(*My very own picture of my very own kids and my very own porch on my very own house. So... copyright Me 2010. Right?)
He stood on the porch, across the street, just staring into the day.
I was alive with activity. My girls helped me clean out the car, I took photographs of them playing on the porch. Bill came outside every now and then to nod and smile. All was right in our world.
It's an easy day, Thanksgiving. We cook up a few sides and drive all of ten minutes to get to my aunt's. We return to a clean house. It's one of the reasons I love this holiday.
As we put the food in the car my middle one said "What is he looking at?"
I looked up an noticed him, the man across the street.
I waved my arms and yelled, "Hello Lou!" He didn't see me. And I know he can't hear well, so I wasn't offended.... just concerned.
The girls were in the open hatch back of the wagon playing with dolls. "Don't get out." I said.
I crossed our narrow, one way street. "Hi Lou!" I said and caught his attention. "Happy Thanksgiving!"
"Fifty Two Years." He whispered through his throat (he's had a tracheotomy)
"I had her for fifty two years."
And then it all made too much sense. His wife died a few months ago. This was his first holiday without her.
Because there were no words I crossed the unspoken neighbor threshold and went onto his porch. I gave him a hug.
"Fifty two years is a long time." I said.
He wiped a man tear from his eye and nodded.
"I love my husband very much," I said, "I would be lost without him."
"Lost," he echoed.
We stood and looked across the street at my girls playing quietly. I saw my house from a new perspective. Young, full of life and years and hope. Full of the unmade memories of many more holidays together.
I said goodbye and he patted my shoulder. "You have a nice family."
Back on my side of the street I recognized the future. A gathering of days gone too soon. A time when I will be missed or be missing someone else.
I thanked my middle girl.
"Noticing Lou, all alone."
"Because it made me feel Thanksgivingy."
"Okay!" She giggled as she went back to playing with her dolls. And in my mind she was married and visiting and then gone... and it was so happy and so sad.
Fifty two years. And then solitude. I'm in no hurry.