Dear Mr. Baxter
I don't think you know me... well, you yelled at me plenty of times when I was a kid, but we never knew one another. You lived next door to Mike Miller, just across a rusty chain-link fence that's still there... a testament to one person's desire to know the exact location of that particular property line. I was one of the "little brats" you used to yell at when we'd play next door to your house.
I used to watch you drive your mustard-yellow Plymouth Duster down the street to a destination that was much debated by us neighborhood kids. Mike insisted, above the fray of our arguing, that your destination was to buy a case a beer. We didn't believe him, so one day we followed you on our bikes. It wasn't hard. You always drove with the emergency brake on. To make it look like we weren't following you was actually harder than keeping up. Sure enough, you drove to Chuck's Pizza, and emerged with a case of beer. I gathered it wasn't the first time Mike followed you, but he was one who always needed to be right, so he gloated all the way home, especially as we passed your car just past Roosevelt Elementary School.
I don't know if you were drunk every day. I don't know if you had family. I don't know if you knew Jesus, or had met him once along the course of your days. I don't know anything about you... except that when we got bored, we knew you'd come out to yell at us if we threw a football in your yard. You always came through then!
I don't know the circumstances with which you finally moved. I assume you died, as 27 years ago you were retired, home, alone, every day, drinking your beer and watching a black-and-white TV that never seemed to turn "off". You could count on that too - the warm glow of a black-and-white TV emanating out of a large picture window with no curtain at all hours. I don't know what happened to that TV, or the Plymouth Duster. They, like you, are all gone.
But the impression you left me is still alive, and this weekend when I drove passed what used to be your home, I could still see you, out on the front porch yelling obscenities, trying to get to ball before we did so you could take it inside.
I wonder what happened to all those balls?
I wonder if I could have helped you? Maybe made a call to a social worker who specialized in issues pertaining to the elderly, or to a son, or daughter or any other living relative. Heck, why obsess over this now? I was ten, and more afraid of you than anything else. Besides, I'm guessing that any intervention would not have been welcomed.
But nobody should have lived out the end of their life that alone. Nobody.
So, take care Mr. Baxter. Here's a word of concern, about twenty years too late. My guess: you'd have just thrown it away in the trash...
but then again, maybe you wouldn't have.
Little Brat #4