The usual welcoming committee went by with cookies and cakes and so glad you’re here’s. Their generosity was accepted graciously but no one was invited into the house. There was speculation of course. Maybe he was a widower. The single ladies, widows, and divorcees all sent out signals but Bill never bit. Some of the ladies wondered if he might be “that way”. Truth be told a lot of us fellas wondered what was up as well. But we didn’t pay much attention in the long run. Hell, he was quiet and kept to himself. He didn’t have a car and that was odd. He would ride his bike all over the place. We all offered him rides at one time or another but he always politely declined.
Men being men we respected his privacy and gave him space. He kept a neat yard and puttered around in his garden. No pets disturbed neighbors. No off color remarks made to women or kids. No problems.
Then one snowy winter day events came together and I offered him a ride to the store. I can’t remember exactly what I said. It was something about needing something from the store and a break from the wife. He accepted. That began the strangest and most important friendship of my life. Bill and I were closer than brothers.
That was almost fifteen years ago. Tomorrow I’m going into the hospital for heart surgery. I know Bill will be there along with my wife, the love of my life. I know I’ll ask him to watch out for her if anything happens to me. I also know he can trust her with the secret he shared with me one hot summer night as we sat around chugging beers. Whatever happens to me now at least I know they will take care of each other because that’s the kind of people we are.