The crocuses have bloomed, the daffodils are safe (I hope) from a late-winter storm, and I am cozying up to the idea of having to buy fresh woodchips for the flowerbeds. Weeding and transplanting and trimming await me outside.Soon I will go out into the middle of days filled with grading papers and preparing classes and all the other things that come with earning a living as a teacher. I will carry an old-fashioned CD player in a bag hitched to my belt. I will wear earphones.Likely, I will listen to James Taylor; he’s my gardening buddy. I will not be interrupted, though I will remember with my heart and soul how interruptions felt in past years: nice, friendly, neighborly.It will be the first spring in almost 20 without Bill Laughlin, our elder friend and neighbor, walking down to our house to chat about the weather. Or politics. Or the state of our yard.Last spring, Bill fell as he was going into his home, a ranch house just two doors down from ours. He never recovered.Bill was one of the people who showed up in my very first column, in September 1994. At the time, I wrote about the way Bill and other neighbors had weighed in on my devotion to the magnolia tree that graces our front yard.The magnolia, Bill informed me that first spring, is the messiest tree in the world. There isn’t a season where it isn’t dropping something on the ground.“Take it down,” he said firmly. “That tree is a pain.”It was the first of many things Bill and I disagreed about.One year, I voted to approve the sale of bonds that would help raise money for our local public schools. Bill was so adamantly against the measure that we had to agree to keep our conversation confined to flowers, yards and squirrels for several months.Bill was annoyed by squirrels. I thought they were cute, and I didn’t care that they raided my birdfeeders. Rodents need to eat, too, I told him. (Of course, then Bill told me that some people eat squirrels. In squirrel pie, he said.)Bill claimed he hated cats, but he kept cat food in his house nonetheless and fed the strays in the neighborhood.We took in strays twice. We love cats.Bill always had an opinion and no fear whatsoever of expressing himself. In this one thing, we were very much alike.I feel Bill’s loss this spring. I had been used to seeing him walk up the street just after the weather had softened up just enough. I could anticipate his visits according to the number of daffodils opening up in my yard.Remembering is a way, in Jewish tradition, of making a person’s memory into a blessing. After Bill died last year, I wrote about our last days together. I promised then that I would write again.Bill, you waved every time we passed each other. You asked me how my family was doing each time we talked. You loved your neighbor, just as it says we should do in that well-worn Bible of yours.It is spring, and I miss you.
Friday, Mar. 22, 2013
Spring is here in Concord: A time to remember an old friend
Barbara Thiede is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Barbara? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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