I first met George about two years ago.
It was a week or two after we moved into our house. I was in the back yard trying to do something about years of overgrowth and neglect by the home's previous owners. George was in his backyard, raking his tidy, well-kept grass.
We met at the chain-link fence and introduced ourselves. George and his wife are the original owners of the house next door to ours. They're retired and split time between Overland Park and their house "down at the Lake" of the Ozarks.
I saw him frequently outside, tending to his yard and house. When we had our siding replaced, he asked for a couple dozen of the cedar shingles we removed. He used them to patch holes wood peckers had made in the cedar siding of his house.
We always took time to greet each other and spend a few minutes talking. He'd ask after our family. He made friends my parents and in-laws.
A guy couldn't ask for a better neighbor.
I became a little concerned when I stopped seeing him so much. The lat time I saw him was in September or so. We were talking about various home repairs when he mentioned, with a smile and a chuckle, that "I just don't seem to be getting around as easily as I used to."
I told him in parting to take it easy and have some red wine, then went on with my mowing or raking or whatever I was doing at the time.
Then October and November passed. December, January and February. I knew he and his wife liked to spend time at their lake house. They were also prone to flying south in the colder months, wintering in a condo in Florida or taking a Caribbean cruise.
Finally, this weekend George was out in the back yard again. I was glad to seem my friend again, but I almost wished I hadn't.
George had lost about 50 pounds since I'd last seem him. He moved slowly and his voice, low and smooth six months ago, had become raspy, like there wasn't enough breath behind it.
George was polite as ever, but he did say it hasn't been a good winter. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October and has been on chemotherapy for six months.
The clothes he wore as a healthy, paunchy 195-pound retiree look like they're going to fall off of the 50-pound lighter version of him.
I awkwardly gave encouragement and inquired as to his prognosis. He said the doctors have told him you never really get rid of pancreatic cancer -- that you can hope for another year or maybe two.
True to his from, he was positive and upbeat. He said he would enjoy each day as much as he could. He is determined not to give anything up.
But even though it is apparent that he is still the same strong and healthy person in many of the ways that really count, I can't help but feel worried and sad for my friend.
tagged: pancreatic cancer, health, neighbor