what i watched last week
xmas then and now


A little over nine months ago, a friend of ours died. He was only in his 40s, and his death was unexpected. He grew up on our block, and could tell us stories about who had lived in our house back in the day, and what kinds of shrubbery and such was in the front yard.

This was a guy who had more than his share of struggles over the years, but he smiled as much as anyone I ever knew. People noted this at his funeral … one after another, old friends and family would talk about how they could count on him to lend a hand, any time, any place, and how he’d do it with as much good cheer as he could muster.

He knew a lot of stuff. He would come down and ask me about just about anything, because he thought since I was a doctor, I must know everything, but the truth was, he knew about way more things than I do. And, unlike me, he knew practical things. He started off doing basic yard work for us a long time ago, and since we were grateful for his work, we’d tell him to be as creative as he wanted, so he always had projects going, especially in our backyard. Some of them were goofy, but they always had creativity, and plenty of them worked just fine.

Meanwhile, like I say, he knew how to do everything. Once he rented a jackhammer and tore up some concrete for us … later, he’d use the broken up stones for decorative purposes in the garden. Earlier this year, an old fence rotted away. He and I and Robin went down to the hardware store and bought some green wire fencing that would blend in with the greenery and make a good place for berry vines to grow. He installed the fence for us … don’t worry, he said, I’ve put in more fences than I can remember, and sure enough, that fence was in before two hours had elapsed.

Since his passing came as a surprise, and since he always had several projects cooking (oh yeah, he was a pretty good cook, too), when he died, there were many half-done Winchester-Mystery-House-like aspects to the yards, front and back. We had the front lawn mowed a time or two, but mostly, we couldn’t bear to even look at the backyard, and we did all we could to avert our eyes when we crossed the front yard. Things started to look pretty ugly … he would have hated it, and would have had it looking better in a day, but he was gone … and somehow, I think we believed fixing things up would finalize the loss of our friend, and we weren’t ready for that. Stupid, to be sure … like I say, the best way to honor him would have been to keep things up, but it was too depressing.

Well, after nine months, we finally had someone come out today. A team of three guys spent a little more than six hours clearing out both front and back yards, and they will now come by twice a month for maintenance. And it’s a relief, as if we can finally say goodbye.

This crew is “green” … seems funny that there are gardeners who aren’t green, but they exist (“mow and blow” is the term for them, I think). They did a lot of the clearing on their hands and knees, pulling stuff out manually. They were thorough, and things really are a lot better. But the best part is, they’ve left the quirky parts. We may decide in the spring to start afresh, but for now, the backyard still looks like our friend has been there. The vegetable garden he had started this year was still in place … a couple of exotic-looking bushes are still growing in the center of the yard … there’s a mix-and-match feel to everything. Robin got home when it was dark, and hasn’t seen it yet, but I think she’ll be very happy.

Here’s a photo I posted back in March:

And here’s another I haven’t posted before:

rob 2007


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