For over twenty years, my neighbors to the north of me have been part of my chosen family. Ten years younger than I am, they have assured me they’d stay in place till I was gone. We have keys to each other’s homes; they let me cut out the crossword puzzle six mornings a week which means they never read the end of some articles in that section of the local paper. He and I share watching backyard birds whom we feed all year. He and I love to garden and compare which of his newly planted bulbs come up while my similar ones often do not. She and I meet early mornings when she’s out being quiet as the day begins and I arrive with my little scissors to collect the puzzle.
About a month ago, they told me they are moving back to D.C. where they lived and worked before becoming my neighbors. They want to stop shoveling snow and keeping up a two-story house; they have found lodging at a lovely complex open to former officers in the armed service where he served when a young man. I accept that this is the right decision for them, even as I grieve losing important people with whom I have a long and rich history.
Recently as he and I shared lunch in my dining room, I saw the bidding site set up by a group that helps people get rid of household items. Hundreds of photographs were on the website and I even saw current bids. We laughed because things they know are valuable often had tiny bids, while things they considered trivial or even junky garnered double digit contests. We agreed there truly is no accounting for taste.
The bidding ended a couple of days ago and today was the day folks were to come collect their booty. So since about 9:00 this morning, a parade of cars, trucks, and vans have parked along our street as their owners brought out one or two items and drove away. I stopped looking out because I was too sad. Sad because this parade makes the move real to me; there’s no going back now. Also sad because their loved household objects are being divided and so their life here has lost its coherence. She just told me it feels like they will be sort of camping here, just as they are camping in their new space in D.C. as they drive out and test to see what kinds of new objects will fit in a small smaller living area.
I am working hard to be excited for them, especially for my bird/garden buddy, since he tells me how this feels like starting over. He seems younger when he talks to me about buying new things that are very different from their old things. So, as his good friend, I want to be excited for him. So I talk about my sadness with friends since I know he knows how I feel. At our recent lunch, he asked me if I’d like his most beautiful brass whirlagig that I’ve commented on to him often as it twirls its flashing parts in the wind as we lunch in their gazebo in their back yard when it’s warm. Of course I want the whirlagig.
One of the tangible things he has done all these years is coming over whenever my computer does something I don’t understand and cannot fix, or when my television won’t work the way it’s supposed to. Sometimes all he has to do is touch something on the keyboard and all is well. He assures me I can still FaceTime him and he’ll try and talk me through the problem, but I realize part of the pleasure of his help comes from his knocking on my front door and being in my space. I may get help but without the proximity that I so cherish.
By summer, these two fine people will be gone. I will have many sustaining memories of his and my exclaiming over the pileated woodpecker we both saw the only time one such magical bird graced our feeders. Or his willingness to come over at lunch time to give my beloved kitty, Patches, her tiny lunch when I’m out of town. Or our jumping when early acorns fell noisily onto the gazebo roof as we were having lunch in the sunshine. Or wondering if there would be another season of “Endeavor” or “Foyle’s War” or our other favorite Mysteries on PBS. Finally, we have agreed that we will keep having “lunch” but on Zoom, with him in D.C. and me in my dining room.