The other day I talked about Marvin, my back yard neighbor. Today’s neighbor is Harry. I first met him when I bought a single-family rental around the corner, across the street from Harry. We became nodding acquaintances when I’d walk over for routine maintenance chores. That’s when I found out that his wife’s father had built my house and she’d been born in a shed where the back yard garage now stood.
After my tenants had the nerve to move out because they’d bought a house [yes, I gave them a good credit reference], I decided to move into the place myself. The building was in decent shape, the only significant damage being the stylistic and architectural changes that had been inflicted on it in the 90 or so years it stood.
Harry’s favorite topic of conversation was NASCAR, which I’ll admit is not high on my list of priorities. Once however, when we were talking about the color I was going to paint the house, he expressed a strong distaste for the pinkish/rose color that his next-door neighbor had painted his house. “Not too sure about that boy, he directs plays over at that theatre and sings in that chorus, too.” After I mentioned that Haskell had been a friend for years – and I’d appeared in a number of his productions and worked on a bunch of others, Harry continued to be friendly toward me and continued to lend a helping hand on those carpentry jobs that need more than two hands, but stopped inflicting NASCAR stories on me. He just grunted when I told him the only significant difference between what we were building in the house and what we built on stage was the length of time we wanted them to stand.
When Harry died, Emma asked me if I could do her a favor. “Of course, anything you want,” I said. Her request had nothing to do with the service, picking up people at the airport, using my refrigerator for food, or anything like that. She wanted to know if her visiting relatives to take a walk through my house. They wanted to see all the improvements I’d made to her father’s house.
I said sure, walked her back across the street, came home and sort of freaked. By this time, the house was no longer a construction zone. All the mechanicals were new, I’d refinished the floors and restored the mantelpiece and other wood trim to their original appearance. But…I’m not exactly the world’s tidiest person. When you’re living with a cat and using the spare bedroom as corporate headquarters, stuff tends to stay where you place it – until you need it again, which may not be for several weeks or months.
Luckily the house was more house than I really needed. Of its slightly under 900 square feet, I used less than half. There was a room called a kitchen that I walked through on the way to the back porch and occasionally used to fry water for coffee. And another one called a dining room, equally functional. I had a bedroom for me, another for the office, and a bathroom I shared with the cat’s litter box.
So I guess I need to thank Harry for forcing me to get my office filing system in shape and to dust, clean and generally make the house presentable. And I’m very lucky that none of the visiting relatives opened up the big closet in the bedroom.
Thank you Harry. And Marvin, too. For being my neighbors. For giving me some good stories.
Thanks for the memories.