Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Curmudgeon in my neighborhood: A Tribute.

The curmudgeon in my neighborhood died a few months ago. We all live in and around people like him, you know the type.

His lawn was a thick, green carpet which he watched over with diligence and whoa be to the neighbor, child or dog who left a footprint upon it. His shrubs, flowers and trees were fertilized, deadheaded and trimmed into perfect shapes. Any stray or wandering limbs, slightly wilted flowers or brownish leaves were nipped immediately. His roof was clean and clear of any leaves or moss at all times. His windows were washed professionally twice yearly. His garage was neat, organized and the floor free of any grease or oil stains and the only thing that moved in and out were his nicely washed cars.

He abhorred weeds, tall grass and loud music. He tolerated children as long as they stayed on the sidewalk, talked respectfully and kept their bikes on the street. If, however, they got too creative with sidewalk chalk, their mothers got called immediately. He would inform the mother how the street or sidewalk was public property and not a private canvas for their children. And as public property, writing or painting on it was considered vandalism by law according to city ordinance. He recommended removal with a hose as soon as possible, so that he could enjoy his picnic without having to look at graffiti (which was, by the way, an accurate American flag with the words, “Happy 4th of July”) from his backyard patio.

Neighbors who did not mow, water or fertilize their lawns found him walking by with information for them on lawn care. Trees that overlapped his fence got pruned. Neighbors whose blueberry bushes were bursting with berries and didn’t have time to pick them, didn’t have to worry, their crop got harvested for them. He loved fresh blueberry muffins. If you had a well-trained, well behaved dog on a leash, he would tell you so and sometimes, even pet your dog. Neighbors whose dogs bark too long or too loud heard about it.

Sometimes, he made the neighbors mad. He made my kids mad. He made me mad.

I miss him.

I know, I didn’t ever think I would, but I do. He might have been crabby and critical sometimes, but I always knew if I had an emergency, he’d be right there. When we were out of town, I knew he was keeping an eye on my house. And when my little boy and girl turned into teenagers, I knew if they managed to sneak something passed me, he’d catch it and let me know.

I knew he’d died, nobody had to tell me. I saw the signs. One day all the blinds were pulled up in the kitchen and living room, he never did that. He only pulled open one blind at a time, throughout the day, depending on the sun and the time of year. Then his lawn had tiny brown spots, his shrub had one branch untrimmed and a few tiny weeds popped out of his immaculate beds.

I’m sad. Because now, when I leave my house, I know he’s not watching. When I walk my dog passed his house, I don’t see him at his kitchen window doing the dishes. I realize now, that it was comforting to know that someone was on the lookout on my street. Someone cared enough to keep the peace and order.

As the years went by, he got more tolerant of bikes, trikes, hockey pucks and sidewalk chalk. He noticed when my dog died and told me, she was a good dog. She was well-trained and he was glad to see I was training my new puppy diligently. When we finally replaced our brown front lawn with new landscaping, he came over to compliment us.

Now there are big brown spots on his lawn. New people have moved in and the screen door is unlatched. He’d be very upset, I know. Yes, he was an old-fashioned, conservative curmudgeon, but he was my neighborhood curmudgeon. And I miss him.

Perhaps, every neighborhood needs a curmudgeon. Because without one, someone important really is missing.

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