Wednesday, August 01, 2007

neighbors - another chapter

When I 'd brought him roses from the garden for his birthday, it was the first time I’d seen him without his glasses on. His eyes were smaller than they usually appeared, kind, smiling, without the glare in the way.

I’d told him, “I don’t know anyone else who’s 89.”

“Me neither,” he’d said.

“Three sisters, all gone. A brother, gone. My mother died when I was just three years old. My father lived to 55.”

His drinking buddies were all gone too. And his big band radio station. Cats from the 30s and 40s with jazz tubes and fine blues. Now it’s just oxygen tubes. His wife put his 6 o’clock asthma treatment on the table in front of him.

“I’m not complaining. Wouldn’t do any good.”

Most of the few conversations we got to have took place outside, him leaning against his ‘73 pick up.

Never out of his blue mechanic’s coveralls, he told me about being drafted in 1941, basic training in Wyoming. Going to England from NY, a caravan of ships – everywhere you looked, ships, all of them scared to death of the U boats. 800 troops had just gone down.

He interrupts himself, points to our driveway. “I been meaning to ask you, what kind of car is that?”

Fought in France, Belgium, finally made it to Germany in 1945.

When his time was up, he said, “I decided it wasn’t that bad after all. I got to see places I would never have seen. I’d heard of them, but I’d never been there. So, I thought, let’s try it again.”

To the next tour of duty, Mr Johnson. May the music be as good as you hoped.

James Johnson (May 17, 1918 – July 30, 2007)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Kitty, how sad! Maybe it's the postpartum hormones, but this brought tears to my eyes. Darn those hormones!


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