I had never met a hero before, at least not in person. I have read about heroes, seen them on television and read a lot of books about them. But in 1997 I met a real hero and his name was Bob.
Bob Reed and his wife Diane had just moved into the new house next door to us. I had seen the movers coming and going for several days but decided to wait until they got settled before I introduced myself. It was a beautiful summer morning, the birds were chirping and the breeze was just right when I decided to make my move and just walk next door to say hello. I rounded the corner of their house noticing the antique wicker furniture beautifully arranged on their front porch. I knew that who ever they were, they had good taste. As I was reaching for the door bell, I heard the garage door going up. Then out came Bob, in his pajamas and robe briskly walking with his cane to get his morning paper. I had never seen anyone get around so fast using a cane.
A he turned around, I introduced myself. About then his wife Diane came up behind me. She had the biggest smile I had ever seen on a grown woman, almost childlike and full of enthusiasm. We laughed that we had both moved into the neighborhood just recently and were so busy getting our things in order. Bob had retired and Diane had just sold her flower shop. I was telling them that my husband had also just retired as he came around the corner to say hello. After introductions, my husband J.R. remarked that he had went to high school with a Diane Reed. Well, Diane Reed from Glendale High had married Colonel Bob Reed. J.R. had not seen her for more than 25 years until we all met that morning. We all laughed that God has his reasons for doing things. I soon found out that God had something special in mind for me, beginning that morning.
As that summer season came to an end, I saw Bob zipping out to get his paper each morning and noticed Diane’s beautiful decorating skills turn their house into a home. As with most neighbors, they watched our cat while we went away to see family, and we watched their home as they took small vacations. We borrowed sugar and yard tools from each other and shared tasty treats on our patios. Diane was always smiling and Bob moved like lightning even with a cane.
That Christmas was a very special one for all of us. We both had new homes to decorate and new neighbors to get to know. My husband is a complete Christmas light fanatic at Christmas time and I must have a Christmas tree in every window. Now I had a friend who was a professional bow maker and flower arranger. Our house was the brightest in our neighborhood and Diane and Bob’s was the best decorated. We were so proud as the cars came and went up and down our street to see it up close. It was all heaven sent.
With the warmer weather approaching and the days getting longer, I noticed Bob was slower. Diane was now going after their morning newspaper and Bob had purchased a scooter, an electric wheelchair. As Bob slowed, we had more time for our visits, and more time for longer visits. We made sure he could get his scooter in the back yard for barbecues by the pool; his brother-in-law built him a ramp so he could get back to getting his own morning paper. Diane bought a new van so they could take the scooter everywhere they went.
We spent a lot of time together that summer. Bob had been a pilot in the army for more than 20 years. He had flown Bob Hope and his guests all over Viet Nam for his USO Shows. He had a photo album and autographs to prove it. Bob was a full Colonel in the army and was in the process of writing a book about his life in the service. After the service he had worked for American National Insurance and he and Diane had traveled the world, France, Japan, Spain and everywhere I could think of. Bob had met Presidents, CEO’s and CFO’s and had worked with Collin Powell and General Schwartzkoff in the Pentagon. As we got even closer to Bob, we realized what a treasure he was to spend time with.
We hosted Bob’s birthday party in our back yard. We invited family and friends for a feast beside the pool. Margaritas and bloody mary’s, shrimp cocktail and birthday cake. Diane decorated with the expertise of a professional, we could have had HGTV film an episode that day. Bob was all smiles, all day long. I knew in my heart that it had been an event that would change my life but what I didn’t know was that it would be Bob’s last birthday.
That fall Bob began to have trouble taking care of himself. Diane began doing more for him, smiling, always smiling. She began tying a yellow ribbon around their porch post so friends and neighbors would know Bob was home. They could just go on in as Bob was slow to get to the door. She hired a cleaning lady to help with the household duties so she could spend more time having conversations with Bob. They moved walls, widened doors and planted shade trees so Bob could be more comfortable at home. J.R. began going over more often to do small things around the house. I spent more time just listening to Bob talk about his life. It was fascinating to hear him tell of everywhere he had been. He was a great story teller, and as he talked about each adventure I could imagine being there myself.
Christmas season was on us again, and Bob was spending more time at the doctor and Diane’s smile wasn’t as bright. But she was always smiling, Bob was always smiling. Bob had Parkinson’s Disease and it was taking his life. Doctors would never say his exposure to agent orange had anything to do with it. But I felt like this man had given up the best years of his life, his future with his wife, kids and grandkids, so that I could be free to write anything I wanted, anywhere I wanted. Early in my life, I had been told that freedom was not free and now I was seeing first hand the heavy price we pay for it. I knew Bob was going to leave us.
It wasn’t long, right after the holidays that Bob left us. He was gone but he had been an angel in my life. God had set him at 4034 Gatlin Court in the fall of 1997. I needed a friend, a mentor, a guide, and God had sent me an angel. Bob may be gone from this earth, but his wings are still flying.
I am not sad that he is gone, Bob would not like for us to be sad. I am proud to have been Bob’s neighbor and friend. You don’t need to be born of the same blood to become family, and Bob and Diane became family, a big part of our family. So the next time you walk next door to meet your new neighbor, take the time to get to know them, you just might be meeting an angel.