I never really knew my neighbour. In fact, now that I think about it, I didn’t even know his last name.
He was a veteran. He lived across the street with his wife, who suffered badly from Alzheimer’s. Though he spent most of his time indoors he would wander out sometimes in his sweat pants to do yard work, and some of those times I would happen to be outside as well and we would say “hi” or have a quick chat.
I only ever saw his wife once. It was one day in the middle of winter just before midnight: she was on some sort of mission and went for a walk down the street in her housecoat and slippers. My neighbour was yelling and swearing at her as he chased after her down the street, so I threw on my boots and coat and went to help him catch her and escort her back to the house.
About half a year later he knocked on my door. He asked me if I remembered chasing his wife down the street in the middle of the winter. His wife was denying that she ever left the house like that, and he began to question his own memory of the incident. Maybe he dreamed it all up, but I assured him that, yes, it did happen. That was all he wanted to know. He thanked me and turned back to his house.
That may have been the last time I ever spoke with him. Shortly after that he and his wife moved into a care home of some kind, and not long ago I found out that he had passed away. One more WWII veteran quietly gone from this world.
The thought had occurred to me before all this happened to ask him about his war experiences. Maybe he wouldn’t want to talk about it, which is fine, but maybe he had stories to tell. With each veteran who passes away, first hand information and experiences about what happened during that time disappears into to ether. I never captured much of that information from my grandfather, and now I am too late to capture any from my neighbour as well.
But like I said, I didn’t know him that well. It might have been inappropriate to ask and he probably just wanted to mind his own business anyhow. So maybe it’s best that I never asked him about The War.
But … I could have at least thanked him for his service.