The neighbors on our street got together last night to say goodbye to one of our group who passed away in December. Peter D. Heiman was 45 years old. He lived next door to Alene and I.
On our street there is a fairly close-knit group of neighbors, I'd say about eight homes or so, who know each other fairly well. Pete was a "chairman" of the group, sharing chairmanship and the title of "Mayor of Fleetwood" with Larry across the street. Alene had known him for 12-13 years as a very helpful, kind, watchful neighbor. Pete was always available to lend a hand to anyone on the street who might need one, for whatever reason, and he never, ever, asked for anything in return.
He lived the golden rule pretty well.
He also like his beer. There was more than one time I'd come home late at night and find a few empties on is lawn, or on our other neighbor Sergios's lawn. Just depends on where they'd been while having a few and shootin' the bull, or who's driveway had the bonfire.
Good neighbors, really. They're great.
So last night we all got together at Karen's house, which is directly across the street from Pete's place. Karen lit up the fire in her driveway, in the old washing machine drum she uses as a fire pit (don't knock it, it works great), put some carne-asada and hot links on the barbque, and a few cold one's on ice. About 20 of us met up to share stories and talk about our missing neighbor and, to some, close friend. We drank a few beers and tossed the empties on Karen's lawn in Pete's memory. He'd understand, trust me.
Pete's place is dark now, his parents having come over and turned off the Christmas lights, and turned out most of the lights in the house that were on when Pete went to the hospital for the last time. This morning Pete's driveway has a few more firework stains, and there might be a few firecracker wrappings littering the area. They'll be cleaned up by tonight, and the stains rinsed off. The empties might be moved to Pete's lawn for a few days, but they too will find the recycle bin eventually. The neighbors are just that way.
Being the new guy on the block, I won't miss Pete in the same way some of the others will, but I will miss him. He was always kind, happy, and willing to talk about politics and government. He had his ideas just like all of us do, and loved to share them. I still have a car jack in the garage that I borrowed from him about 2 months ago. He never asked for it back. He knew where it was, and he knew it was safe. He didn't worry about it. All the neighbors on this street are just that way.
I left the get-together last night with a feeling of family among neighbors that is rare for me. I haven't "belonged" in a neighborhood for some time, since I moved out of the house Cathy and I had on Aptos Cir back in 2003. Oh, I'm personable and usually get to know the neighbors wherever I live, but in a surface way. Alene's neighbors have accepted me, and invited me into their family, in a wonderful and warm way.
For this I am graciously thankful and hope to be as good a neighbor, if not friend some day, as Pete was. I think Pete would think that's a good idea.
Which just takes me back to my previous post, about life being precious. You just NEVER know. It was just three weeks from the time Pete entered the hospital until he died. He's a year younger than me.
Don't waste time, friends. Live now. Live fully.
Live like you were dying.