One of the things I like best about my neighborhood is that it really does have a "small town" feel to it. Pretty much anything you need, from beer to church, is within walking distance. And people in the neighborhood tend to know each other. Or know somebody that knows somebody.
Hillcrest is a neighborhood of walkers and bikers. I tend to see the same folks out doing their constitutionals when I am doing mine. One of the more interesting walkers is a man I don't know personally. What made him memorable is that he always took long strides and he pulled himself along with modified (I guess) snow skis. Indeed, he looked as if he was skiing rather than walking as he trudged up and down on the hilly sidewalks.
Plant, pull. Plant, pull. It looked like it made for a good workout.
I have been sick unto death all week with bronchitis and pleurisy. Most folks are content to get head colds and such. I prefer getting stuff straight out of Dickens. So I went down the the Farmer's Market at the Baptist church down the street to get some fresh air and to shoot the bull with the other shoppers after being cooped up for a week.
I was talking with Joe. His kid sells lemonade there on Saturdays to raise money for various causes. Good kid. I always put money in his jar even if I don't care for lemonade.
"Did you hear about the skier?," Joe said.
"The guy that walks with ski poles?," I said. "No? What about him?"
"About a week ago he got some bad news from the doctor. He apparently had diabetes. The doctor told him that they were going to have to amputate his leg."
"So he killed himself."
"Yep. He put a gun to his head. Lived right around the corner from here."
"They tell me that before he did it, he went by the stores he did business with and told people goodbye. Folks thought that maybe he was going away on an extended trip or something. It never occurred to them that...."
"Well no. It wouldn't occur to them. They must feel awful."
" Don't you know it?" Joe said as he absent mindedly kicked at the ground. "Don't you just know it?"
It occurred to me that I used to see a woman walking with him but that I had not seen her in some time. Which means nothing. It's just funny how the mind works.
It occurred to me that neither one of us actually knew his name. But we know that he is gone and that he left this life under the worst of circumstances. Such is life in our little neighborhood.
Boy. You just never know. Suicide is such a short sighted response to virtually any issue you can think of. Joe went on to say that the skier couldn't live with the idea of not being able to exercise in his usual vigorous fashion.
Had he never heard of Oscar Pistorious? Ok. Bad example for any proposition except for the advances in prosthetic devices. I know of a golfer with diabetes who had persistent problems with one of his feet. He asked for it to be amputated so he could play golf. Now, I'm told he plays pretty much everyday unimpeded by his prosthesis. Surely to God there were other options for our desperately sad neighbor. I'm saddened that he evidently did not have ears to hear anymore.
Stories like these serve to make us realize that we are all more fragile than we know and that others may be even more so.
So I resolve henceforth to grab by the lapels anybody that ever makes a special trip my way in order to tell me goodbye.
And to get to know more people by their name.