A short while after moving to Northern California in late 90’s I bought my dream home. A beautiful secluded ranch with panoramic valley views and breath taking scenes of deer and fawn grazing on the hillside. It was the kind of place that reminded me of my childhood and trips I took with my father to our farm in northwest Iran. The kind of place you want to raise happy, healthy and active children. Perhaps it was a touch of fate that I met Gerry here. My neighbor who became a dear friend, and occasional beer and sports buddy. He was in the same age range as my dad who passed away not long after I met Gerry.
Gerry was an engineer who worked for one of the biggest brand names in glory days of American industry. Retired now, he had travelled plenty around the world on projects so we always had some thing and place in common we could talk about. He was engineers’ engineer and maintained a sizeable house and lot all by himself. He was of the Greatest Generation with similar values, style and depth of character. We used to exchange maintenance and oak trimming tips and had an active tool exchange program that meant neither of us ever needed to run to Home Depot urgently. After some yard work on a hot summer day, we would sit on the swing set he had built overlooking the valley and cooled down with a frosty beer. My black Labrador Suzy hung out at his yard more than mine and they seemed to have a connection that I did not. I saw he enjoyed Suzy’s company so much that one day I gifted it to him. He refused at first but I convinced him that I travelled too much so he could take good care of her and Suzy was actually happier with him than me; besides she roamed both our yards freely as she pleased.
I would return from a business trip to find out he emptied my recyclables, or during fire season he had weeded the whole side of the hill while I was away. A task most men half his age would not and could not do and even best of neighbors do not go to that length. In gratitude, I would bring him some fine wine next time I went to somewhere exotic or take him and wife out for a nice steak dinner. He would hesitantly accept, as though what he did was what friends do and needed no acknowledgement.
When I sold my house I could not have managed without him the cleaning of two decades worth of junk that clutter our lives. Our occasional beer activity remained steady until his neurodegenerative disease started to weaken him over the past year. Men like Gerry are not good with wheel chairs and dependence. He would have refused it if at all possible. His license plate, a gift from his wife, said Big Gerry. He was bigger than life.
Gerry passed away last Thursday. It felt like losing a friend and a father at the same time. Suzy followed Gerry three days later.