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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.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


This is a wonderful piece of writing, very touching. Mr Green was an American hero. Your story illustrates the way some of our veterans are treated, and this must be fixed if we are to survive and thrive. They are our most valued resource. You are a very good writer and I am looking forward to reading more of your work. Thank You.

What a beautifully told story! Very touching!

Thank you, Danny, your support means so very much to me. Kindest regards, Mary

Thank you, Dani.

Wonderful post. Poor Mr. Green. It is very nice of you to mow that yard for the city.

What a tender story for D-Day! We sure need to help our veterans more, not less. Mowing the yard just might draw some wise attention to the city's treatment of Mr. Green. Maybe try and get a picture in the papers?
Your story is SO well-written!

It's a wonderful story and--as comments above have said--very well-written.

In fact, it occurred to me that nearly all the stories here are quite well-written. I think that has something to do with the early education we had back in the day.

Mr. Green must have loved the bright yellow color of dandelions to have grown such a lovely crop next to you. I also think they are nice, but yes a nuisance to the wind spreading their seeds far and wide. I just hope someone planted a few on his grave to keep him happy.

I just learned lately that dandelions are so important to the bees, and as we all know the bees are in danger. So, plant dandelions and clip the heads off when they begin to turn to fluff.

Thank you, everyone. I appreciate all of your kinds words. Mary Mack

What a wonderful story of love, compassion, and friendship. How wonderful that Mr. Green loved his wife so much that after she passed he continued to buy presents for her.

Well done!

poignant and vivid - great storytelling! and what an interesting observation, Madeline.

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