I noticed the next-door neighbor's house went up for sale last week. Not too unusual--there's plenty of foreclosures in our subdivision. I just guessed that he decided to either give up his home to the bank or downsize to a smaller place. He didn't seem to be living there anymore. Maybe he just up and moved?
Our neighbor was a single guy about my age; divorced, father of three. We didn't know much about him, only this: One of his sons lived with him off and on until he joined his sibings enlisting in the military. Our neighbor's father occasionally called the place home as well, and he'd often be seen doing yard work or piddling around in the garage. I guess our neighbor took in his neice as a boarder for a while; she'd had some drug and alcohol problems back home in another state, and he offered her a place in Texas to start her life over. It didn't work--she'd gone back to the booze and he kicked her out.
Our neighbor had been under-employed for quite awhile. When he first moved in a few years ago (replacing a family from Lousiana going through a divorce), he made a low-ball offer on the house and ended up with it--a place far too big for a man and his son. He'd worked in the freight-forwarding business for several years and had been "downsized;" he started up his own business doing the same thing working out of his home, but that went nowhere. He'd finally gotten a job at Wal-Mart--at least they were hiring.
He didn't have any insurance. He'd had a few small heart attacks--he was a smoker, but not obese--and we were amazed to see that he'd be back to work or mowing the lawn a few days later. He said he couldn't afford to be sick--and he had to pay the doctor's bills.
It was strange that our neighbor just left. It's not that we knew him that well, but still, most folks at least stop by to say so-long. We didn't even see a moving truck.
Why his home up for sale was a mystery to us until this afternoon, when another couple from a few doors down stopped by to catch up on things. That's when we'd heard what happened to our neighbor.
He'd died. Apparently from a heart attack. Nearly three weeks ago.
That was a pretty sobering bit of news on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Sobering in that it well could have been me. And a bit sobering, as well, that we know so little about our neighbors that it took nearly three weeks to hear that a man who lived fifteen feet from us had died.
I can't help but think that the economy helped doom him. Without a good job. Without health-care or even sick leave. The stress must've added to his already damaged heart.
I used to always find him standing in his open garage on days with thunderstorms, watching the show. Nice enough guy. We'd exchange pleasantries, polite banalities. Not anymore I guess. Thunderstorms won't seem the same.