It wasn't as if my next-door-neighbor, Bill, and I agreed on anything important. For a long time we have just been two old men arguing about life and politics on each other's front steps. He would always bait me with tidbits of Fox News opinion or the latest revelations from right-wing radio.
Twenty years ago, Bill hand-built his lakeside home beside us. My wife and I listened as he and his spouse fought out their stress in the tiny construction trailer. Bill later lent me his paint sprayer and his expertise when I added a home office to the garage. I taught Bill's teenage son, Scott, model rocketry at summer camp.
Scott married, had a baby son, and died at 23 in the Navy. After that I spotted my neighbor, a dad living many months in his pajamas, curled like a cat atop his kitchen counter trying to sleep through his grief in the late afternoon sun. His devastated wife confided in us. She wondered if they -- if Bill -- would make it.
They did, adopting their traumatized grandson from a mother who no longer cared.
Bill talked his ultra-conservative religion at me on the porch. I understood his need of heaven. His grandson and my son grew to become fast friends. Bill took them wake-boarding on his boat, while I invited everyone over for barbeque. Still, I avoided the man for a dozen weeks after our heated discussion of God and gays.