The goodbye

“Can I bring over a bottle of wine?” our next door neighbor, Dallas, said on the phone one evening in March. “I have something to tell you guys, and I want to do it in person.”

“Noooooo!” I said. “I know what you’re going to say.”

Husband eyed me, furrowing his brow.

Dallas chuckled. “So now’s good?”

“Of course. Come.”

Dallas came to the front door, his six-foot-six-inch frame towering on our front porch—always a welcome sight. He handed me a Cabernet, and I motioned for him to sit at the dining room table with us. Soon, my fear was confirmed.

Dallas was moving.

The day we brought newborn Dicka home from the hospital in 2004 was the day Dallas moved in next door. He had intended to fix up the house and flip it within two years, but had stayed for thirteen instead.

Husband and I listened to the details of his new house just a mile away in Robbinsdale. It was his dream—another place to renovate, away from the inner city and its intricacies.

Over the following weeks, Dallas painted and repaired and tidied the property. He passed from his garage to the house and back again, and I heard the voices of my little girls from summers past.

“Hi, Dallas!” they called to our neighbor as he emerged from his house and headed for the garage. They scrambled around our back yard in princess costumes, waving wands, or in swimsuits, toting squirt guns.

He hollered hi back and waved, disappearing into his garage. He reappeared with tools or materials, pointed for the house again.

“Hi, Dallas!” they shouted a second time.

He laughed and yelled hello. Into the house and back out for more supplies.

“Hi, Dallas!”

I cringed. “Oh girls.” Would their constant hooting get on his nerves?

Later I found out he hadn’t minded all the attention. He hadn’t minded one bit.

Over the years, Dallas accepted our last-minute invitations for pizza nights or fires in the fire pit. He insisted we snip his tulips or forage his gardens for berries, tomatoes, rhubarb, and more. If his yard was a polished adult, ours was an awkward teenager, but he was patient with us. We played the eternal game of Who Can Get Out and Shovel the Other’s Snow First? with him. He usually won. In 2006, I cried when I told him about Dad dying; in 2014, he cried when he told me about his dad passing away.

After a busy weekend of running loads over to the new place, Dallas phoned me on Monday morning.

“Well, this is it. I’m leaving now.”

“I’ll be right out,” I said. “I need a picture of us.”

We posed in front of his house, and my friend snapped our photo. Behind us, his tulips had finished blooming.

Later, I texted him: The only reason I didn’t cry when you left today was because I know we’ll see you soon.

He texted back: Love you too.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.