Today is his birthday.
The doorbell rang one spring evening at 210 Neponset Avenue. It was — 1957? I think so. Or was it 1956?
I was in the kitchen. I was ten. Or, was I nine?
I was probably just putting something away, a dish or something. I don’t know. I’ll never remember how I happened to be standing in view of the front door at that moment. But when the bell rang I had a clear view the twenty feet to the open front door. On the other side of the storm door stood a red-headed young man, athletic looking in a short-sleeve shirt. My memory makes it plaid or red. He was glancing back toward the street. My sister was upstairs getting ready for her date. My parents were not around for some reason, nor were my three brothers.
I opened the door for him. He’d come for my sister. We went into our small living room and I sat down on the couch with him. He talked to me, showed genuine interest in me. I was a little shy, but I liked this guy, this new date of my 18-year-old sister.
He would have been 85 today. He had been in decline since my sister’s death, September 23, 2016. They had been living just south of where I’ve put myself now in Florida. I expected to see a good deal of him after moving her two years ago. I saw him only twice. The pandemic saw to that. He was not the strong, vigorous, vital man we all had known, mostly wheelchair bound.
I prayed for him exclusively today at Mass. I miss him. His children miss him the most.
And if I dwell on that long-ago moment in that little house, I think sadly of how very, very long ago it was, and how much has gone and how many have gone and how little lies ahead.
He was a stranger until that moment. I have many very special sisters-in-law. But Joe O’Hara was the first new member of the family — am I right?
On that very day, somewhere, maybe houses away, or just blocks away, memories and personal epochs were ending for someone. Just moments and perhaps block from here now, people who will be together for fifty years into this century, long after I’m gone, are just meeting. New stories are beginning. On and on and over and over it goes. Time.
I should stop here…..all so prosaic. Another time.
Happy birthday, Joe.