When my daughter died, I clung tightly to her things. After my neighbor’s foreclosure, I began to let go of them.
Four years ago, my former neighbor (I’ll call him “Dave”) lost his house. On the day it happened, a deputy showed up at the house and stood on the curb while two men moved Dave’s belongings to his front lawn. Dave had been in foreclosure for most of 2017 and 2018, but I didn’t know this. I found out when a man knocked on my door to see if Dave was still living in the house.
“Yes, of course,” I’d told the man. “I just spoke with him on, um…”
I hadn’t been able to recall when I’d last spoken to Dave. Had it been two weeks? Three? Had it been longer? I’d looked at Dave’s overgrown yard, at the abandoned car in the carport, and at the sagging awning cluttered with leaves and felt like the world’s worst neighbor. But I’d still been reeling from losing my daughter, Ana, the previous year.
While Dave and I weren’t good friends, we were friendly. I’d fed his cat when he’d been away. He’d had a key to my house and had likewise fed my animals when I’d been away. Our daughters had been best friends when they were younger. Now, Dave’s daughter is twenty-three. Ana would’ve turned twenty-two this month, if not for the cancer.
I’d watched the man leave, all those years ago, and texted Dave to give him a heads up. I’d urged him to come back and take what he could because at some point — likely very soon — the bank would send people to reclaim the house, locking him out. A few weeks later, that’s exactly what happened.
“The sheriff is here,” I texted. “They’re putting your things on the lawn. You have twenty-four hours to come get what you want before they haul it away.”
“I have what I want,” he’d responded.
“I’m glad,” I texted, a lump in my throat.
Dave did come home — one last time — with some friends. They’d filled cars and pickups with whatever they could carry. It hadn’t been much. Then Dave left the house behind forever. In that frozen January, just weeks after Christmas, Dave’s things had been strewn across his front lawn — exposed to the elements and the neighbors — for days.
I’d taken heartbreaking inventory of Dave’s stuff every morning when I took the…