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Magical Moment 560, "His Rightful Place"

He was the keeper of the neighborhood. A tall, thin man with white hair who stood watch at his post on the front porch while smoking a cigar. Dan and his wife Helen live in the downstairs apartment and silently tolerate my piano playing, furniture rearranging, and that phase when I attempted to do an aerobic exercise DVD once a day. They never say a word when I turn the radio up late at night and clean house, and don't even mind that my dog barks endlessly with every buzz of the door bell. 

Dan lit my stove pilot light when it blew out and I was too afraid and inexperienced with gas ovens to do it myself. I once shattered a heavy, glass cooking pan on the floor and 30 seconds later, Dan knocked on my door to make sure I was okay. He doesn't play with the neighborhood kids, but he's always on guard, looking out for them, ready to tell them to stay back from the street, and keeping track of the strangers that walk by on the sidewalk. He and his wife know all the neighbors, their kids, their dogs. And I always smiled to myself and felt safe when I saw him outside, watching over everything. 

It's the usual neighborly chit chat that we exchanged, to and from the laundry room, or walking my dog every morning. The weather, the grass, the traffic. And I always welcomed it with Dan and Helen, wishing I could offer more to repay them for the comfort I felt knowing they were downstairs.

It was during one of these familiar encounters when Helen mentioned that Dan had a heart attack. It was as if she told me her daisies had dried up.
"Morning Helen, isn't it warm today?"
"It is. Dan's in the hospital. He had a heart attack."

Stuttering, I tried to find the 'right' words to say. Is there anything I can do? We're praying for you. I felt helpless. We're not close enough to wait with her at the hospital, yet not a mere acquaintance that can do nothing. My solution was banana bread. That's something a neighbor might do, offer food. And we did eventually visit at the hospital.

But it was a long and difficult journey for Dan to recover. For months, he was absent from his front porch post. The only contact we made during that time, was when his screen door was open and I passed by, "Hi Beth!" he would call through the door. The screen was black and I couldn't see anything through it, but I always called back as cheerfully as I could, "Hi Dan!" I never wondered to anyone but Eddie, when would Dan return to his spot? Will we see him out there again?

Absentmindedly, I took the trash out one evening. I didn't even notice until my way back inside, a figure on the porch. "Dan!" With the help of his wife, he made his way outside to enjoy the evening air. The outings became more and more frequent and it is no longer uncommon to see his lean frame and white hair, sitting tall and proud after all he's endured. Though the cigars are absent now, and he sits rather than stands, he has returned to his rightful place as the keeper of the neighborhood.



TexWisGirl said…
oh, he sounds like a treasure of a neighbor. i hope he continues to regain strength. :)
Hilary said…
This is a beautiful post, Elizabeth. Every neighbourhood needs a keeper like Dan. I'm so glad he was able to return to yours. I think he and his wife would appreciate reading this.. why not pass it along?
Linda said…
This is such a touching post, Elizabeth. Everyone should have neighbors like Dan and Helen.
Deborah said…
That brought tears to my eyes, wonderful.
ds said…
Oh, I'm so glad he is well again! This is a wonderful post, and you wrote it beautifully. Neighbors like Dan and Helen are truly "magical." Thank you for sharing them with us.

And I agree with Hilary...perhaps you should pass this one on...
Birdie said…
I think you should give him a copy of this. We often wait for funerals for such lovely words.
Busy Bee Suz said…
This is so touching; beautiful. What a lovely man....and what a lovely person to write this. :)
TexWisGirl said…
came back to say congrats on your POTW!!!
missing moments said…
congrats Elizabeth on your POTW! Well deserved!
Stafford Ray said…
They are among us, these evolved Humans but are usually only noticed when they step up to help. You noticed and took the trouble to tell us about Dan. Thanks for the reminder.
Dawn said…
Love this.
Came back to see this through Hilary and your POTW.
Glad I did.
You've written him where I can see him exactly. Lovely story.
Barb said…
A wonderful character sketch - for a wonderful character! Congratulations on your POTW.
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