How does it happen that Mr. Wilson outlived me?
I was young, with decades yet to go,
And I reminded him of it every day,
Sometimes loudly playing games to point up the age gap
Or by frequently speculating on just how ancient he was.
One giddy time, I yelled across the fence
That when I reached half his age, he’d be long gone.
I could see the red run up his neck
Like Mrs. Dowd’s ol’ cat skinning up her elm tree to avoid a rock.
That changed him. He stopped yelling, stopped cursing,
Stopped trying to keep me out of his house.
He got friendly with me, gave me presents,
Like his old Boy Scout knife, lawn darts, a Zippo lighter.
He convinced Dad I was ready for a two-wheeler,
And later showed me how he could ride with one hand—
No hands! Who knew? All it took, he said, was practice.
When our other neighbor’s moving van backed over me practicing,
Good ol’ Mr. Wilson was first on the scene. Insisted on carrying me in.
The last thing I remember was him murmuring “sleep quietly,”
With a look of mild regret on his saggy, bulbous old features.