Yesterday Victoria ran into our neighbor Don, Jr while she was draining the pup. He rolled down his car window to say hello, and she asked after him and his dad, Don, Sr, to which Don, Jr replied:
It turns out that our kind, sweet old neighbor across the way had been having some heart trouble again and had gone into the hospital on the 1st. On the 11th, while still in the hospital, he died.
Victoria and I were both startled by the news, because we each thought we’d seen him around more recently than that. We often see our neighbors as they’re getting their mail or coming or going when we’re out walking the dog, and that’s how we’d gotten to know Don, Sr and Don, Jr over the years. They have always been keepers of the neighborhood history—Don, Jr and his brother grew up in this neighborhood and played in the wooded hills across the street long before the other houses were built. Don, Jr told me about an old fort that he was pretty sure was on my lot way uphill behind my house, and sure enough a few months later when I clambered up the deer trails to check the state of things for our annual spring fire-prevention vegetation management, I found it.
Don, Sr was a friendly gentleman with a warm smile, always ready to take a few minutes to say hello and ask after us. He was generous with his knowledge of the area and never had an unkind word that anyone can remember—despite quite a few neighbors who would have deserved a few at times.
We’ve always known both father and son simply as “Don,” and I’m suddenly struck by the fact that I’ve never known the last name of these two gentlemen who have always referred to all the neighbors past and present as Mr and Mrs Whatever.
Victoria joined me in the kaddish for the first time tonight, reciting some text we knew Don, Sr would have appreciated.