Somedays are bittersweet. I think the worse days are those that begin sweet, but turn bitter.
Tuesday, February 6th, my seventy-first birthday, I took my morning walk to Starbucks. It was a beautiful blue sky, the temperature was in the mid-sixties, and the breeze was light to moderate. To the west, the Rainbow Mountains rose in all their majesty with just a hint of snow remaining on their peaks. To the east, the morning sun skipped and skidded off the ostentatious gold of the Trump Tower. It was a beautiful day for a walk and I huffed and puffed the half mile to Starbucks.
Halfway there I pulled out my phone, stepped to the side, and did what I normally did. I found I don’t walk to swift when I’m trying to use the phone, so I stand still to make the order. I used the Starbucks app to pre-order my coffee and breakfast. Hey … why stand in line when you can order ahead? I do this every morning and usually hear the baristas calling my name as soon as I open the door. Technology! This old fart loves it.
I grabbed my coffee and my oatmeal, put the oatmeal together, poured the coffee from the paper cup into the insulated mug I carry, opened my laptop and settled back for two hours.
My Facebook account was busy that morning. I had a lot of feel-good moments as I received and “Liked” Happy Birthday comments on my wall. Nothing wrong with a bunch of benign hits from serotonin. My thanks to friends and family that sent those. I also had a couple of good reviews and comments on a short story I had posted to a writers forum on the previous Friday.
When I left Starbucks to finish the long portion of my morning walk, I was riding a nice high from the caffeine in the coffee, the sugar in the oatmeal, and the serotonin in Facebook. I stepped right along to Arville. I turned south and consumed the sidewalk to Harmon. Then it was west and I devoured the path to Cameron. Like a septuagenarian exercise glutton, I devoured the walk south to University. For the final course, I nibbled on Decatur and belched to announce my arrival home. All totaled it is about 2.4 miles. I do it every day when it ain’t pouring cats and dogs, and in Las Vegas that does not happen very often.
Life slapped me across the face when I got back to my apartment. I live in a senior complex with a lot of people as young as me. It’s not assisted living, but the sign says “55+” and there is a lot of gray hair. The first thing I noted was a black and white in the middle of the parking area for my building. That is not too out of the ordinary living where I live. I had a sinking feeling when I saw the open screen door of the neighbor below me. Dave never leaves his screen door open.
As I walked up my stairs, an officer of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department hailed me.
“Sir, have you seen your neighbor the last day or two?”
“I haven’t seen him. But I have seen his car move.”
“Which one is that?”
“Just general things you notice. The monthly newsletter was taken down, lights on, toilets flushing. Anything wrong with Dave?”
“Yes sir, he passed away sometime in the last twenty-four hours.”
It was one of those moments where you knew where the conversation was going, but you just don’t want to admit. You hoped it wouldn’t because you don’t want to go there. We got there, the officer and I. That was all.
I said, “I live above, if you need something let me know.” This time as I walked up the stairs I held onto the railing. About halfway up I slammed the railing with my right palm and said, “GOD DAMN IT!”
Dave used oxygen and obviously had medical problems, but we always got a chuckle when we talked. I never heard him speak ill of anyone. If I was out with Hank or Lola he always gave them a pet or two. We talked about the nothing and everything that two old men talk about. With Terry’s drawn-out illness last year he was always asking about Terry. I will miss him.
That’s life when you live in a senior living complex. The colors you hate to see are flashing red and blue on your window shades.