Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lingering Cloud

There's a strange vibe in my neighborhood these days, everyone knows it, even strangers walking by our homes for the first time-- At least it seems that way.  The air is thick with something you can't quite put your finger on-- It lingers heavy like a rain cloud about to burst into a hellacious storm.

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 
Photo Credit © Volodymyr Krasyuk - Fotolia.com

32 comments:

Brian Miller said...

wow...what a story....that will def put a cloud over the neighborhood...i am glad your hubby was there...because she may not have needed to talk before that but dang...

Gail Dixon (Louisiana Belle) said...

Sheesh, what a horrible tragedy. I hope the family can find some comfort for their grief in the days ahead. Wow, that's really rough.

DJan said...

I hope that when the cause of death is discovered you will let me know what it was. People do drop dead of sudden cardiac arrest at an early age. Poor family! I really feel for YOU caught literally right in the middle.

Hilary said...

Oh my, what a sad story. That poor woman and her children. Like Brian said, it's a good thing your husband was there to help shoulder her shack and grief.

Mari said...

What a tragic story. I'm glad your hubby was there for that woman. I can't imagine going through that. I also can't imagine having another house for storage and you'll have to fill us in on that story sometime.

Jeanie said...

What an horrendous situation. I am so sorry for the family and sorry that you are literally caught in the middle. Maybe, when the time is right, one of the many visitors will offer to take care of the Christmas lights. On the other hand, if they are a comfort to the children they may be left up for a good long while.

Christine said...

Oh this is a very sad story Joanna, he was taken in the prime of his life. Hope the family can move forward in the new year despite this grief.

Kelly H-Y said...

Oh ... this is heartbreaking. So sorry for the family. Our kids' pediatrician ... also a superdad, who was super fit, and ran everyday, and looked like he was in his 40s, rather than 55 ... died on Christmas Day, after going for a 4-mile run with his daughter. We were stunned. And, as with your story, have heavy hearts for the family. I was thinking of him as I read your post.

Eva Gallant said...

How awful for that family. really sad.

Tammy said...

What a sad and devastating thing to happen to a young family. I don't get the two houses, but I'm sure there is some reason??? But how horribly sad and the way it happened and the fact that I am just a year older than him, wow, just wow, life is so short you had better enjoy to the fullest while you can, huh. Hugs JJ!!

Karen @ away for the weekend said...

My goodness, that is quite a sad story - so sad to leave behind a wife and two small kids! I wish them well, and hope things settle for them a bit.

Secret Agent Woman said...

That's quite a story. So sad and also so very odd. I hope they find peace and healing.

bill lisleman said...

The suddenness of it is very shocking. So very sad. Over the years we have had two neighbors die much to early leaving kids behind. Both families eventually moved. The house memories can be overpowering.

Cloudia said...

oh my.

I will hug my husband tighter!
Aloha
from Waikiki,
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >
> < } } ( ° >
> < 3 3 3 ( ' >

SueAnn Lommler said...

I am glad your hubby comforted her...she definitely needed that hug. May those lights shine well into the night!
Prayers for the family
Hugs
SueAnn

Tom Sightings said...

A great and sad story, my heart goes out to his family. And like Cloudia, I will take this as a lesson to keep my family closer.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Heartbreaking. I cannot imagine that poor woman's grief, but I'm glad she has a neighborhood like yours around her through all of this.

Cathy Clementz said...

You always find such a wonderful way to tell a story be it a true story about your family or maybe just something you have been pondering. This story is no exception; you brought the family to life for me. I can actually visualize everything you wrote and that is odd for me to be able to do that since I don't have the imagination I use to. Thanks for your personal caring touches for this family....

Formerly known as Frau said...

Wow what a sad turn of events! My heart aches for his wife and kids.

Taradharma said...

you honor "Super Dad" with this post, JJ. Stories like these always shock me back to the reality that life can change on a dime. We take so much for granted.

Barbara Shallue said...

How heartbreaking and a great reminder that this present moment is all we're guaranteed. I'll keep that family in my prayers. They're lucky to have neighbors like you.

Zuzana said...

Very touching story... I can somehow relate as one of my husbands colleagues was killed during duty a week ago. He was not even 40, married with 3 young children. It is very sad when it hits so close to home so to speak.
That is why we should love our family as much as we can and tell them all the time that we do. Life is too short and too fragile...
Happy New Year and I hope you had a lovely Christmas nevertheless...
xoxo

Tami said...

How sad for those two young children to lose their father unexpectedly and tragically.

Ms Sparrow said...

How sad for that whole family. Those poor little girls will have lost both their daddy and their nanny.

I noticed an Ambien spam in the comments. I accidentally discovered dozens of similar comments that were recently added to a posting from two years ago! Why would anyone do that!

CiCi said...

51 is so young and how sad that his girls are having to learn to cope without him. I am fascinated with the two houses story and cannot understand it with my puny brain, but hey, it worked for them. I hope the wife slows down a bit now. The girls need their remaining parent to help them grow up. Maybe she could sell the one house. It is just so sad to hear this story.

Paula Wooters said...

What a horrible way to finally get to know the neighbors. Somehow the lights don't surprise me, though. I think I'd leave them up for a long time, too.

ladyfi said...

Oh, that is simply horrible. What a terrible tragedy for all.

Chris H said...

I can see why being in your street would seem 'weird' right now. How very sad for the man's family and friends.
It must be hard living right in the 'middle' of all of it.
Maybe some good will come from this tragedy, in that you can finally become friends with your neighbour, or at least be on speaking terms.

Pauline said...

We all respond viscerally to a tragedy like this - so good of your husband to let that woman tell her story. Sometimes what we need most in times of great grief is to be heard. I'd look on those Christmas lights as signs of love and hope - I think you're right - to turn them off would make things seem even darker.

Mike Smith said...

A sad story, JJ - but I was touched by the way you told it. You clearly have a gift.

Eddie Bluelights said...

What a tragic story, Joanna. It is often the case that such tragedy causes neighbours to come together. Glad your husband was able to comfort the lady.

Wishing you and yours well for 2013 ~ Eddie x

diane said...

Holy cow Joanna, that is so so sad.
How are YOU holding up? Your husband sounds like a real sweetie, btw, holding that poor woman while she cried.