Mr. Hansen: R.I.P.

Mr. Hansen died last night. For the last seven years he lived with his wife in the apartment directly below mine. His first name was Ted, but I always called him Mr. Hansen. We didn’t really know each other, other than to say “hello” in passing. I’ve never been the type to get to know my neighbors that well. I make sure they know me well enough that if they see me coming home at 2 in the morning they don’t mistake me for a burglar and call the cops. And I know them about as well.

I don’t know what Mr. Hansen did when he was younger, or where he grew up, or how he and his wife met. I don’t know how many children or grandchildren he’s left behind. All I really know is that he loved to garden. There are all sorts of plants and flowers surrounding our apartment complex, and he was the one that always tended to them. I would see him out working when I left in the morning, and sometimes still toiling away when I came home in the evening. He wore a baseball cap that said, “Older than dirt.” When it was really hot, I would usually say to him, “Don’t work too hard, and stay in the shade.” And he would smile and wave me on.

Over the last few months I had noticed that the plants were not being tended to. I also realized that I had not seen Mr. Hansen in weeks. That’s when I found out he had taken a tumble, and was recovering in a nursing home. He was something like 92 years old, so even a little fall can be a bad thing, and he had broken a few bones. When he finally came home, he didn’t look that well. Then they found out he had cancer. This was just a few weeks ago. I knew it would only be a matter of time before he would be gone.

My heart goes out to all of Mr. Hansen’s family and friends that will no doubt feel a far greater loss than I feel. But that does not mean I won’t miss him, because I will. But I wonder who will take care of his plants now that he is gone.

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