We moved into this house in December. Unbeknownst to me at the time, plans were already in motion for the Annual Neighborhood Cookie Exchange, and the newest neighbor in the hood would be getting an invite (and maybe an assessment).
Walking into a party and knowing NOBODY is usually not my thing, but I was new to this state and I needed friends, and/or friendly neighbors with teenagers that babysat. The hostess was welcoming and lovely, and in one fell swoop I met just about every woman who lives on this street.
That following summer, the hostess of that party would bury her six year old son from meningitis. It is impossible to wrap your head around a healthy kid riding his bike up and down the street one day to being gravely ill to dying, and life on this street was wrapped in sadness and disbelief.
Four blocks away, on the corner of 75th and Roe, is a Baptist church that many of us enrolled our kids in for Mother's Day Out and preschool. The parents of this little boy were church members there and strong supporters of the preschool, and they raised funds to build an outdoor play area for the kids in honor of their son.
That neighbor moved a long time ago, but our son and her younger son are the same age and so I would see her and her husband frequently at the high school and cross-country events. We always catch up on what our kids are doing these days, and despite the tremendous loss in her life she is a joy to talk to and I am always happy to see her.
It is not unusual for me to drive by the corner of 75th and Roe many times a week, and each time I do I glance at that cheerful playground. My own kids and many others have been the beneficiaries of my neighbors' generosity during the darkest hours of their life.
On a Friday afternoon in October of last year, on a clear, beautiful fall day, a 29 year old woman was killed at that corner by an alleged drunk driver estimated to be traveling in the neighborhood of 100 miles an hour. If you saw this intersection you couldn't believe that something so tragic and senseless could happen there. It isn't even that busy or the kind of street you'd avoid because of frequent accidents. Not to mention somebody driving drunk at 1:00 in the afternoon. Amongst my friends and neighbors we have talked about it again and again as if there's some missing piece to this that was overlooked that would make sense. The woman who was killed owned a dance studio and left behind a devastated family, including a husband and his son.
A few weeks ago I was at that intersection waiting for the light to change when I saw a man in a shirt and tie, crouched down and staring into the intersection. It seemed out of place and sad and it wasn't until the light turned green and I had driven a few blocks that I realized that the guy I'd seen was her husband. I recognized him from the story in the paper.
Ohmygodohmygodohmygod. It's her husband. Somebody should tell him that those of us who live in this neighborhood have thought about his beautiful, dancer wife a thousand times. That whenever the subject comes up we can't believe somebody died on that corner. That the recent story in the paper about him and his son and her family trying to keep her dance studio going broke my heart and made me proud of them all at the same time. Somebody should tell him that.
Somebody like me.
I turned the car around with no idea of what I would actually say to him and drove back to that corner. Five minutes had passed by and he was nowhere to be seen. I circled the drive and parking lot twice to see if he'd gotten in his car. By now I was so sure he should know how truly sorry this neighborhood is about his wife that I had become brave enough to knock on his car window if need be.
The following day a funeral was held at that Baptist church for the woman who owned the dance studio my own girls went to for years. A dancer, a business owner, a woman who choked up at the recital every year thanking everyone, died of Lou Gehrig's disease. In tragic irony, the woman who made a career from moving was stopped by a disease that systemically took all movement away from her.
On the corner of 75th and Roe, where brightly colored slides and climbing equipment sit like a rainbow of happiness, there is more heartbreak than the casual passerby could even begin to imagine. Only those who have tried to patch a life back together know it all too well.