I wouldn’t have known she’d died if it weren’t for Charlotte’s cold.
She was awake, crying, at 11:30 p.m. yet again that week and I stumbled out of bed to find her a cup of water. At first the flashing emergency lights seemed to be coming from her room and for a moment I thought her fan had caught fire.
I saw the ambulances then, in front of the red brick house across the street; and while I watched the one shut off its lights. They were still there 20 minutes later, when the cup of water had done its work and the baby was sleeping again.
Her obituary was short. Just her name, date of death, services on the weekend. No family listed, though her granddaughter (or niece? I never have been sure) lived with her; no biographical details or hobbies or former careers.
She was 90 years old.
And later we talked outside on the sidewalk, another neighbor and I. We remembered how she loved her yard, how it irritated her when others let theirs go to seed. Used to, before we moved in, she’d bring her lawn mower across the street to cut the grass here, frustrated at the jungle the old man let it grow into.
All summer we’d see her, until a year or two ago. He thought stroke, I thought heart attack. We both knew visiting nurses came regularly to check. We haven’t seen her for months. Longer, maybe.
Then last week the sun came out and it was almost warm and Charlotte and I walked back and forth along the sidewalk, watching the cars go by. The niece (or is she the granddaughter?) came out, cutting back weeds or pulling leaves out from around the rose bushes. First bit of sun, first bit of gardening. Not much seems to have changed across the street.
And it was bittersweet to see it.