The old man lived with his disabled daughter about a mile from Casita Scribe. He made his home in the red brick Colonial on the corner, & attended all the neighborhood gatherings. His wife had died about 18 months before.
He was a neighborhood fixture for more than 20 years. Folks who lived on his street, though, said he'd been a little "lost" since losing his wife.
I got to know my neighbor Bill only after he'd passed away himself & became another item in the local paper's police report.
Apparently Bill had been feuding with the state over details involving his daughter's care. He missed his wife, Julia. Frustration piled upon frustration, as they do in everyday life; after 79 years, I'm sure he'd seen his share.
A Verizon employee visited Bill's house in June. I don't know if the call was phone- or television-related. The newspaper didn't say. Bill, though, was upset with the Verizon man for some reason, & followed him outside to his van.
As the technician began to drive away, Bill reached into the van and grabbed the steering wheel for some reason. While details of what happened next are fuzzy, the end result was tragic. Bill fell in the driveway & died.
The paper never reported Bill's cause of death. The neighborhood mourned this senseless loss. A crew was hired over the summer to go through the house, clean it out & hold an estate sale.
I stopped by Bill's house last weekend, on the last day of the sale. No, I'm not a morbid voyeur, but I felt that even though I didn't know the man, I owed him some measure of respect. Most of the rooms were empty. A few knicknacks, a few sticks of furniture, kitchen dishes & utensils were all that remained of the life that Bill & Julia had built over 20+ years in my neighborhood.
Two hand-crocheted Christmas stockings hung in front of one of the living room windows. One, done in red & green yarn, said "Jim." The other, crocheted in the same style with the colors in an opposing pattern, said "Grace." I assumed those stockings once belonged to Bill's kids.
Out on the back porch, where pots & pans, an unfinished rocker & glassware stood watch on the wooden floor overlooking mature azalea bushes, a small plant still thrived, in dirt long-cracked by lack of water & care.
The plant, in a small clay pot, looked like it hadn't been watered in about 3 months. Probably had sat out on that screened-in porch since June, when Bill died.
I hadn't planned to make a purchase. But I went back in the house & asked the woman in charge of the estate sale how much she wanted for the little green plant. I plunked down 3 dollars & 15 cents. She's mine, now.
I don't know this for God's own truth, but I'm guessing Bill took care of the little plant in memory of his wife. From the looks of the house & the yard, I'm guessing that Bill & Julia had mighty big green thumbs.
I'm taking care of her now. I named the little plant "Gracey," after the name crocheted on the stocking hanging in Bill's window. I repotted her, watered her & now she's on my screened-in porch.
But I need your help, please. I have no idea what kind of plant Gracey is, or how to really care for her. Please, someone, take a look at these snaps & give me a good guess. Her leaves are kind of thick and waxy, like a Jade plant, but serrated around the edges, not round.
I Gracey to thrive, in memory of Bill. Even though I never met the poor old guy, I still feel the loss of a someone's friend, someone's Dad; my neighbor.
If I could travel anywhere, I'd like to travel back in time. Back to a time when Bill & the family ~ Julia, Jim & Grace ~ lived down the street from me. I'd like to meet them. I'd like to know their secrets for growing such stunning azaleas out in the yard.
Yes, a life ended in an odd, sad way just a few months ago. But I'm hoping that I can keep Gracey going for a good long while.