Mr. Lopez mows my lawn. In fact, he’s been mowing the lawn at my house for 35 years, when the couple who originally owned my house still called it “home.” I moved in a little over a year ago. Mr. Lopez showed up about six months after that and informed me, in broken English, that he could take care of my lawn. He’s been doing it ever since.
Every three weeks Mr. Lopez shows up, and if I need him sooner than that, I call his cell phone. His wife, who speaks English, answers. She always asks, “Is this the lady with the dogs?” I affirm; she takes the message for him; he shows up.
Over the summer, Mr. Lopez didn’t show for nearly eight weeks. I really wasn’t too concerned. We were in the midst of a drought, so grass was not growing, and my house was under construction, so half my yard was covered with wall remnants and paint cans.
Finally, one morning he showed. I watched him approach my front door; he looked different. There was something about the way he was walking. His body was on my walkway; his mind was not. He seemed heavy.
I greeted him outside as I normally do. “Hi, Mr. Lopez!”
“Good Morning. Sorry. Haven’t come.”
I guess I should explain. I understand Spanish much better than I can speak it, which doesn’t say a lot. Mr. Lopez, on the other hand, speaks English better than he understands it. This was what our six months together had taught us – broken, half-phrases worked.
“Is all OK?” I asked.
“My wife. She is dead.”
No complicated turn of phrase. Simply. “My wife. She is dead. “
Then, he crossed himself as tears welled up in his eyes, and he looked up at the sky.
“I’m so sorry.” And then, the tears started.
“It is better. Now she is better.” Again, he looked to the sky.
His tears flowed now. I was crying freely, as well. We held hands.
I said, “My father died about a year ago.”
“Oh. Su papa.”
Standing in my front yard, grief transcended language. The connection over sadness always seems to make sense.
My neighbor, the hippie one that lives with his mom next door, came out then. I saw him see us. He waved. Add this to the list of other shit he’s witnessed from me:
- Knocking myself unconscious on my garage door;
- Climbing his fence at 2:00am in grandpa pajamas to retrieve my dog who had jumped his fence;
- Crying in the corner of my backyard after I slipped and fell while taking out the trash; and now,
- Holding hands and crying with Mr. Lopez in my front yard.
“We’re having a moment!” I shouted out to him. He just shrugged, got into his car, and drove away.
The moment passed. Mr. Lopez began his work; I came inside.
There’s a quiet understanding between us now. Grief has a way of making people friends.