apartment, which has a gorgeous stained glass window that I've always admired.

I don't know much about him other than his mid-morning ritual of getting in his car, going somewhere and returning a few hours later, but one significant thing has changed in recent weeks.

He no longer helps his wife into the seat on the passenger side.

I think what originally caught my attention almost a year ago was the care in which he assisted her. It just encapsulated true love to me. Every day I felt humbled by his patience as he held her walker until she was seated comfortably, closed her door gently, folded the walker, placed it in the trunk and joined her in the car.

Later, when they returned, he would reverse the process.

It felt strange to be observing something so personal, but I almost felt privileged to witness it at the same time.

One morning a few weeks ago, I never saw them get into the car. I honestly didn't think anything of it until an ambulance showed up later that afternoon.

I remember saying aloud to Jerry that I hoped everyone on the street was alright. But we had a new baby in the house and didn't have a lot of time to spend peeking out windows in hopes of deducting what was going on. We just took comfort in the fact that the lights weren't flashing and assumed it wasn't a huge emergency.

Because my schedule has been altered immensely while caring for Allison, I didn't notice our neighbor's solo treks to his car until recently.

At first I had hoped that his wife was just in the hospital, but now I'm not so sure. When I expressed my concern to Jerry a few nights ago, he confirmed my fears.

"When my grandma died, the ambulance lights weren't on."

"Were they on when they came to pick me up last year?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

I know my assumption could be wrong. She might just need more care than he can give, and maybe his daily trips are now spent visiting her somewhere, but I doubt it.

So as I sit at my desk this morning and glance out the window to see him scraping the snow off his car, I'm filled with such sadness. I want to express this to him, but I don't know how. We've never spoken. Or even been outside at the same time to exchange waves.

Earlier I shoveled the walkway in front of our house and continued to clear his sidewalk and porch steps like I always do, but part of me wondered if I should knock and say hello. I opted not to because I honestly wouldn't know what to say.

I just wish he knew he inspired me.

29 comments:

julie - chaosmoon on xanga said...

You've got such a way with words, perhaps you could leave him a note introducing yourself and telling him how much he's touched you. You could also express concern for his wife and offer support if he needs anything. Maybe top the note off with a plate of holiday cookies.

Marcy said...

You could write a card and leave it in his mailbox, or on his door, just something to extend a hand. It's never too late to make an introduction. It might (ok, will) feel awkward, but my guess is he'll appreciate your concern.

Tiffany said...

Thanks for posting this Kelly. Yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of my dad's passing, and this hit home. Maybe you'll pass him outdoors sometime and can offer a friendly hello... I'm sure he'd appreciate it now, more than ever, if your assumptions are correct.
xanga.com/skibunny0604

Traci said...

Aww. That's so sweet. Christmas is the perfect excuse to introduce yourself. Bake some cookies and take them to him. I'm sure he'd really appreciate a kind neighbor.

Sheryl said...

He has impacted your life with his love and devotion for his wife. I'm sure he would be honored to know that you've been impressed with him and his care for his wife. It would be great to tell him. If she has passed away, it may give him a special joy to tell someone about the woman he obviously cared for and loved for many years. And if she recently passed, or even if she's very ill, it must be a difficult time for him. If he doesn't reciprocate with kindness, you never know the lasting impact of your kind words. Bottom line, I'd go for it!

Thanks for sharing the view out your window.

Timberly said...

Maybe you should take him some Christmas cookies or something (like you have time to do that). If his wife died or is even in a home, he's probably very lonely and would appreciate just a friendly hello.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It is so difficult to know what to say in the case of a death close to someone you don't know particularly well. But not even knowing if a death has actually occurred...

Perhaps if you can confirm the death through other means (other neighbours, maybe?) then you could approach him on those grounds. Or, send an anonymous care-package?

petra said...

I hope the time will come when you'll have a chance to introduce yourself and say hello. It would be sad to notice one day he's no longer there getting into his car and returning a few hours later.

And if one day you decide to knock on door to greet him, I'm sure the words will come. If nothing else, you could wish him Merry Christmas -- if you choose to do so before Christmas, that is. :)

Anonymous said...

Take him some Christmas cookies and at least introduce yourself, maybe. That's how we met our neighbors. :)

Jen said...

Are you friends with other neighbors that might know him? Perhaps they could tell you if she passed away, and if so you could always send him a card with some kind words....

aahcoffee said...

Just tell him that. You don't know what to say, but you wanted him to know you were inspired by his care and hoped he was doing okay. Take cookies with you. He'd love it.

rachel said...

Reading that story brought tears to my eyes. It brings back many memories of my Great-Grandpa who lovingly took care of my Great-Grandma until she passed. He was always a very giving man and went many years without his wife but always helped others. The holidays are always a time of reflecting, especially of those who aren’t able to be a part of the holidays.
If it is true and the lovely old man’s wife did pass, this holiday season may be an especially sad time for him. I think that is very sweet that you shovel off his walk and steps, I’m sure that he truly appreciates it. I think that now may be a special time to say Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and let him know that he is quiet an inspiration. Maybe a nice card or a basket of fruit will be a welcomed surprise. Those are just some ideas. Your story reminds me of the Hallmark commercials.
I hope that you and your family have a very special Christmas. This will be the first of many amazing Christmas’s.

