Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My neighbor, Oscar

As many of you know, my home base is the Village of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. For those of you that have not made the trip to Blue Mounds, the village meets the criteria of blink-you-missed-it. Blue Mounds is very small, though as small communities frequently assert, it has a big heart. I've been headquartered in Blue Mounds for almost 25-years, now, and have found the land and its people a steadying and supportive environment.

One of my neighbors is Oscar. I don't know many details about Oscar's life, though I do know that he's a hard worker, a retired mason and a WWII veteran. I also know that we share the same birthday (November 1st)

Oscar's birthday is exactly 40-years prior to mine, which means that he's pretty old. I haven't seen much of Oscar over the past few months, though I'd heard through the neighborhood grapevine that he'd taken ill. Yesterday morning as I was heading out for a run, I caught sight of Oscar lugging his trash cans back from the curb. I was relieved to see him, and immediately went over to visit.

As it turned out, the neighborhood rumors were true - Oscar had recently been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and lung cancer. Neither diagnosis is very promising, and Oscar estimated that he had 2-6 months to live.

We shared a long, quiet moment as the fullness of that prognosis settled in. The gap wasn't awkward in any way, but a momentary release from the linear time-scale that we often find ourselves whisked along. The gap at the end of the exhale had expanded to include the two of us, the village, and the unspoken vastness that hung in the air. It was a spacious and magical moment.

As quickly as the moment arose, it vanished into one of Oscar's jokes. Oscar is famous (notorious?) for his jokes. For all the years that we know each other, Oscar consistently shared two jokes with me each time that our paths crossed. Sometimes they'd be real groaners, and sometimes I'd find myself laughing out loud. I'm not sure where he picked these jokes up, though I'd always appreciated their homespun humor.

In the slipstream of the moment that we had just shared, Oscar looked me in the eye and requested one thing - that I share that day's jokes with others. Jokes, Oscar told me, were to be shared -  to bring a smile to those that you told them to.

In honor of Oscar, and all that he represents to me: neighborliness, service to country, grounded work ethic, and kindness... I'd like to share one of the day's jokes:

The queen was showing the bishop her stable of beautiful horses. As the queen and the bishop passed one of the horses, the horse let out a giant fart. The queen apologized profusely to the bishop, to which the bishop responded, and here I thought that it was the horse that farted!

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