We have lived in our street for 25 years. I walk and drive along it often and though I don't know most of them personally, I am aware of most of the families who live there.
There is the single mum who hates having to leave her school-age children alone while she goes out to work. There are the two men who bought and very elegantly renovated a home and then sold it again. There is the Mother with an intellectually challenged daughter and a husband who drives a car with his wheelchair on top. Across from us is a family with a Dad who is fly-in/fly-out, a mum who is a hairdresser and three little girls, one of whom is learning not to scream not quite so loudly. And next to them is an elderly lady whose husband passed away years ago and who slowly and arthritically walks her little dog twice a day, and will soon move back to her home country, Slovakia.
When we first came here, I always enjoyed walking past the house on the corner. The garden was always beautifully tended and I would often see the little old man and the little old woman out working in it. More and more often, though, when I went past, the house would be closed up, windows shut and curtains drawn.
Years later, maybe when my boys were well established in school and I had more time again, I occasionally saw the little old man. He walked slowly and deliberately, obviously making a trip to the corner store a block away from his house. He wore a hat each time, and whenever I passed, he would lift his hat to me with a little smile. I loved that lovely, old-fashioned courtesy, partly because it was a courtesy and partly because it reminded me of my own Dad. I guessed that his wife must have passed on and he was alone, but bravely continuing.
The garden, by now, was alternating between being very overgrown and being neat, obviously attended by someone else at sporadic intervals.
When I saw him the next time, he was walking the same route, wearing the hat, but with a wheeled walker. He had to take a longer way home so that he could negotiate the walker across the gutter where they had provided for wheeled access to the foot path. I never passed close enough for him to raise his hat again, but I sent him a mental ray of sunshine, so proud of him for his continued bravery and independence.
Today, when I drove past the house, I noticed a very large "For Sale" sign in the front yard.
I won't see the little old man again. I will not see a person with old-fashioned courtesy like that, nor his inspirational brave, lonely independence, nor his beautiful felt hat.
I will, however, cling to the idea that he is in aged care somewhere, shuffling along the corridors with his wheeley walker and bowing ever so slightly to the ladies who pass him there.
I do so hope he is happy!