Anonymous said...

Talk to him. Reach out. I am sure he's lonely and afraid. Bake him a cake or make him a hot meal and bring it over. I'm sure it would mean a lot to him. He needs to know that someone cares about him...even a perfect stranger.

ww.xanga.com/the_plainsman said...

Amazed that your paths have not crossed by now. Sometimes little 4-legged guys like Toby running around work that magic. Nice observation about him helping her.

When you are baking Christmas cookies with Alli this week(!), why not make some extra and put them in bag with a simple note or card and hang it on his door knob. You might never get an acknowledgement or thanks, but whatever the situation, it might make it a bit better.

Thomas said...

Now is probably the perfect time to reach out and try to get to know him. You can easily break the ice using christmas as an excuse. show up at his door bearing some candies or a small gift. Exchange hellos and invite him over for coffee some night. Christmas = time for people. It shouldn't be out of the ordinary for something like this to occur.

Anonymous said...

This makes me really sad. Perhaps you could take some cookies or something nice over and just say hello. He must be really lonely right now.

erica said...

You know, that beautiful stain glass window would be a wonderful way of striking up an simple conversation and introducing yourself. Perhaps it would bring other things up that would help you know more about him. It's not too personal of a thing but it has the potential to inspire conversation that could lead elsewhere.

sarahhhhh said...

i'd just make myself useful outside around the ritual time of his departure. some small chat while he's scraping off his car is always a nice start.

ps- why can't we leave our websites under our names any more? only if you're a goggle blogger can u do this.

xanga.com/bronxbombette said...

No better season than now! You could walk by and deliever a Christmas card or some baked good with Alli and Jerry and just say hi. Babies really do cheer up older people, esp. one as cute as Alli!

Wissh said...

It seems everyone has the same thoughts. Cookies, a card, I would even print out the letter (was it your column?) Befriend him please. He's undoubtedly lonely, regardless what happened to his wife. I bet he'd love to meet Alli too.

Shalini said...

I vote for cookies, and just say "howdy neighbor" (sorry i'm a texan).

Cookies for Christmas :)

Marina said...

That's one of the saddest things I can think of. Poor guy.

Anonymous said...

I am sure you know this but you are such an amazing writer. Yet again you managed to bring me to tears.

My grandfather was sick for a long time and the neighbors helped him by shoveling, bringing in/out his trash cans, etc. Most times when they took the time to talk to him it made him very happy.

If you feel uncomfortable going out to talk to him I agree a note would be lovely.

I know that I was so appreciative of the people that spent time with my grandfather. My heart will forever be filled with gratitude.

Cookies are a wonderful offering but honestly a warm hand and open heart is the way to go in my opinion. Plus you never know about an individuals diet or allergies.

~Kirs

Leeann said...

I've enjoyed your blog so much and am so touched by this situation. I have a heart for our older generation and often try to put myself in their place. My dad was alone for 10 years after my mom died and before that, she was bedridden for two years so any act of kindness was met with such gratitude by him. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain and it might very well make an old man's day and be the beginning of a very special relationship for you all.

Ray/http://www.xanga.com/marilynmonroe4u2nv said...

Ohmygoodness, Julie took the words right out of my mouth!! Yes I agree, write him a note. I'm sure it'll touch his heart, and if anything is wrong (God forbid) it'll make him feel a bit better. I hope his wife's okay.

Oh and I agree on Julie again with bringing him something as well. But now with Allison you don't have much time, but maybe you could figure out something that's nice and quick.

Take, care.

jsi said...

Merry Christmas
I hear your hesitation and know you feel unable to put the "right words" together. Which may be exactly what he needs to hear. There is no "right" way to talk about the hard parts of life. But sharing our concern and talking about the people we love helps smooth over the hard parts of life. This season may be the first time he has been separated from her for a long time. Your inspired memory may turn into an inspiration for him, to know that others really did see the tender love he shared for the sweetheart of his life.
I encourage you to calm your butterflies about saying the right thing and express to him the powerful statement he made daily in your presence with the simplest of actions.
I guarentee you will make his year.

Anonymous said...

I agree with everyone else when they say to leave him a Christmas card or a little note. I'm sure it would brighten his day more than you could even imagine. The kindness of strangers can be the best gift, especially in times of need.

Tina said...

It doesn't matter how the introduction happens. The next time you see him, go. Go and tell him that you see him often. Tell him you'd like to talk to him. Offer him coffee and a conversation before it's too late and you regret it in that vague intangible way. The only thing we truly have in this world is the connection to one another. Go!

xanga.com/the_plainsman said...

Kelly, the time delay in seeing other's comments does also have a plus. You get to see responses from us who have not seen each other's. On this subject, remarkable about the almost uniform ideas.