Friday, 06 June 2014
Mr. Green's Dandelions
By Mary Mack
Mr. Green lives next door to me. Well, that’s not exactly true. Mr. Green’s house lives next door to me. Mr. Green actually lives downtown in a subsidized apartment, or so I’ve heard.
Apparently the city kicked him out of his house several years ago before I moved into the neighborhood. Unpaid taxes, I think.
The grass in the front lawn has grown a foot tall and is littered with dandelions. I think that dandelions may be the cure for cancer so they don’t really bother me. I’m too old to get excited about dandelions anyway.
But the official-looking note plastered to the front door of the house stating that it is uninhabitable does bother me. I need to know why this charming little bungalow, in our suburban neighborhood that looks like it should be on the shores of Cape Cod, is uninhabitable. I can’t help myself. So I decide to peek into the windows.
There are stacks and stacks of books, magazines and unopened mail lying on the floor in the dining room. Torn furniture and an old television set with rabbit ears are still in place in the living room. Piles and piles of shoes and dead plants are everywhere.
Shoes? But the saddest of all, for me anyway, are the unopened Christmas gifts lying beneath an artificial Christmas tree in the corner of the living room.
The city has boarded up the windows in the back of the house where I could possibly get a glimpse into the kitchen, most likely where the “uninhabitable” part comes into play. Otherwise, besides needing a good scrub, the house isn’t in much worse shape than my own.
Last fall, about three weeks after moving into the neighborhood, I was out in my front yard planting roses when Mr. Green walked up to the front door of his house. Well, the city’s house, carrying two grocery bags, the plastic type.
He sets the bags down on the front stoop and proceeds to try and open the front door. He doesn’t have a key, I’m certain, so he just pushes the door in and out, in and out, over and over again.
It’s none of my business, I know, but it's so disturbing I can't take it any longer. I walk next door.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Green,” I say. “May I help you with something?”
“No, no, that’s okay. I seem to have lost my key.” (I hate the city.) “You’re new to the neighborhood, right?” he asks me.
“Yes, my husband Jim and I just moved in a few weeks ago,” I say. “My name is Mary.” I shake his hand.
“My name is John, John Ralph Green,” he says with a smile.
“I’m planting some roses. Would you like to come next door and have a glass of ice tea?” I ask.
“Are you sure? I wouldn’t want to be a bother…”
“Oh no, Mr. Green, no bother at all. Please come take a seat on my front porch,” I say as I pick up one of the two grocery bags off the front stoop. I can’t help myself, I take a peek inside. A pair of brown leather shoes.
Mr. Green sits on my front porch drinking a glass of ice tea when Jim arrives about five minutes later. Mr. Green and Jim sit and talk while I tend to my new rose bushes. They have much to talk about.
We learn that Mr. Green, like Jim, is a veteran, both Marines. Mr. Green served in Korea, 1st Marine Division and was present at the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir.
The battle was fought over some of the roughest terrain during some of the harshest winter weather conditions of the Korean War. Mr. Green, “took it in stride,“ he tells Jim as he sips his ice tea.
He has lived in Geneva, New York his entire life. Cold weather is nothing new to him.
After returning home from the war, he worked for a shoe store downtown which is long gone and forgotten. His wife of 54 years, Ellie, died six years ago. He continues to buy her Christmas gifts.
Mr. Green died four months ago. Tomorrow I will mow his lawn for him, I think he would like that or, at least, I hope so. I’ll keep a patch of dandelions growing closest to the curb just to piss off the city. I think Mr. Green would like that even more.
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