I’m not sure if I’ve told you, yet, about the story of our house. The one before we bought it.
We were fortunate enough to find out, at least somewhat.
Our neighborhood was founded by airport employees back in the day, prior to the city being incorporated. Our home was built in 1966 and the city was incorporated in 1968, which I think is pretty awesome. (I have a soft spot for homes, what can I say?) At the time, the rules of the development was that all of the homes needed to be ranch-styled houses and the lot size was a minimum of a half-acre. Our neighborhood weaves in and out of the hills, some areas very wooded and others, more like our own, where it is more suburban, with mature trees. It is a great area to walk with dogs and kids.
Our home’s original owner, Louis, lived here from 1966 (or thereabouts) until he passed away in 2006. He was a very tall man (6’5″, by reports – a pretty large contrast with my husband and I…neither of us surpass 5’6″!) and had trouble with his knees later in life. He used a chair lift on our stairs for some years and spent the last years of his life on the entry level of the house, creating a makeshift kitchen on that level and using the den as a bedroom. Because our entry is flush with the grade, he then had no stairs to worry about.
Louis passed away in our house. Our neighbor, Charlie, told us that he was found in the den. He had passed away in his sleep. My husband swears he hears footsteps in the hallway upstairs from time to time. I have heard them, too. I like to think that he is pleased that the home he built has a family that loves it.
But before that, before then. There was the friendship.
Jack and Louis were best friends. I don’t recall how they met – if they had befriended prior to living here, or after, but Jack and Jan’s house was across the street and one down from our house. They were a bit of an odd couple, big burly Louis and then Jack, who stood 5’3″, at the most, if even that.
“We ran this block,” Jack recalled. “We were the best of friends.” He talked about their kids growing up together and running through the trees or watching deer. “When new people would move in, we would go together to say hello…”
They told them that they were the mayors of this block.
And it was true.
Ironically, we met Jack prior to moving into our house. Our realtor advised that if we were interested in seeing what a neighborhood was really like, it was a good idea to knock on doors and talk with the neighbors. So, that’s how my husband met Jack – and he was excited to meet the people who would be moving into his best friend’s house.
He took special interest in us after that. Telling us how much he liked watching Jayan “mow” the lawn with his green plastic mower. How they would comment all the time to their friends about the cute little guy across the street. He would find me in the yard, (picking weeds, most likely) and would tell me stories. How he met his wife (Catholic school), how he grew up in St. Paul, how Jan was too shy to go out with him at first, but eventually gave in.
I always liked when he would stop out and talk like that. I love stories and the history in things. I love seeing the nostalgia in a person’s eyes when they have an especially good memory.
He was quieter this summer. I would wave from our car when I would drive by, sometimes seeing him inside his screened porch. I don’t know if he always saw me – some days, he just stared straight ahead. He might not have recognized our car. I’m not sure.
Summer turned into fall. I remember the day I saw the ambulance. It wasn’t moving. I wondered what had happened, but was on my way to the office (it was the morning, and, of course, I was late, as usual). I asked my husband about it that night – he hadn’t heard anything.
A few days later, we found that Jack had an aneurism. He was still alive, but only by life support. I was still amazed by how quickly life could turn – most older adults in my life had a slow decline over several years, nothing so sudden.
He passed away on a Friday. The family waited until all of their children could be home before finally taking him off life support.
Even now, I think about him, a few weeks later, and I think about how he said our house had always been gray, even though we can see from the siding that at one time, it had been green. That I wished I would have shown him the inside, again, after we had done more work to it. I somehow think that it would have made him happy to see us taking care of his friends’ home.
I really do think that they are looking out for the neighborhood, now. Louis and Jack. Together again, playing cards – keeping watch over us all. Maybe laughing about our leaves. He always kept his lawn impeccable. I wasn’t sure how he did it. With leaves like ours, you almost have to have a sense of humor. I hope that Jan has someone to help her with her yard.
Our newest neighbors moved into the neighborhood over the weekend. So strange seeing the home with so many cars. My husband laughs at how I keep track of the houses and the inhabitants. I need to stop by and introduce ourselves – we have lived here for four years and were never appropriately introduced to the last people.
It would be nice to know them, this time.