The Neighbor

The elderly couple watched from the window at the neighbor’s yard. Something had upset the man of the house, again, and he was throwing lawn furniture and kids toys all over the yard. Most of them were landing where his wife stood, the kids had already made a retreat into the house. The woman stood quietly, but unmoving, to set herself between the yard and the back door. The man did not pass the invisible fence. All were afraid, the fleeing children, the wife, and especially the man himself. Although the old man couldn’t tell, he knew that he was. Finally the old man turned to his own wife of 60 years. I suppose it is time that I should do something. She nodded.

The next evening the old man left on his usual walk but made a special stop. When the door opened the father from next door was startled, but politely turned down the old man’s invitation to walk with him. The old man and woman watched sadly as the young man stomped around his yard again that nigh, the old lady observed that perhaps he didn’t raise his voice nearly as much. Again the following evening the old man went to the small house next door first before continuing on his way. Again his offer was refused, but this time there was a slight hesitation before the answer. This went on and on for at least a week. The old man traveled to the house next door first, and the younger man said ‘no’, but sometimes he seemed reluctant. Finally the old man knocked on the door, and the young man met him with a light jacket in his hand. The old man didn’t need to ask, ever again. Each night they walked, he could tell that the young man expected him to talk, perhaps ask about the backyard anger. But the old man just walked. Once in a while he pointed out a plant, or a car, or the geese heading off to the warmer lands. Mostly they didn’t say a word. On day the old man said, ‘My name is Chris’ and he held out hand. The young man said his name and returned the handshake. Then they just walked.

Weeks turned to months, Chris tried to always be there about an hour before the children’s bedtime and to return in time that the children would be washed and dressed and ready for a short story. While he and the young father walked, his wife Mary would sometimes go next door with the most of a batch of cookies or 3/4 of a pie, her excuse that that she and he didn’t eat enough pie or cookies to keep them from going stale and that it was such a joy to share them. A few times the young wife even returned the hospitality by bringing over a serving from a meal that she had cooked, or he would bring a few pieces of chicken or hamburger from the barbecue. On one holiday Saturday, probably a year later, they even got together amongst the toys and swing set in the younger couple’s back yard for a barbecue together. Not long after Mary invited the wife and children to their small church and was pleasantly surprised when the father came with them as well as they walked the short distance. As they walked Mary realized that it had been a long time since she had heard the young man raise his voice, and a long time since she had seen anything except a smile on the children’s faces.

One evening a few weeks later Chris stopped to wait for the young man and the later held up his finger, “A new family moved in across the street. The husband looked fit to be tied and sped off in his truck just a while later. I see he is there now, let me run over and see if he would like to walk with us.” He came back shaking his head, “Maybe tomorrow.” He smiled at Chris and gave him a hug.

 

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