my neighbor

I was on my way back home from walking to the Armstrong Nursery over on Huntington, tired ,  almost home , when I heard Don’s voice  calling : Dan , Dan , hey Dan !  I turned , and there he was standing outside his front door , waving .

I walked across Sean and Fiona’s lawn toward Don — shortest distance is a straight line — to see what was on his mind . Don is 92 years old .Don's  fig tree 002

A year ago , or so , Don was standing out on his driveway in short pants and barefoot . I had heard closeby sirens and I walked  outside to be nosy  .  I walked over to say hello to Don . He was listening to the sirens , too .  ” I think they’re for me , ” he told me . A minute later the Fire Department whipped quickly around the corner and pulled up in Don’s  driveway .

So I didn’t put my sack of squash seeds and  the parsley plant  down before I went over to see what was on Don’s mind , hoping that there was no problem .  Maybe he just wanted to sit and talk , offer me a Miller Lite . Marie must be away from the house . But that wasn’t it .   ” Do you want a fig tree ? ” he asked .

A year or so ago when the ambulance took Don  to Methodist Hospital  I was left alone standing on his driveway .  He’d told me that his heart had skipped some beats . Marie , who was in San Francisco for a few days , had told him to call an ambulance if he felt faint or funny at all . He calls his wife of sixty-plus years   ” my bride ” and , evidently ,  he listens to what she  says .

I went over to see him at the hospital . The next morning the doctor said Don could go home . The doctor told him that and left . The nurse had other ideas . Finally , by evening ,  she was ready to release him , except for the fact that he couldn’t get his arms up high enough to put on his polo shirt , so he had pulled it over his arms . He  smiled at her from the wheelchair that was ready to cart him out to my  car . Hospitals always require a wheelchair  ride upon release .   ” You’re  not going home like that ,” the nurse said , glaring at the  shirt stretched over his arms .hawaiian-shirt

” It’ll only take you a few minutes to dig it out ,”  Don  said . ” Bring a shovel .”Don's  fig tree 004  I followed him along the side of his house , past the gate , around back . It was a big sucker , that tree  !  I didn’t know if  I’d be able to dig it out .

In the hospital I could see Don’s patience was wearing out .  The polo shirt was a problem . But I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and he and I are both big guys .  ” Let’s trade shirts ,” I said , and we did , and the nurse reluctantly let him go .

I took a couple of snapshots of Don with the extracted tree  after I dug the thing out —-   delicious , sought -after , purple figs ,  Don had  assured me —- and then  he took one of me .  ” You did that just like the Seabees , ”  he said  , referring to his WWII Navy days in the Pacific . We talk about the Navy a lot , and the lunches he eats at the Community center which is next to the Gilb Museum where I volunteer , and some of the day’s news stories , and the economy .  We never seem to solve the world’s problems .trout

Don has a friend who catches trout and often gives some of them to Don and Marie . They give some of them to Ada and me . Next time Don calls me over it might be to offer me some fish . I wonder what the taste would be like if we were to cook trout with figs . What do you think ? I’ll ask Ada .  She’ll know . And maybe a little parsley on top . Don's  fig tree 007

Don's  fig tree 001

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