They moved in across the street when I was in 2nd grade, but I already knew them from church. Father, mother, daughter, son. The daughter and I were in the same grade. The dad died on Monday. He was only 58, the same age as both my parents.
At my childhood swim meets, I could always hear him cheering and whistling, even while in the water. He used the same whistle to summon his children for dinner or for bed when we were playing kick the can or having tennis ball wars in the street. Often, he'd open the back hatch of their wood paneled station wagon, load up all the neighborhood kids, and take us to the DQ. I cut through their yard to go to the park and fed their dog when they were at the lake.
He was meticulous about his yard. Mowing, raking, hosing down the driveway. Whether I was 8 or 28, he'd yell my name from his yard whenever he saw me. When the cancer meds made him jittery and restless, he took to mowing the lawn twice a week and raking obsessively. My mom jokingly took some leaves from our yard to his yard so he'd have more to rake.
He had terrible taste in TV and movies. He'd watch anything and he'd watch it over and over. "My big fat obnoxious fiancee"? Yeah, he'd watch that type of stuff.
He was huge Michigan fan. He ushered at all the basketball games; attended U of M club meetings every Monday with my mom. When I was in middle school and too cool to sit with my parents at the basketball game, I'd make my rounds around the arena and always visit his section.
He was a banker and handled my parents' accounts. My mom would take me to the bank with her and I'd always try to visit him. When I saw his office was decorated in Michigan colors, I painted a rock yellow and blue and told him it was for his office. He still had it on his desk when I opened my first checking account for college (he gave me Charlie Brown novelty checks at no extra charge).
The last time I saw him was at his son's wedding this summer. His son married an Ohio State girl, Michigan's biggest rival. The wedding was in Ohio and he changed into a blue vest and yellow bow tie for the reception. His funeral is on Saturday, college football day. Instead of a wake, there will be a tail gate. My mom said the only thing about this weekend she is looking forward to is watching his friends from Ohio eat off of maize and blue plates.