Our senior community here in Sun City sends out community bulletins via email. They are often full of cautionary warnings; alerting us to telephone or door to door scams...ravages of those who prey on the elderly.
This week's bulletin said "be sure and update your Neighborhood Watch list! So I go hunting for it. I find mine is three years old. As I read through that now aging list I find it looks like a casualty report. In three short years my neighbors have been falling like flies. Walter and wife...now buried back there in the family plot in Minnesota. Fred gone, after a long bout with Alzheimers...his last years foggy and foreboding. Then, last year, Joann and Alan, from across the street and two houses up.
When I moved here thirteen years ago I was a spritely 55, just barely making the minimum age for living in Sun City. On the day I moved in, Joann, a sassy 65 year old, had walked across the street, caught me in mid-trip as I hauled a desk from the U-Haul into the house, offered a greeting of welcome. Thinking I was single, she began rustling through the rolodex up there in her brain...searching for "autumn chicken", or recent widows for me. I discouraged her from that notion but thanked her for her neighborly interest.
After that initial meet and greet I saw Joann regularly about the neighborhood...waves exchanged when one or another of us was pulling out from the driveway, headed out to run errands. Or longer exchanges when we passed each other on our early morning walks. Joann walked alone, Alan out on the course bright and early, leaving Joann in "golf widowhood". My exchanges with Alan were just as brief, usually just a casual wave as he tooled by on his golf cart.
About five years ago Joann had a stroke. Fortunately, she survived it, but the sight of her rehabilitating with that sidewalk walker was a bit sad...a reminder that, at our ages we are one banana peel away from a wheelchair...or worse.
Joann did recover. However, a couple of years ago Alan left for that big golf course in the sky. Then, last year, perhaps lonely, Joann joined him up there too.
Saying goodbye to neighbors is a difficult thing here in my community. Folks here aren't leaving because "Jack got a promotion and they're relocating him to Denver". Usually when folks leave here it's to a mortuary and serene rest beneath green meadows, or to have their ashes spread in some beloved place.
Having served 22 years in the military, you get used to saying goodbye to your friends and neighbors. But it's different now. When one bids goodbye to a friend in the military you know he or she is just moving on to another assignment. When you're in your 20's and 30's, unless you're bound for a war zone, there's always hope that you'll meet up again in some far reaches of the world.
Not so here. Here the goodbyes are sudden...and final, the last vestiges of old friends being an "Estate Sale" sign, soon followed by "House For Sale"
Ah, the sadness that emanates from just poring over an outdated "Neighborhood Watch" list. And a grisly reminder that someday "it tolls for thee".