Thursday, June 04, 2009

Photo of the week

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears

I remember the morning I took this picture. It was a brisk morning in March. I wanted to get to the boardwalk before the sun came up. I think I got out of bed around 4:30 in the morning. M probably murmured something like: "What the hell are you doing?"

The ocean has always been at my side since I was a baby. I grew up with the smell of the sea air and tidal changes. I don't know if I could ever move too far away from it.

When we were kids and we used to drive up to my Grandmothers house for holidays. She lived up in Bloomfield, NJ. A BIG difference to the southern NJ that I'm used to. On the way home my siblings and I would more than likely fall asleep since it was about a 2 hour drive home but as soon as we got around Exit 40 on the Garden State Parkway we could smell the coal tar coated pilings and salty sea air and it would wake us up because we knew we were close to home.

Normally I post black and white photos, but this one popped into my head today when I went to a service for a neighbor's wife who passed away recently. Actually the song popped in first and then the photo.

Heidi was her name.
I only met her a few times. Mostly I chatted with her husband Ray.
M and I called him the little Amish guy because he had that mustache-less beard of white hair like the Amish do.

He is a very spry 70 something year old man. Always outside doing something. I watched him and his son put a new roof on his house. I've watched him replace all of the windows on his house by himself and he scared me to death when he single handledly (sp?) took down a 50 ft+ pine tree in his back yard. It took him about 2 weeks to complete it, but day after day I watched him climb up that tree and rig some kind of line to the branch he was cutting and HAND saw it off and slowly lower it down to the ground.

When I told him he nearly gave me a heart attack as I watched him, he just chuckled and waved his hand and said he knew what he was doing.

There is/was a hedge that separates our two yards. When M and I first moved in the hedge was about 8 feet tall and had slowly but surely replaced the wood fence that the previous owners of our house had put up.
It was a beautiful hedge. I'm not sure what kind of plant it is but it stayed green all year round and was just very calming to look at. I tried to keep up with Ray in to make sure my side pruned and neat.

Then one day I came home and the entire hedge was gone.

Just GONE!

All that was left was the bits and pieces of the old fence that lay between our two yards.

First I was kind of pissed of. I have two dogs who will run away any chance they can. Well, one will run the other will just follow him around and look kind of stupefied.

I had to rig up some kind of chicken wire temporary fence just to keep my dogs from running away.

I spoke to Ray the following day and he told me the reason why he took it down. It was too hard for him to keep up with and his wife was ill so he needed to take care of her, not the hedge.

He also offered to help me replace the old fence that had deteriorated over the years.

One of my neighbors offered to drive me to Home Depot to pick up the fence panels I needed. The posts were still in good shape so they didn't need to be replaced.

Then one sunny spring day Ray and I were up early and put the fence up together.

He also offered me cuttings from the old hedge to replant.

I did - it's growing very nicely. I won't let it grow 8ft on my side because it's too hard to prune back but it looks healthy and green.
We chatted as we worked. He was a carpenter and taught shop at one of the high schools nearby. He lived in the neighborhood most of his life. First at one house in our development where he layed all of the brick in the front of the house by himself and the next in the house that he and Heidi resided in which was a little smaller and easier to take care of.
It was a very nice day and he is very easy to work beside.

Heidi very rarely came out. I always wondered why.

I met her the first time when I went to return a pair of snips that he used to trim the hedge that must have fallen on our side of the yard.

She was so sweet with bright sparkling dark eyes.

She didn't say much, but let me in and called for Ray.

One summer night I remember talking to Ray over the fence (it's 6 Ft high). Heidi came out and she is so tiny she couldn't see over it so he propped her up on some cinder blocks so she could say Hi!

As her illness progressed, we saw less and less of Ray outside. He only came out to mow the lawn or do some simple maintenance.

Every once in a while I saw him pull out an upholstered chair from the house and Heidi would come out and sit and watch him tend to her garden which I found out later was her pride and joy.

M and I used see them walking hand and hand around the neighborhood and he would take her down to the Metedeconk river and sit on a bench and just gaze outat the water.

Later we would see him pushing her around in a wheel chair wrapped up warmly in blanket.

I saw Ray only occasionally over the past year. He was a very devoted husband and kept Heidi home throughout her illness. She had Alzheimer's.

It is not an easy illness to witness.

There was a woman who came to help Ray out once in a while so that he could run errands and take care of things and I'm sure to just get a break once in a while. She used to walk Heidi in front of her house and I would say hello to them. I gave Heidi a little squeeze of the hand one time.

I don't even know if she knew where she was at that point.

This past Monday I was working out in the yard and Ray peeked over the hedge that has been re-planted (very Artie Johnson like) and let me know that Heidi had passed away.
He stayed strong when he told me and invited me to her service.

I asked him how he was holding up and let him know that M's Mom has the same disease and it's horrible. We were both so touched at how he cared for her.

Today at the service I shook his hand and you could tell the day had been tough on him. So many people offering their condolences. It can be comforting and emotionally exhausting at the same time.

I listened to the stories that each of their children shared about their mother. Her great cooking. Her homemade ginger bread houses and all of the fine detail she added. The endless tins of holiday cookies she would make. Her garden and how she passed the seeds of her plants down to her daughter who shares the same passion as her mother did in tending to each plant.

The moment that everyone was in tears was when her youngest son Christopher played a recorded message from his answering machine of his Mother and Father singing Happy Birthday to him. He's kept it all this time.

Damn I wish I had brought tissues.

I dedicate this post to the memory of Heidi Bruker and wish her family sympathy and peace.

1 comment:

neetzy said...

Lovely post for your dear neighbor. What a wonderful husband. I am at home near the shore. My second home is the woods. I grew up near both.