Bob and Charlene were our next door neighbors. Bob was a retired police officer, and he had three passions: gardening, wildlife, and making sure the hooligans weren't destroying our neighborhood. Unfortunately any kid under the age of 21 was a hooligan so we had many interesting (and sometimes heated) conversations about my son who was, unfortunately, was going through the long hair, torn clothes, loud music stage of childhood (aka the teenage years), and was on Bob's constant radar. Still we managed to get along pretty well. For some reason we liked each other -- maybe because we're both on the cranky side, who knows. He suffered from Lupus, and had good and bad days. As the years went by we saw him outside less and less, and his beautiful backyard garden slowly diminished. When he finally grew so weak that Charlene could no longer care for him he was placed in a nursing home where he drove everyone crazy with his constant demands to be taken home. He died a few weeks later.
Charlene was very active -- still working, and very busy with her circle of friends. We didn't visit much, but she was always pleasant with a big smile on her face. Then Charlene got some shocking news. The cough she couldn't get rid of turned out to be lung cancer, and she started treatment right away. Not even a month before Bob was taken to the nursing home she found out her cancer was incurable, and that if she continued with treatment she might get another year, and without it only a few more months. She decided she'd rather have a few good months, than a year suffering the side effects of chemotherapy. Charlene passed away in January.
Neither Bob or Charlene wanted a funeral or a memorial service, and their wishes were respected. Recently their house was cleaned up, organized, and categorized for an estate sale. Our little street was filled with cars driven by people we didn't know, and we watched them through our living room window, hating the idea of these strangers handing Bob and Charlene's things. We both agreed we wouldn't be attending the sale. But when I went to the kitchen and looked out the window into Bob's garden I saw the birdhouses that he made years ago. I grabbed my coat, and told Paul I had to have those birdhouses. I wanted something to remember them by.
It'll be weird this spring not to see Bob shuffling around in his garden, calling me over to tell me a story for the tenth time, or Charlene in her car waving as she passes by. I'm going to miss them.