I get to chat with this man.
Larry Rast. He's 80 years old, lives on the first floor, and has a terrier named Toby. (He often takes care of another neighbor's Chihuahua mix, Stanley.) Sometimes, when the evenings are warm and my recycling bin is full, my trash is ready to be dumped, or my load of laundry is done, I'll find Larry on the second floor porch.
Most days it won't cross my mind that he may be on the porch below. But when I walk out the back door, down one flight of stairs (usually with my arms full and my mind on "to-dos"), and find Larry sitting with his pups facing west, taking in the last rays of sun before it slips behind those buildings, I am abruptly reminded of our time here - that it is short, and we are fragile.
This happened last evening. And as I climbed back up the stairs from dumping my recycling and trash, I was greeted at the top by a tail-wagging Toby and a smiling Larry. (Stanley was just hangin.)
In the four years I've lived in this building we share, I've learned that Larry is a World War II veteran (and trumpeter), a retired professor (and musician - he taught at the University of Dayton!), a father of children who work in the CIA, a world traveler, and a widower to a woman whom he describes with an ardor I feel can only come from the heart of a music man. "Be-cause that's (punching the air with his pointer finger) the kind of wo-man she was."
Last night he told me he wouldn't be in our building if it weren't for his Elaine. "She found the building because she told me I wouldn't be living in DeKalb when she passes. 'You need to be in the city,' she insisted. The rest was God's handiwork."
As I leaned against the wooden rail listening to him describe their last week together, I felt like a child - when I was read to. It was how I felt when my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, and teachers turned those storybook pages.
"I wish you two could have met..." he said - the sun lightin' up his hazel eyes.
I instantly wished I had my camera with me. I asked him if I could take his picture in his element, and he joyfully replied with a, "Well, that would be wonderful."
So I ran upstairs, got my iPhone, and rushed back down. He smiled for a few, but I kept shooting as we continued to talk. I told him how I'll be going to Cleveland this weekend to visit family - and how I wish I could do it more often. He responded with another nod and smile: "It's important to keep the connection, especially for people like us in the city," he emphasized with widened eyes.
"And for me, you just never know when you're going to go. So it's, no expectations. One day at a time."
I can't remember how our convo ended, but I told him I'd let him catch the rest of his rays and that I'd send him the photos.
If I look for it - the goodness - I can eventually find it. But sometimes, I need a little Larry, Toby, and Stanley in the middle of my week to show me while I'm taking out the trash.
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