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 (John Dorrance)

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.


With his wife's retirement, Bill needed to downsize, move from the Bay Area.

I helped load the last items into his vehicles at midnight and waved goodbye to his family. He half-joked:  he had left some copies of his John Birch Society newsletter for my enlightenment in the empty house.

It's now three in the morning. He's gone. As much as it surprises me, I feel diminished by his absence.

I miss, will miss, his company.

With a Perspective, I'm John Dorrance.

John Dorrance talks to his neighbors in Morgan Hill.