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 .
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 .
” It’ll only take you a few minutes to dig it out ,” Don said . ” Bring a shovel .” 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 .
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 .