I immediately thought we were in trouble...maybe the previous owner came back to change his mind or we were too loud for the neighbors. I opened the door and there stood a strong looking older gentleman (in my mind he was wearing suspenders) and he was not smiling. "Someone move in here?" he barked. I recognized him as the gruff neighbor who we'd passed by during inspection. " Uh...yes. My husband and I" I stuttered. Immediately his face brightened and the scowl lifted. He was Lew- the neighbor next door, a retired teacher who had lived in the city for 50 some years. He rattled off the names of all the other neighbors, warned us about parking violations and educated us about trash pick up and the woman who owned the house before us. He reiterated what I had already known (from researching her and reading her obituary- more on Marie in a special post) that she was a praying woman and everyone loved her and her welcoming home.
Lew welcomed us that first night and hasn't stopped since- so far he has mowed our lawn, washed our driveway, given us advice and if that weren't enough- yesterday I found an envelope on my porch. It was addressed to us "from Lew and Mom- Welcome and God Bless." Inside the envelope was a picture of Lew and his mother and this sweet story typed on green paper.
"There's a lesson here. In a sense, people are like the giant sequoias. Family, friends, neighbors, the church body and other groups should be havens so that when the strong winds of life blow, these people can serve as reinforcement and can strive together to hold each other up."
2 years later...
July 15, 2013
The picture of Lew and his mother has been a fixture on our refrigerator door for years now. I like to keep it there to remind myself to pray for his Mom who in her 90's is losing all memory. It also helped keep me in perspective when Lew would passive aggressively (or not so passively) confront us about parking too close to "his side" of the driveway. Lew passed away on Saturday. I wasn't expecting it.
I knew he had a stroke a few days earlier and was in the hospital, but his sister told us what we already knew, "he is strong." I had planned for days to grab a get well card from the store, but travel for work and general busyness got in the way. Saturday morning I was in the middle of four different projects, but I couldn't stop thinking about that card. I tried to finish a painting project (which would make him laugh because he couldn't believe how many pieces of furniture I painted) but couldn't. I searched every desk and drawer in the house looking for a card to no avail. Finally, I just scribbled a quick note to "our favorite neighbor" offering our prayers and support if he needed anything and slipped it in the mailbox. Lew never got the note...he passed away around the same time I was penning that message.
I miss him already.
Lew was the added bonus feature they failed to include on the MLS listing of our home. Maybe they chose not to list him because of his gruff exterior, scary yelling voice (if a car alarm wouldn't stop, or if the neighbors hid 200 chickens under their porch) or his absolute obsession with enforcing the invisible boundary lines of his driveway...or maybe there are laws against adding people to real estate listings. All of that to say, Lew was as much a part of my home as my front porch and I truly loved that. He taught us about the history of our neighborhood, he was forgiving of our slow renovations, encouraging of our lives and forever offering prayers and poems and on a good day...laughter.
All throughout my life, my neighbors have become family and I am so blessed that in my first home of my very own I gained my Uncle Lew.
It only makes me miss him that much more.