Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Danny Died On Monday

The panicky telephone call came about eleven PM on Monday. On the other end the woman's voice was erratic, tear choked, and hysterical.

"Can you come over? Oh God, I think he's gone!"

Throwing on clothes over pajamas, I rushed to the house next door to find Danny's wife Irma shaking, crying, and hysterical. Danny lay on the couch, eyes closed, ashen grey and not breathing. CPR had no apparent effect but was continued for the few minutes until the medics arrived to take over. After that, all that could be done was to comfort Irma and assist in making telephone calls. Within the hour a doctor at the local hospital pronounced Danny dead of apparent heart failure. A family's world fell apart.

Danny was a great neighbor. He wasn't a close friend, but he was a great neighbor. My requests to borrow tools or for help with some project were always met cheerfully. Sometimes even when I didn't ask, he would offer. I would hear a mower in the backyard and go to the window to see Danny go by on his tractor. There were no property lines, it was all just grass to Danny. He was that kind of guy.

From the covered patio of his corner house the sound of loud voices and raucous laughter frequently echoed through the neighborhood. Danny seemed to host an odd conglomeration of co-workers from the local university, neighbors, relatives, and some who were probably just 'show-ups'. The beer flowed freely as did the laughter. Eventually the locals designated him as 'The Mayor', holding court on any warm afternoon, and adding spirit to the neighborhood.

Danny only knew how to be Danny, so you could take him or leave him, suit yourself. There were no pretexts, attitudes, or attempts to impress, just a genuine hard-working man with a receding hairline, a growing belly, a gap-toothed smile, and an infectuous laugh. His language was coarse and his jokes raunchy, but that was a part of him, so if you didn't care for it, well, your feet ain't set in cement.

Danny was fifty-eight years old and leaves behind a shattered wife, three grown daughters and a son who have all lost their peculiar anchor, and several grandchildren who are trying to make sense of it all. The funeral will be crowded, and a lot of tears will be shed. The funeral procession will be long and there will be trouble finding room for all of the cars at the small country cemetery.

'The Mayor' is gone and that loss will take a while to settle over the neighborhood. There will be an unusual quiet on the corner and a lot of people will notice the difference without really understanding why. Anheuser-Busch will have to lay off half of the second shift and not understand why. Goodbye 'Mr. Mayor', we miss you already.

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