My boys were on the young side when they first met Larry. I had just started feeling ok about them walking in the neighborhood without a parent. So, I’m not sure, but I’d guess that Nolan was 11 and Liam was 9. I could be off a little.
Although I knew who Larry was because I had seen him in the neighborhood walking his dog, I didn’t actually know him. My husband had talked to him a time or two and thought he was a nice old man.
As a mom who has heard too many scary stories about perverts and kids and all the scary things that can happen, I told my kids that I only wanted them to talk to him if they were together and if they were outside. I implicitly warned to never, ever, ever go inside the man’s house.
Larry was probably 70 at the time, living alone, well, with his dog. He’d give the boys a hard time about walking in their bare feet in the summer. He’d offer them cokes on a hot day.
After his dog died, he slowly passed off all the dog’s old things to us. Nolan would walk home carrying an old leash or a dog toy. Once or twice, he gave the boys t-shirts. Nolan wore the camouflage one often.
Eventually, my fears eased up a bit and I would encourage the kids to go talk to Larry. Before long, the other two kids would join them. I know it did Larry’s heart good to see the four of them turning up his street.
He often sat on his front porch when the weather was nice. If we rode our bikes that way, we would always stop. It was always the kids that talked to him the most though.
When Nolan died, Larry was one of the first to offer condolences to our family. You could see how much it hurt him to know of Nolan’s passing. Nolan was such a special kid to so many people, and Larry was one of them. Larry tried to keep up the rapport with Liam, but it was not the same. Liam didn’t seem to want to stop by for no reason like Nolan did. Each kid is different. Eventually, Ciara and Logan would stop and see him here and there. Though, I think, in the last year, his health has been suffering. We would not see him as often.
We sent him a Christmas card this year, but none of us can remember the last time we actually saw him. My kids went over to his house this afternoon to ask if they could shovel his driveway. The neighbor saw them knocking and said, very vaguely, that he wasn’t there. He had been in the hospital. My 12-year old daughter said something about about the way the neighbor said it made her think he had died. (but she didn’t want to tell the kids). So I immediately started googling local obituaries and white pages to try to put 2 and 2 together. Sure enough, a 70+ year old named Larry had died shortly after Christmas.
Although I rarely talked to the man, I feel extremely saddened at the news. There was something special about the way he cared about my kids (often making me feel bad for my earlier suspicious nature). And, especially, there was something about how he cared about Nolan. Certain things happening feel so tied to losing Nolan. Well, maybe not losing him, but almost like losing another part of him, a tie to him. I have these memories of Nolan and Liam and the other kids and Larry. Happy memories.
Rest in Peace Larry. Thanks for being so kind to my kids.