The Ivy on the Path
on the empty house next door.
Our neighbors of four years
have moved away.
Whispering last goodbyes,
they asked if I would keep an eye
on pipes and pumps and such
that cause men’s minds to fret
when houses are alone,
and so I did just now.
There was a hollow echo
as I walked the wooden floors,
a hollow ache in knowing
that they’re gone.
Three years ago, you see,
our house began to lean their way.
I wish I were speaking figuratively,
but it literally settled a tad in their direction
and as God would have it, so did we.
That year they learned their son
(not yet the age of three) had one
of the many forms of leukemia.
Soon began the long hospital stays,
lost hair, sad eyes and sullen days.
Ours became a second home
to their other young children
left to wait and wonder
through long nights and passing play.
It was our joy to have them
through the cycles of hope and care
and returning tufts of tasseled hair
until his happy eyes rejoined our own.
And just when all seemed slightly well
for them, the tables turned for us.
On an icy afternoon
in a sterile but uncertain room
we watched things go from good
to bad and bad to worse
until the eyes of a tender nurse
foreshadowed what we later learned
from a doctor's diagram—
"single bypass best option"—which turned
out to be a twist of providence:
‘Twould be our neighbor’s gifted hand
to ply the scalpel, saw and suture
for a window to Julie's beating heart;
and when all was finally done,
‘twas he (in sweat-soaked scrubs) who told
us how it went and what things meant
and what the days ahead would hold
but not to worry after all,
since he was just a house away.
So it was... through faith and fears
and a fleeting blur of shortened years
we learned what it meant to be neighbors—
reaching out and drawing in
and reaching out once more,
'til life was gently tangled…
like the ivy on the path between our doors.
Our neighbor Ike was called to another team of physicians in Idaho. He went there ahead of his family two months ago to begin work and find a house. He returned last week to finish the move and return with his wife and four children. The moving van pulled away early yesterday afternoon, and the yards seem strangely quiet. Our kids really did wear a path in the ivy between the houses. We'll see if it grows in.