Well, this post is about missed opportunities. It’s Memorial Day and we went paddle-boating on a big lake in a nearby park. Neither of us had our phones nor the camera. There were ample and amazing photo opportunities: a heron, a log full of mallards plucking at themselves, geese dancing in the water, grandpas and grandchildren fishing…
Yeah, I got pictures of none of it.
So, when we got home, Andrea suggested I walk down the street and take a picture of our neighbor’s house. H was an elderly gentleman and used to walk up and down the street every day, keeping his eyes peeled for trouble. When he was done walking, he’d sit on his porch, drinking beer, and he would call out to anyone who passed by, saying something he thought was very witty and clever. (Much of what passed for witty and clever for H seemed a bit on the offensive side to me and some of my neighbors.)
H was a Vietnam vet and despite being a bit culturally out of step with things like, you know, racial integration, women’s rights, and the gays, his heart was in the right place. He often insulted how I cut the grass in the front yard, yet buried in the insult was a tip for how to do it better next time. Once, he refurbished an electric weed whacker for me because he didn’t like the way I edged the lawn. I used that weed whacker today and I thought of him.
H had a lot of knowledge of what happened on our street. He knew who lived where and what people’s routines were. He held the cultural knowledge of our street in his, um, narrow little mind. I wonder how many streets and neighborhoods have that anymore. And we need these kinds of civic institutions–these neighbors who know.
Well, anyway, Scout and I walked down the street after dinner today to snap a picture of H’s house. His family had put the flag out front and it was waving in the breeze. The chair H used to sit on was visible along with the bag of charcoal that always sat next to him. This was going to be an epic, Americana photo.
Scout yanked her leash just as I mashed the button on the camera. I didn’t realize until I got home how badly I mangled the shot. Because it’s been a day of missed photo ops I decided to just go with my lousy picture.
So, hat off to you, H. May you rest well. Thank you for serving in Vietnam (though I’m sorry you had to go there at all), thank you for protecting our street, and thank you for the weed whacker.