Occasionally this dark cloud of angst is separated with squeals of laughter by playing children too young to understand why people are pacing in front of homes with hushed whispers into cell phones, why so many people are arriving with trays of food, and why for some unknown reason, the two houses on either side of ours are still blazing brightly, night and day, with tens of thousands of Christmas lights.
Today is January 8, 2013.
Our neighbor, the one most of the 'hood referred to as "Super Dad", died very unexpectedly two days after Christmas. He was only 51 years old, a fact that surprised many because he looked so much younger.
He and his family own the houses on both sides of ours. (They live in one, the other is used for "storage". That's a story for a different time.) They purchased the original house 18 years ago. That house spent the first 8 years surrounded by a chain link fence with two big dumpsters in the front yard and as many as 14 barking dogs residing there during their endless construction. It was not a pleasant time and back then, "Super Dad" was referred to as "The Crazy One" who was a pretty rotten neighbor through the entire process.
When the husband and wife finally moved in nearly nine years after they bought the house, the dogs moved out but the shenanigans with the dumpsters and contractors continued until their first child was born 2 years later. Today she is about 8 years old.
Life seemed to calm down at the house under construction and "The Crazy One" started to mellow with fatherhood and age. He was the stay-home dad and clearly devoted to his daughter. His wife is an attorney who works long hours running the very large family business.
Three years ago a second baby girl arrived and again, his transformation was tremendous. His new title of "Super Dad" was well-deserved. It was a pretty amazing and very genuine.
When the police, fire engine and ambulance came roaring down our street the early morning of December 27th, it was pretty hard to miss. My husband dressed and went to offer assistance. The wife, still in her pajamas and soaking wet from the pouring rain was standing in the middle of our driveway-- the exact center point between their two houses. At first Husband thought she was a homeless person because she was, frankly, unrecognizable and drenched to the bone.
She had never spoken a word to my husband in 18 years but today she walked straight up to him and told the shocking story...
The night before their kids had a tea party with friends in the front yard surrounded by the glow of Christmas lights. At the end of the evening, the two kids went for a sleepover at their friend's house. The wife had the flu and went off to bed while "Super Dad" cleaned up. When she awoke in morning he was nowhere to be found. Since it was early, she made a dash from one house to the other in her PJs to look for him assuming he'd slept at the other house because she was sick.
That was not the case. "Super Dad" died during the clean up Friday night and she found him in the front yard Saturday morning. They're still not sure if he fell and hit his head on the cement or if he had a massive heart attack. Regardless, he was there all night, in the pouring rain, and it was simply awful.
She sobbed and sobbed in shock as my husband hugged this almost stranger in our driveway.
And so began the days-long stream of people offering their support-- Family and friends arrive daily to help the grieving wife. From my office and from our TV room we see people pacing between houses, many crying, others on cell phones, all terribly distraught at this tragedy-- All the while the Christmas lights-- and I mean CHRISTMAS LIGHTS that light up the entire block-- are on, flashing frantically and brightly.
It's eerie-- Two large white angels with trumpets pointing to the sky light up the archway to the path leading to the front door-- where "Super Dad" was found. The towering 6 foot high shrubs that hide the entire home from the street are covered with tens of thousands of white twinkle lights. The house itself is also plastered with lights even though they aren't visible from the street. They're there because he was "Super Dad" and the kids wanted them for their tea party.
At the second house, the one on the other side of ours-- More lights-- thousands of them, all green and red blinking in unison to soundless music. The glow is so powerful that I swear you could spot them from an airplane overheard.
It is odd to see the Christmas lights blazing night and day, during a time of great mourning. Or perhaps it's not. In the big scheme of thing, the lights are incidental and possibly unnoticed by family and friends. Then again-- the decorations are a bright example of the kind of dad he was. His kids loved the lights and often stood in the front yard in their "feet pajamas" at night to ohh and ahh at them. Maybe turning the lights out would be too sad, and too final, and too dark at an already dark time.
Regardless, they continue to shine well after Christmas and I'm hoping it brings the family some peace and happy memories of their "Super Dad".
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkin
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