Life and Death in the Suburbs

A couple of nights ago our living room was lit up by the strobing, red lights of emergency vehicles.  I got up, leaned against the window frame and looked through the curtains — good nosy-neighbor-style.  At the house kiddy-corner across the street, there was a fire engine, three sheriff’s cars and an ambulance.  The paramedics were just pulling out the gurney, and they loaded it with stuff, pushed it across the yard and went into the house.



Growing up, we knew our neighbors.  Yes, it was the 70’s, and yes we lived in the country, but still…we knew the people who lived around us.  Jeannette and Denny across the street, Mrs. Wheeler next-door to her.  The Testor’s next to them.  Martin’s lived next to us, on the corner.  Around the corner were the Baker’s, Babcock’s, Deb and Brian (I forget their last name now), The Springer’s and the O’Dell’s.  Down the road was old Clarence Holsinger’s farm.  The other way were the Haskell’s, the Yanne’s and the Sasse’s.  If anything happened, we knew about it.  When Al Haskell broke his arm, we knew when, how and why.  Before Jeannette and Denny lived across the road from us, it was nice, old Mrs. Boyce.  Ned and Isabel, her daughter and son-in-law, were like family to us, too.  When Mrs. Boyce passed, we attended the funeral.  Because we were neighbors.

When we lived in a little town in the 2000’s, we knew the people on our street, and our kids played in each other’s houses.  We were the house with the good swingset.  The neighbor mom would have coffee with my wife, and our old next-door neighbor is like a sister to my wife.  Her kids are like our kids.  My wife testified in her divorce hearing.

Now we live in a suburb in Florida.  I’ve talked to our next-door neighbor a handful of times, and only found out that they’ve divorced last week…and it happened months ago.  Our next-door neighbor on the other side has talked to us exactly once.  Across the street, the same…and I swear that when our kids come outside, theirs go inside.  I’ve never said more than “hi” to most of the people in our neighborhood, and more people live within 200 yards of us now, than within a mile of us when I was growing up.  The house kiddy-corner across the street from us now?  I’ve never said a word to them, nor them to me.  I think they primarily speak Spanish.


So it was probably 15 minutes later or so, they brought out our neighbor on the gurney.  They had an oxygen mask on his face, with the squeeze-bag attached to it.  His (large) stomach looked like he coughed…then again…then again, and I realized that it was too rhythmic.  I saw the device strapped to his chest, and realized it was doing mechanical chest compressions.  They took their time and loaded him into the ambulance.  They took probably another five minutes before they slowly backed up, then turned the corner and drove away:  lights flashing, but no siren.  It wasn’t a minute before the neighbor’s minivan backed out, and drove off after them.

The next morning the minivan was back in their driveway, and since then there have almost always been several extra cars parked in front of their house.  It’s been two or three days, and there’s still three to five extra cars at their house pretty consistently.

I think our neighbor had a heart attack and died.  And I’ll never know for sure, because neighbors here aren’t neighbors, they just live near each other, but never get close.  I didn’t even know his name.


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