The end of an era

I began blogging in January 2007. And ever since, long time readers can expect to see pictures like the one above. Pictures taken from my porch, showing a red garage behind whatever knitted object I happen to be showing off that day.

What you don’t know, is the person behind that red garage.  Mr. Fox. An elderly gentleman and recluse who, though rarely gracing us with his presence, brought something special to our community.

Mr. Fox is a gentleman. He didn’t mind when Bug ran across his lawn, repeatedly, to visit her friends. He’d prefer that to her going to more dangerous route through the alley. He didn’t seem to mind that his quiet and overwhelmingly mature neighborhood has been inundated with the screams and hollers of little girls in play in the last few years. His walk was more of a shuffle, and yet he would bring his snowblower over during the worst of the winter, and help me dig out from the snowplow’s revenge at the end of my driveway.

Every Saturday Mr. Fox would wander off to the grocery store. When it was warm, he’d wear long basketball shorts and tshirts. Such young attire for an older gentleman. It was a conundrum for me. He’d come back from the store about the time I’d be spinning on the porch with Bug playing in the yard. I could tell it wasn’t so easy for him anymore. The noises he’d make getting the groceries in the home. And yet, his independence and solitary home were obviously important to him.

The most important thing Mr. Fox did for our neighborhood was foster a sense of community. We liked to care for him in little ways. We like to sweep up broken glass in his driveway, and help clean up the downed branches from the mature trees. We, and I do mean we the community, rather than just Bug and I, like to make sure he had a clear path shoveled in the snow. We liked to watch to make sure his newspaper was getting picked up and his trash taken out. We liked to do this while respecting his need for privacy and independence.

So, it came as a great blow to us this winter, after observing that the trash had not been set in the alley, to find out that Mr. Fox has had a stroke. I had held out hope all winter for his return, but it is not to be. He will be going to an assisted living home. And now there is a company cleaning out his home and throwing his belongings in a rented dumpster. And every night there are dumpster divers going through that dumpster and taking his cast off belongings, strewing their discards all over the lawn. I suppose I should be thankful these items are being “recycled.” But somehow it just feels so scavenger like. Such an ungraceful end to an era.

I’d adopted Mr. Fox, as we all did, as the grandfatherly patriarch of the neighborhood. Living so far from home, this was somehow important to me. He will be greatly missed here.

Meanwhile, I am well aware that a lot of these feelings are probably linked to the passing of my own grandmother this winter. I didn’t live across the street from her. When living 1000 miles away, there is guilt that goes along with not being able to help care for the important people in your life. Having Mr. Fox around helped alleviate some of that. Additionally, I know that probably this summer a dumpster in PA will be rented. And a home will be cleaned out. And there might even be dumpster divers strewing personal items across a lawn that is important to me. And I won’t be there. I will miss it completely and I will feel guilt about living so far away. I’ll feel sadness about the end of an era and sadness that I can’t be there to help go through the home.

Why is it easier to write about Mr. Fox than Grandma?