Don and Barb have lived in the same home for more than 30 years. They keep the frontyard immaculate. (We don't...that sometimes irritates Don.) Their grass is a putting-green perfect carpet of green. Their roses are trimmed weekly, and flower beds are frequently replenished with new, fresher plants.
As if to proclaim that their home is a country unto itself, Don had a flagpole installed next to the driveway before we moved in. The American flag always waves over their cars and lawn. Last year, Don paid someone to spend 2 days refinishing his flagpole.
We've gone swimming in their pool a few times, and had dinner once at their home. We casually visit over the fence, and keep up on vacations and major family news, and the Anaheim Angels. Ron and Andrea went to an Angels game last summer with Barb and Allen, their son who lives in Orange. Don doesn't like crowds, and can't handle sell-out baseball games anymore.
Don used to know everyone's business on our street. I have to say...I've never heard him gossip. He'd ask how things are going....offer to lend a hand. Randy, a 30-something man who lives next door to us on the other side, is a paraplegic. He and his wife rolled their van on a freeway 5 years ago, and it left Randy in a wheelchair. Don used to help Randy bathe and do mundane chores for them when Randy first came home after the accident. Don spent an entire summer day once fixing our faulty air-conditioning.
Don can be reclusive, though. His negotiable world is small, and the greater world is hard to bear. The distant TV world beamed into his family room is becoming more palatable to him than venturing out into the changing, challenging real world.
Their daughter, Kim, had a baby almost a year ago. Kim and her husband waited 10 years to have a child, so they were used to being out and about, child-free. Don and Barb first started watching the baby 2 afternoons a week, but now she's over there a lot.
Some weekends lately, I see a light on in the family room, but otherwise, it's hard to tell if they're even home. They don't leave the house much, and rarely toil in the yard anymore on Saturdays or Sundays. Except for waving at Barb leaving for work about the time I take Andrea to school, we never see them these days. Even when the baby's not there.
I do realize that it's football season, and Don loves football. His beloved 49ers are having an awful season, though, and he can't stand to see them lose. And he enjoys watching baseball and the Angels almost as much as football. This is more than a seasonal absence, though. I'm sure that during early spring between the end of football season and the beginning of baseball, when pretty spring flowers need to be planted in frontyard beds, we'll see Don more again. At least for a while.
It's sad, though, to see him gradually disengage from the world and cocoon with Barb and the baby into TV land. He has a good heart and a gift at helping others around the house. He was the glue that kept the neighborhood cohesive.
But he now has a 62" gigantic-screen Mitsubishi TV for engagement and companionship.