When I moved to another apartment building here in Covington, Kentucky at the end of January, my decision was to stay pretty much to myself and not get involved with my neighbors. When living at my previous address in Covington, the neighbors in the building drove me crazy and had become a nightmare. I didn’t want a repeat experience at the new place. I maintain this was a good decision I stuck with — until I met Mr. McNabb this past spring.
I’m an older person, but Mr. McNabb is much older. He’s 78. There’s a park-like area where we live and sometimes we sit together on a bench under a tree to just shoot the shit. He’s a bit of a grump like me, likes to read and we often discuss our past business lives.
He loves it when I smoke a cigarette. His doctor doesn’t allow him to smoke anymore, but he loves smelling mine when I’m sitting next to him. We both look forward to our “little visits,” as he calls them.
On June 10 — and I remember this date very well — I went looking for Mr. McNabb. There was a book I wanted to loan him and I went to that bench under the tree hoping he would be there. He wasn’t. Thinking he might be in the laundry room, I went looking for him there, but the only one in the room was Holly folding her bed sheets.
Holly is also older, usually has her white hair piled up on top of her head and is a bit heavy. She speaks very softly and did so when she gave me the news about Mr. McNabb.
He had died the previous day — apparently had a heart attack. Holly was surprised I hadn’t heard anything about it. I was shocked by the news.
For days, I was depressed about his death — this man I really didn’t know much about. I didn’t know if he was ever married or had kids or what kind of car he used to drive. I wondered what kind of house he had lived in. I wondered who else would miss him besides me.
I felt sorry for myself, told myself my original idea to not make friends with neighbors at my new residence was a good one. Now, I was in pain over a person I was just getting to know.
Teary-eyed, I looked through the local obituaries for information on Mr. McNabb. I wanted to find out when his funeral service was. I didn’t know if I could go or not, but if his service was handy to a bus stop, I thought I might make the attempt. I couldn’t find out any information. Not knowing many other people in my building, I asked Holly if she knew when and where Mr. McNabb was being buried. She looked at me oddly and said she didn’t.
I told family and friends about Mr. McNabb’s death, even announced it to the world on Facebook. I was grieving for this new friend I had made and then suddenly lost. I was still in a somewhat emotional state when I had a surprise fall on me like a ton of bricks at the Walgreens on Madison Avenue five weeks later.
There was Mr. McNabb in the cereal aisle looking over a box of Rice Krispies. He seemed glad to see me as I pretended like I wasn’t having a stroke.
He told me he had fallen out of bed and fractured his hip. This required a hospital stay and then rehabilitation at a rehab facility. He probably told me the name of the hospital and the rehab center, but I was mostly watching Mr. McNabb’s mouth move. To me, he had just come back from the dead and I could feel the sweat pouring down my face.
After I left Walgreens, I went back to my apartment building, not looking for Mr. McNabb this time, but for Holly, the idiot who had told me he was dead. I found her in the laundry room again folding more of her bed sheets. I asked her why she had told me Mr. McNabb had died. Holly acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about and this told me that maybe she had passed along a rumor or that her ladder doesn’t go all the way up.
Spring has turned to summer and Mr. McNabb and I still visit at that bench under a tree where we live. We still shoot the shit and he still enjoys smelling my cigarette smoke. Our friendship is back to normal.
Recently, Mr. McNabb told me he used to own a home in Ft. Mitchell. He has one son who is about the same age as mine. He told me his wife died many years ago and he used to drive a Buick.
So now I know a bit more about Mr. McNabb, and I’m glad. I never did tell him that Holly told me he was dead. I don’t think I ever will. I’m hoping she’ll learn to not spread rumors anymore or if she’s a nutcase, to just fold her damn bed sheets and keep her mouth shut.