By Rose Divecha

I watched as he shuffled across the street in his plaid pajama bottoms and oversized winter coat, even though it was March and the temperature unseasonably mild.

“Are you the people who bought this place?” he asked as we stood in front of our new purchase with our realtor.

“Yes we did!” I happily replied.

His arms hung by his sides, and as I looked down at his gloved hands I wondered if a handshake and introduction were forthcoming. They were, but not in the customary style. The introduction came by way of a brief history lesson on the neighbourhood, his family and how long he’d lived on the street. My husband Rob and I listened with interest. His name was Dominic and he was sixty-nine years old. He’d lived on the block his whole life and possession of the century old semi-detached home fell to him after his parents died. Following a lengthy conversation, and several attempts to excuse ourselves and leave, the handshake finally came.

“See you in a few weeks.” We told Dominic as we got into our car and drove away. And see him we did in the months that followed our move. He was a permanent fixture on his front porch, seated in a white plastic lawn chair smoking one cigarette after another, a wave or comment always proffered across the road.

“Do you want some flowers?” he yelled to me one day as I puttered in my front yard. Dominic was gardening and had yanked up from the ground an excess of small yellow flowers. Roots dangling, arm extended, he offered them out to me.

I looked at my yard. Little more than weeds grew across my lawn.

“Maybe when I get a flower garden cut in. I have no place to plant them just yet”

Was it my imagination, or did he look a little disappointed? I should have just taken them. It wouldn’t have hurt to make an old man happy. Oh well, next year, I thought to myself.

This winter Dominic passed away. I was home when the ambulance drove up to take him to the hospital. As it pulled away I knew Dominic would not be returning, that he was leaving the house he had lived in all his life for the last time. In the days that followed I scanned the newspaper for confirmation and finally found the notice that printed what I already knew.

I really thought we would have had more time to get to know Dominic. I thought he was going to continue to be that neighbour who always kept a watchful eye out to the street, aware of all the comings and goings, as he had done for years. Sadly, this was not to be. Our time and knowledge of Dominic was cut short. His ties to the community however, run long and deep and his absence will be felt for some time to come. For me, I think I’ll feel it most this spring when I look across the street and spot the tiny yellow flowers blooming, faces to the sun, their roots planted firmly in place.