~ until it's gone.
There is a pink building two doors over from my building. From my balcony I can see their front doors and into one living room. I don't look, but there has always been one reliable sound from the building that over the years I have come to expect and love.
Every single morning, Jerome's wife walks the kids out of the building, around 8 am. Sometimes even on the weekends. She is always, always laughing. She has a very distinct laugh ~ not annoying, not particularly pretty, but genuinely joyful ~ a short sweet laugh that bubbles up from her soul and then floats out of her mouth, as if she had just blown on a dandelion. Her droplets of joy and laughter then float over to hang around our building like a strand of lights.
When her family first moved in, the laugh annoyed me because it was usually 7 or 8 am and I was (often) trying to sleep in. Sometimes I would also mutter to myself, in a groggy grunt, 'what could there be to laugh about at 7 am!?'
Over the years though, the laughter became part of the background noise up here on the hill. Generally, it is very quiet up here ~ you may hear a few birds, perhaps the soft roar of the highway down the street, but never traffic since we live on a dead-end street, and some days not even a peep from neighbors.
Except for her laughter.
Sadly, on September 29th, her husband was killed on highway 580. Jerome always had various household items in the back of his white truck. Whether he collected them around town and then sold them or took them to the junkyard, I don't know. But that's how we all came to know Jerome ~ he was sweet and kind and had the white truck with all the stuff in the back. When one neighbor lost control of her car recently and ended up in the front yard next door, Jerome rushed out to make sure she was OK.
On September 29th, Jerome was driving down 580 when something, a rack or shelving unit, flew out of the bed of his truck. He pulled over on a part of the highway that was at the top of a crest, making it hard for him to see oncoming traffic and hard for cars to see him. One car came over the crest and braked quickly to avoid hitting him, but the car behind it swerved to avoid a collision with the slowing car and accidentally struck Jerome. He was pronounced dead at the scene. We don't know what he was thinking, we don't know his reason for thinking the item was important enough to grab off the freeway. He may have wanted to get it out of the way of oncoming traffic, so it wouldn't cause an accident.
The neighbors say the wife has cancer, and they have two kids. I wondered, again, why such terrible things happen to good people, to joyful people, to warm and caring families.
I haven't heard the laugh since then.
And I miss it.