Cade has developed a new obsession with the neighbors. Like a little mayor, he glad-hands them with beaming smiles. And Matchbox cars. If the elderly couple across the street is sitting on their porch as we’re coming or going, I’m screwed. Every episode goes something like this –
Cade: I want to say hi!
Me: (cringing) We don’t have time to say hi right now, sweetie. We need to go inside and eat dinner.
Cade: I don’t want dinner. I want to say hi!
Me: (feeling like a heel because the couple is lovely, and 90, and don’t have many visitors). Sigh. Okay – but just for a minute.
We climb up the scarily steep stairs to Laverne and Walter, who are surveying the neighborhood from their front porch. Laverne will be barefoot, wearing a mumu, and have her feet up on the porch table. Walter will be in jeans and a button-down shirt no matter the weather. Both will be at least three deep in beer and/or gin.
Walter: There he is! What a big boy!
Laverne: Oh, look at that. What’s his name, hon?
Cade climbs up on their lounge chair and makes himself right at home. We will be here forever. Laverne and Walter have mason jars of gin sweating in the heat on the porch table.
Me: His name is Cade.
Laverne: Dave? Oh, what a nice name for a big strong boy!
Walter: I think this one will be playing football!
Me: He likes firetrucks.
Walter leans over to Laverne.
Walter: What did she say, hon?
Laverne: FIRETRUCKS, WALTER. THE BOY LIKES FIRETRUCKS.
Laverne: Does he have any brothers or sisters?
Me: Yes, he has a little brother named Grady.
Laverne: I once knew a longshoreman named Gary.
Walter (to his wife): Ma’am?
Laverne: GARY. GARY FROM HAMILTON, HON.
Cade: Look! Firetruck flies high in the sky!
He raises the firetruck over his head and makes siren noises.
Cade: Nee-na, nee-na, nee-na. Firetruck comin’ through!
Laverne: (looking at Cade). He’s such a handsome boy. What’s his name, hon?
Cade looks at me quizzically.
Laverne: That’s a good, strong name.
Laverne: DAVE! THIS HERE IS DAVE, WALTER.
Walter: This one will be playing football for sure. Look how strong he is!
Laverne: Does he have any brothers or sisters, hon?
This continues for at least 15 minutes, or whenever Cade peels himself from the lounge chair. He never wants to leave.
As we walk down the stairs, Laverne shouts for us to be careful. Cade turns around and gives them his best wave (which is EXACTLY a Disney princess wave), and shouts back “Take care!”
If Cade wants to say hi, I need to pipe down and do it. Because I enjoy this couple and their pre-war stories, love that Walter blasts Patsy Cline from the garage when he washes his car, and that Laverne gets Walter’s attention by screaming YOO-HOO across the lawn. Walter told me that one of the other neighbors has a hot tub and goes in naked. And that he watches her with binoculars. What’s not to love about these two?
I peeked out the window tonight and Walter and Laverne are still out there. It’s obvious that they enjoy each other’s company, even after 60 years of marriage. She is sinking fast into Alzheimer’s, and Walter into deafness. But how lucky are they? They have each other. They still live independently in the same home they’ve had for 55 years, and they can sit on their porch and watch fireflies and swill gin. One day, maybe soon, that will change. It’s easy to see that they are savoring the days, watching the rain, and taking it all in with a relaxed smile. We should all be so lucky.