The unofficial supervisors of our cove have always been the seniors who quietly monitored everything from the bug-free safety of their screen porch. They have been here longer than anyone and know decades of stories about the people and buildings in this wooded cul-de-sac. While his wife always sweetly charmed everyone, Buster stoically kept a distance from much of the world’s silliness. For reasons I never understood, Buster tolerated our big, loud, messy family with a patience that others couldn’t believe. He snickered when Doug decided to remove our sidewalk even though the pile of concrete still sits in the side yard. He grinned when Doug tried to cut down a tree and succeeded in mangling a very large ladder in the process. He just shook his head when our house gained a moat to fight the basement flooding.
All of the children in the cove use Buster’s yard as a shortcut. They treat his driveway like a bike ramp. On summer evenings, children chase fireflies everywhere in the cove, including Buster’s carefully manicured lawn. Besides watching the adults and children as if we we were a reality show, Buster and his wife fed our dogs. In exchange for the delicious treats, Molly would peek in their windows to check on them. She was very much a part of their family.
Then, Buster got sick. He fought it, but it got worse instead of better. He moved from the screen porch to the living room to a hospice bed. A steady stream of family and friends kept vigil as he became increasingly frail. He stopped leaving the house except when Doug did something odd. When Doug put a small tomato garden where most people would put a flower bed, Buster made the exhausting trip across the cove to get a close-up view of our shenanigans. When Doug wrangled a large snake into our backyard forest, Buster came outside to peek at the commotion. We half-joked that if we could be more entertaining, Buster might rebound from the terrible sickness that caused him constant pain while making the simple act of breathing a struggle.
It wasn’t our antics, but his beloved wife of 61 years that kept Buster going. When he was satisfied that she would be lovingly cared for, Buster finally left. One stormy night this week, his children stood in the rain and watched as Buster was gently taken from his home for the very last time. I sat in the darkness and watched the peaceful ceremony. Molly didn’t run across the cove to look for treats and collect love pats. She stayed by my side and supervised as our cove patriarch left.
For weeks, we have discussed what we should do to honor the memory of someone with quiet dignity and importance. I suggested planting a tree in the center of the cove. Doug tilted his head and told me that Buster said there used to be a tree in the middle of the cove. Buster had it removed. A memorial tree was vetoed. When the funeral services were scheduled for the same day we planned to begin construction on Amy’s playhouse, I was prepared to delay our project out of respect. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that putting on a show was exactly what Buster would have enjoyed. So, that is exactly what we did.