“You deserve a man who will travel to see you. Not you travel to see him. You are worth someone caring about you,” said a man who I had grown to respect.
His name was Hank and as long as I could remember, that man was there for me. He would wave at my sisters and on I on the way to work. We would stand at the bus stop and just wave, “Hi Hank!” When we would come home from school, we would play in the front yard and he would be there working on his lawn. He always had such a perfect lawn and hedges. I should know, I got fired from mowing his lawn because it wasn’t at the right angle.
When we would play after school we would always see him working on his house. Growing up, he was always there, he was the staple of our neighborhood. Until I was in high school I didn’t realize how much I appreciated this man.
Surprisingly, one day in high school I had a disagreement with my mom. I ran outside and sat on my front step. There was this man, Hank, on his patio swinging in his, chair flicking his cigarette. He would wave from across the street, I waved back. Then I got the wave to come over.
There I sat on his swing slowly rocking back and forth at his pace. He would put his elbow on his knee, look at the ground and give me some of life’s greatest advice. We talked about everything, siblings, parents, dating and school. He would talk about what things were like when he grew up. I would give him a hard time and joke about how old he was and that women pry liked a man driving a good buggy. He would crack a smile, look at the ground and keep rocking.
This man had so much strength in his skinny little limbs. He was a working man until he retired a few years before I got into high school. Then things got hard for him. He fell off the roof and had to have hip surgery. To share what kind of man he was, he wouldn’t go to the hospital until he had one more cigarette, he knew they wouldn’t let him smoke there.
A few years later, his main squeeze Jane, had a stroke that left her limited on what she could do. Man he loved this woman so much. I had grown to know Jane as well. She was always cooking or puttsing in the house and we would chat every once and a while. After her stroke I would go over and do her nails or bring them supper. Then Hank and I would swing. Him looking at the ground, flicking his cigarette.
He understood me. He knew that I had my flaws and he still loved me. He didn’t have to, he was a neighbor, and yet, he spent his time talking to me and sharing his life. When their grandkids would come over, I would play with them a little, but then just watch as they interacted with ‘my Hank.’ He sure loved his grandkids. He was just a great guy all around.
Towards the end of high school, both Hank and Jane had gotten a little weaker and we would frequently bring meals over. I would holler across the street, “Burgers and beans ok?” He would holler back, “Ok!”
There was some days he would holler back, “no we are ok!” Now I realize, he just wasn’t maybe a fan of those meals.
When the tornado came through Granite Falls, my first thought was to make sure my family was ok. Jim and Jessie were outside looking for it, so I knew they would be ok. As debris began to fall from the sky, I just had an urge to run across the street. I got over there just as Hank was trying to get Jane downstairs. She wasn’t able to move on her own, so he hopped her on his back, and slowly started down the stairs. I was in tow making sure neither of them fell. We huddled downstairs on a chair, put pillows over Jane, I covered the pillows and Hank covered me.
I will never forget that moment. Jane was the love of his life. I like to think I was his second love, but I am sure his family and grandchildren were first. But as long as Jane was okay, he would be ok.
The storm passed, we all walked outside with the neighborhood shocked at what we saw. Debris everywhere. We would look at life a little differently after that.
In all his actions, Hank stuck true to the kind of man he was. He was caring, loving, full of determination and knew what was important in life.
The day he passed away was one of the hardest days. Jane had passed a few months before. He had gotten a bill in the mail for the final funeral payment. He had nothing left attaching him to Jane. He died of a broken heart. Our hearts broke even more as we saw his break.
A love like that is something I reach for every single day. When people ask why are you are single, it’s because I’m waiting for a Hank and Jane kind of love. I am waiting for a man who would have the qualities to take in a hormonal teenager as one of his own. Someone who loves the people around him so much he would do for them first. I’m waiting for my Hank.
Jane was a lucky woman, and she knew it. She got such a twinkle in her eye when he would come in the room. Her smile would grow as he would tease her. “You’re going to let her paint your nails red?” Jane hated red, but when we found out Hank wasn’t a fan either, we had to try it.
After his funeral, they had an auction for their belongings. I of course bought the most. Well, my parents did. We weren’t ready for him to be gone. The one thing I had to have was that bench. I sat on it almost every night, swinging with him. Talking about life as he looked down at the ground and flicked his cigarette. I think he is still there, sitting there, watching over me. Holding Jane’s hand in Heaven, looking down at the ground, flicking a cigarette and they both have the biggest smile on their face.
Written by Kristin Marthaler. Copyright 2016