“A good neighbor increases the value of your property.” – Czech proverb
We just wrapped up spirit week, and tonight is the last football game of the season, which means if you are a senior on a varsity sport, your home will most likely get decked out in team colors.
And decked out it is!
While I was expecting toilet paper streaming from the trees, the girls from the cheer team did a wonderful job, using posters, streamers in school colors, a bucket of candy and more, all done in the dark.
When I heard the dogs barking, I figured it was decoration time. I waited until our favorite cheerleader walked in the door before I headed outside to take pictures. In the dark. With the promise of daylight photos in the morning.
As the sun broke through the morning clouds, I headed out in the crisp air to see the masterpiece created in my daughter’s honor. I was so excited for her! And I couldn’t wait for what I knew would come next, a call from my neighbor across the street.
And that is when the grief hit me. That call wasn’t going to come, as our beautiful, dear neighbor passed away a few weeks ago.
Pat was the best. She loved our children and the “life” we gave to the very quiet neighborhood we moved into almost nine years ago. Imagine a house with four kids and a dog, then two dogs, then grandchildren on a street where, at the time, everyone’s children had grown and flown.
I was always worried that we were too loud. We’ve held our oldest daughter’s wedding in our yard; our oldest son’s “Hail and Farewell” party prior to his basic training, our youngest’s son’s graduation party; a hoe-down bonfire for our youngest; numerous birthday parties and barbecue dinners. We have an enormously large extended family, and the street would be lined with cars for any given event. And oh yeah, did I mention two dogs?
My feeling was that our neighbors probably hated us.
In the spring, our yard is filled with dandelions. We don’t use weed-killer because of said kids, grandchildren and dogs.
Sweet Pat called me on a regular basis. “I saw the forecast, and you may want to bring your planter in. The wind is supposed to be terrible,” was a warning call before summer storms.
“Feel free to use the snow blower. It’s in the garage,” was the invitation to use their commercial-sized equipment during blizzards.
“I miss your daughter and her friends playing outside,” she’d mention as my baby got bigger. Pat loved watching the front-yard photo shoots of the first day of school, homecoming and prom; the impromptu football games, picnics and the cheer-tryout mini-camps in the front yard.
Everyday – weather permitting – I place the flag out on the porch. One day, Pat called to tell me that she loves sunny mornings, when she opens her blinds and sees the flag flying. She even called me over to see how beautiful our tree was in the fall.
“Come here, you have to see what I see,” she said, standing on her porch. And it was true – I was amazed. Before I looked from her vantage point, I figured she just tolerated us, with the noise and the bare spots and the weeds. I even asked her, “Are you sure I should look? Between the noise and the yard, you probably wish we’d move!”
“Oh honey, no! Your family is wonderful and you bring life to the street,” she said. And she meant it.
Dear sweet Pat. As I sit here crying, I wish I had stopped by more often. You were truly a gem. I never, ever heard her utter an unkind word about anyone. She loved us – loved our children. She fretted over my spouse and son on their deployments. She always worried about them having to leave again. She said our crazy dogs made her feel safe. She loved hearing my daughter sing the National Anthem at her grandson’s hockey games. (And then, she started requesting my daughter sing at every game!) She loved looking out her front window at our large, loud family.
She loved her son and daughter and grandchildren dearly. If Pat’s passing has left a hole in my heart, I can only imagine how big of a hole it left for her family. The only consolation is that she is together again with her dear husband, who was just as wonderful as she.
Pat, I miss you. The neighborhood won’t be the same without you and your gentle, kind ways. As much as you loved watching us, I loved watching you. I already miss not seeing you tend to your beautiful yard. I miss your phone calls. I miss seeing your grandchildren playing in your front yard. I miss your smile, your kind heart, your positive attitude. I miss your willingness to share everything – from books to garden equipment to sharing of yourself.
I miss how much you truly loved and cared for us; and I thank God that you were our dear neighbor.
© Lynne Cobb – 2014