In August I wrote a blog about spending part of many mornings this summer talking with two of my neighbors. Charlie lives next door, and Franz lived one door over. When Charlie saw Manyu and me leave our house to walk Jack, he came out of his house with a walker and sat down in a lawn chair. Charlie’s wife Marla brought out three cups and an insulated carafe of coffee, then went back in the house. This would signal Franz to motor over in his electric wheelchair. When Manyu, Jack, and I returned from our one-hour walk, I’d hand Manyu the leash and join the two old men in Charlie’s driveway. Twice during our talks, I leaned back too hard and snapped the backs off of old and brittle lawn chairs. Marla and Charlie now have a new set of outdoor furniture.  

Last Monday Marla called me to say Franz had died. After I got off the phone, Manyu asked me how he died, where he died, and when he died. Franz had been dealing with emphysema for a long time, and it hadn’t occurred to me to ask Marla any of those questions. 

Although my house is two doors down from Franz, we’d become friends only the last six months. We discovered our interests overlapped, but were seldom identical. He hunted; I fished. He read a lot of non-fiction; I read crime novels. He was fascinated by all things Japanese; I’d lived in Taiwan. We did align politically and took turns disagreeing with our conservative neighbor Pat whenever he visited our group. It must have been early November the last time I saw Franz, because I remember arguing with Pat about testimony in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Then temperatures slipped into the forties, and our driveway coffee klatsche closed for the season. 

My cul-de-sac neighborhood is a small enclave unto itself. Rarely do people move away. Manyu and I bought our house in 1994, and the majority of our current neighbors already lived on the street when we arrived. Franz grew up in the neighborhood. As a young adult, he’d raised his own family in Massachusetts, but moved back to La Crosse and to Hackberry Lane when his parents left him their house. I always assumed I had one more move left in me after retirement. I think I still do, but I’m no longer sure.

Steven Simpson