Edward "Bud" Moran, 94, passed away Saturday April 11, 2015. As a Marine during WWII, he saw action in Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Gilbert Islands, Saipan, and Tinian. He worked for 35 years for an insurance company, retiring in 1983. He and his beloved wife, Eleanor, who died in 2003, had lived in Bernardsville 65 years.
I never knew this man, nor his wife, but I've walked or passed by the small house many times and heard from several neighbors that the man at 90 was still cutting his own grass, refusing help.
I didn't know he had died, but last week the house was unceremoniously cleaned and put up for sale, amidst the pink, purple, and white blooming trees and high tree pollen cast, dandelions going to seed above unmown grass on lawns without lawn service and pesticides, my own included.
I'd had a bizarre Mothers' Day weekend resulting in an unproductive Monday, and decided to walk it off since my husband was napping; dinner was in the oven and both sons were home. Usually, I carry my cell phone and camera but didn't plan on being longer than 15-20 minutes. I felt free, unencumbered, like light through trees or a gentle breeze, washing worries away.
Passed a few Hispanic men on bicycles bringing home groceries, a dreadlocked black woman with a fair-haired child squirming in a stroller and several dog walkers, greeting them all with a smile and comment about the weather. It felt so good just to walk by myself and I decided I needed to do more of it in the future, in addition to working out at the YMCA.
At the corner of Sunset and Liberty, overgrown forsythia blocked what was coming next: a pile of garbage bags, boxes, old furniture, the remains of an old man's life. In the midst of the rubble, I spotted the lawnmower, which turned out to be a non-electric, non-gas operated, rechargeable, environmentally quiet model. I was ecstatic!
After brushing off a few paper wasps, I started looking through some of the open boxes when a wave of unexpected sadness came over me. There was a broken plastic Jesus, a yellowed letter from The Bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, a book about the history of The Sacred Heart Chapel's 100th anniversary, which included a brief mention of The Presbyterian Church, that our house was the parsonage for, back in the early 1900's.
I started collecting a few other useful items (okay, so a white fur muff in excellent condition was for my own lost past). Time forgotten, I collected several other treasures and was trying to figure out how on earth I would get the lawnmower and two rechargeable batteries, plus my one heavy yet delicate garbage bag back home...when our older son appeared on his bike.
"MOM, you didn't bring your cell phone and dinner was BURNING and we're all STARVING, etc., etc."
Me: "But I found an awesome lawnmower and...(mumble, mumble)... just a few other useful items."
He gave me a 28-year-old look, sighed, and said he'd go get one of our cars. While I waited, I walked across the street to speak with three people and two dogs who had been watching me. "Kind of sad, the remnants of a man's life just dumped at the curbside," I said, by way of introduction.
They all agreed, two in English, one in Spanish, both dogs barking, while they explained that his adult children who never visited, came and took things they wanted, then created the pile, which included his medical records, handwritten logs of symptoms and leftover medications, gorgeous photos of his wife circa 1940, and several new boxes, unopened, of Cheerios with an expiration date of February 2016.
My son arrived with the car and helped me get everything back to our house. My husband woke up, thinking it was the next day and got dressed for The Adult Day Care Center. Since it was still not yet sundown, the four of us ate the somewhat burnt dinner outside, although I didn't have much of an appetite. I was thinking of an old man whose adult children put a Bronze Star and a still working wristwatch at the curb, inside a cheap chipped coffee cup.