I grabbed my new blue notebook, 2 pens (BIC Mark-It and uni-ball Signo), my “Life is Good” coffee mug, and headed out the front door to count 100 steps. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect to notice much. I thought 100 steps is too few, the area is too familiar. I was wrong.
I found myself staring at the neighbor's front yard for the first time. I see it every day, but never like this. The first time I saw it was two years ago when we moved in. An African-American man no older than 60 was riding his John Deere lawn mower. He smiled and tipped his cap. I would see him just about every day for the next year. I would see him cutting the grass. I would see him trimming the hedges. I would see him edging the driveway. Then one day, I didn’t see him. I saw a hearse, hugging family members, and a black veiled wife crying on the porch. That day I hugged my wife extra long and kissed her an extra time. A sad reminder that life is short and time is precious. I hadn't thought about the man much until today, sitting with my notebook, pens, and a cup of coffee.
I stared at the huge oak tree in the front yard. It has been there much longer than both me or the deceased man. It is tall and strong at first glance, but time is catching up with it as well. A third of the tree no longer produces leaves. Dead limbs can be found in all directions. One branch is completely broken off. The other branches are holding it in the air like they are begging for just one more day with their friend. One strong wind and he will be gone. Another branch lays on the ground like the seven others that are peppered around the tree. Even the birds seem to avoid the tree. I can hear chirps all around me, but not a single bird sits upon the oak.
Upon closer inspection, the yard is full of signs that the caretaker is gone. Another dead tree stands next to the elm. Far too young to be dead, but an untreated fungus has consumed it. A rusted basketball hoop with a cracked backboard and shriveled net barely stand by the front door. A hummingbird feeder swings completely empty from a dilapidated metal pole. The window shades are drawn closed. The same 100 steps as two years ago, but a vastly different view.