There’s this man.
“Hey, dis you car?”
His accent is thick, and personally, I’m always a sentence behind trying to follow the conversation. If it’s your car, he will find you. When you see him coming up the road, or up your driveway, do yourself a favor, go and meet him directly. Jonny hails from the land of confrontation (I don’t mean China, but he’s also Chinese).
If he’s not there to protest a parking offense, he likely wants to borrow the extra space in your recycle bin or your plant waste bin, don’t even bother telling him it’s too full, he will come and check in the early morning hours just to see if you were telling the truth (and then, go ahead and fill it up the rest of the way).
When Jonny isn’t reprimanding you on your neighbor etiquette, (those poor bastards who park their trailers, boats, and RV’s streetside…who am I kidding–go get them Jonny!) borrowing a tool, or the space in your yard clipping bin he might actually have a plate full of cookies, rolls, or some other treat to share. That or a job for your young one…a job that pays actual money whether you want it or not. The last likely scenario to watch for: he has some furniture he wants to offer you before he donates it to charity.
His name is Jonny Wu and he is my next door neighbor. You can find him in his yard most any day, (even in the torrential winter rain and blustery spring evenings) or out walking his retired seeing-eye golden retriever “Rupee”. He has climbed mountains, kayaked rivers and the ocean, scaled cliffs, white-water rafted, run half marathons and marathons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s even flown planes and driven race cars but I have yet to hear those exploits. He skis, he travels, he’s been to countries all over the world and driven through more than half the states and parts of Canada in his motorhome.
Jonny is ageless, though I think he is close to seventy, I am still not sure which side of it he’s on. Not taller than about five foot, don’t let his diminutive stature fool you, it’s not an accurate measurement of his gravity. Pointed and direct, readily handing out advice and criticism, usually making me or anyone he’s talking to realize the error of their ways, Jonny grew up in China, (not what I meant by the land of confrontation–by land of confrontation I refer to the ethers from which his soul was heralded into this existence) and looks at the world very practically…and vocally.
We are next door to each other. He knows all the nuance of being a good neighbor, we rarely talk over the fence or through the fence, and he uses the front door, or phone instead of an open window to talk to me, but because of his reputation for directness my neighbors offer up their raised eyebrows, apologetic smiles, coupled with knowing looks, sure that I must be in the line of fire more than anyone else. What most of my neighbors don’t know, wouldn’t believe, what they’d never understand, Jonny and I, we get each other.
He’s called me at 2:00am in the morning to tell me my tiny yap dog is “singing” at the cat on the fence between our homes. I could hear the smile in his voice when a few days later I called him at 12:30am to ask if he could hear that his german shepherd was almost as musically inclined as my yappy dog. The next day we laugh at each other and tease.
He brings over photos of his adventures, narrates as I flip through glossy portfolios of amazing places that most of us will never see. He’s a good photographer too, with a memory that rivals any archivist.
Jonny will tell you if you are out of shape physically, he will tell you if you missed an opportunity, he will tell you when you are wasting money, wasting time, having bad manners, using too much water, what color to paint, what tree to cut down, where to put your flowers, when you might not be picking up your dogs poo fast enough or if you are being too hard or too soft on your kid. It’s one of my guilty pleasures hearing or seeing him in action, though I have been known to enjoy a little carnage here and there…
He doesn’t believe in God, he believes in people, believes in actions. He doesn’t live by intention he lives by doing. The perfect example of who more of us should be. He has no time to hold a grudge, he is busy living. He passes judgement but not to ridicule, or feel superior, he passes judgement as more a function of his observation.
“You have everything going for you, you male, you young, you good looking, you white. Hell, what more you want? Go to college, get good job, get married, you have great life.”
I overheard him admonish one of my teens with this one day upon hearing their complaint about life being hard.
Bad or good, he’s got clarity and he speaks freely. He can’t help you if he doesn’t tell you to your face and chances are, if Jonny is talking to you, he likes you, maybe even loves you (I know he loves my kids, he’s helped them over and over, made up opportunities just to justify paying them). He can’t help his cut-and-dry/no-bones about it approach to getting you to move your car from in front of his house (I laugh joyfully that it’s never been me who chose that perilous folly!) or telling you to try harder.
He only cares about the things that matter not the things people say matter, or the world says, or words said, only what matters, what matters to him. He could solve a billion of the worlds problems, but no one is listening. He’d say quit bitching, get to work, don’t worry about about what everyone else thinks, worry about what you’re doing. What. You. Are. Doing. The rest doesn’t matter. You can’t change it anyway.
few weeks ago a couple months ago an ambulance visited Jonny’s house. Probably almost three months now, truth be told. News got around the neighborhood that Jonny was sick. Eventually we each learned that Jonny had been diagnosed with a rare and very aggressive cancer. They gave him 6-8 weeks to live.
He’s home, still out walking Rupee, still borrowing my green waste bin, (I know I need to rake the dang leaves…) still Jonny. Life is fragile. He tells me everyday feels like a gift since he past the 8 week mark. He looks good too. And I am scared.
I am scared for him, mostly because I hate to see someone hurting and it’s overwhelming to think what he faces and hope he doesn’t feel alone. His family is gathered and always at his side. His wife is amazing, and I am scared for her too, but I only smile when I see either of them and talk about all the normal things we have always talked about. They are brave, their smiles warm, their laughing real.
I started this entry two months ago. It doesn’t feel done. I don’t have all the thoughts and emotions sorted into a diatribe of authentic and articulate words that portray the many layers of emotion. But when I sit in the dark thinking of the arguments, disagreements, and petty bullshit that permeates way too much of my own life, probably yours too, I realize that Jonny is a rare human. He gives a shit about everything and nothing all at the same time. Like the perfect stranglehold on serenity if you ask me.
I like to tell you funny stories and smarty pants stories. I like to try and uplift, inspire or flirt with you, but today I can only think how I wish we could all be hyper focused on just this moment, every moment. Who moves us, who loves us, who we love, care about, that we could let go of the trash and toxins we are dragging around like they are important when they aren’t. I want to fill up my time with more things I love and love doing. Things that are meaningful to me. I want to ask myself, everyday, to refocus on what is important, how I want to live life and who I want to live it with. More laughing, more dancing, more creating, more playing, even more alone time, but also more together time, with the people that matter.