For over 20 years our paths crossed almost daily when he was walking his dog and I was either riding my bike or running in the days before my knee said enough. He had two dogs during those 20 plus years. He didn’t walk for a while after his first dog died. I missed them. I was happy to see him back with his newly adopted friend.
In all that time we never spoke more than a comment or two about the weather or some other silly thing, yet he and his dog became part of my daily rhythm. They could be counted on when other things couldn’t. He, with his jaunty little walk, and his faithful lab marching along beside him. It gave me a comfort I couldn’t understand to see them pass each day.
Then one day, he wasn’t jaunty anymore. His chin began to drop until after a few short months it became attached to his chest. He couldn’t raise his head or talk and a friendly greeting was met with a grunt. Drool soaked the front of his chest and he wasted away before our eyes.
ALS, or so he told us before he was no longer able to speak. Still, he walked. His pace became snail-like, but twice a day, no matter what, he and his dog walked by our house. Until they didn’t. And that’s when I knew.
Somehow, someway, a vacant house calls out to you, telling you it’s lonely. This week his house called out to me. It might have had something to do with the dumpster in the driveway, the lack of footprints in the snow, and its darkness now at night. He’s not there, and neither is his dog.
I feel a tremendous sense of loss for this man, who I barely knew. It’s like a song off key with no beat or rhythm.