We lost our neighbor yesterday.
Although we knew the end would be coming in a matter of weeks, the news still hit our hearts.
John was a Korean war vet, a rare bird in this day and age. I would lovingly describe him as a curmudgeon but that particular adjective would not suffice to explain his complicated yet endearing personality.
We met merely three years ago as we began building our house next door to his. On a regular basis, he would drive over in his golf cart and inform us of the comings and goings of the construction workers as if to provide a documented run down on the events of the day. Obviously, he considered it his duty to maintain a watchful eye. We knew immediately we would be provided a detailed description of a “perp” should one decide to poke his nose where it wasn’t wanted. After all, he often told us, “I have a pistol…and I can still see well enough to shoot.” His birdlike dark eyes missed nothing.
Once we moved it, he would pop in unexpectedly, his hair akimbo, a wide brimmed hat covering his forehead. His hands were a testament to earlier hard times, rough and weathered. He would gently dole out doggie treats to Charlie.
It was during the course of one of these visits he reluctantly revealed not only was he a veteran of the Korean Was but the last surviving member of a group of volunteers who found themselves used as guinea pigs during atomic bomb testing. Frail yet defiant, he would drop little hits of the experience until finally he decided to let me tell the tale, not only his but those of his fallen comrades.
Fortunately, his passing will not deter me from completing the journey. The stories he conveyed, the awe he felt witnessing the unbridled fury of a mushroom cloud and the detailed descriptions of his fellow sailors will live on. I only hope his faith in my writing, “The Boys on the Bow” does justice to their memory.
RIP John…rest in peace.