One Man And His Dog

Just over a year ago I wrote about our neighbour Harry and the way everyone rallied round when he was in need (click here for the story). With the care and attention he received from his neighbours, he was able to survive another year, until his death a couple of weeks ago when he had a fall from which he didn’t recover. Harry was 92.

He was a man who kept himself very much to himself, and although he had lived in our road for over 40 years, even those who lived next door to him and the two who made it their responsibility to care for him in his final year didn’t really know very much about him. Nevertheless, in spite of being very deaf and almost blind from macular degeneration, he had managed on his own for many years after the death of his wife. A little Jack Russell dog was his long-time faithful companion, and the two of them were a familiar sight as they trotted up the road to the Park whatever the weather.

In his self-sufficient way, he had arranged and paid for his funeral well in advance, though there was a general chuckle throughout our little community when it emerged that he had only ordered the hearse and no cars: what’s the point in paying extra to hire cars for mourners when everybody going to his funeral has their own car anyway? Having had virtually no contact with any of his relatives for many years, Harry also saw no point in leaving them any of his worldly goods. Everything he owned is going to the dogs’ home that provided him with his beloved little dogs.

Harry didn’t impinge very much on the lives of his neighbours, but his departure has left a gap. No longer will we watch with our hearts in our mouths as he clambers up the ladder to clean his windows or remove the leaves from his gutters. Never again will we hear him arguing on his doorstep with the District Nurse and telling her to leave him in peace. We all knew that Harry was capable of bitingly witty remarks, but I learned yesterday that he had actually been a member of Mensa and had won trophies from this organisation. I also learned that he had been a young soldier in the Second World War, enlisting at 18 and serving for 6 years in the Far East.

D, the neighbour who spent a great deal of time with him in these last 12 months, getting him up in the morning and making his breakfast, ferrying him to doctor’s appointments, helping him with everyday tasks and generally acting more like a son than a neighbour to him, told me this, adding, “He wouldn’t talk about it, though.” That isn’t unusual. Most of the men who served in the horrific theatre of war in the Far East haven’t wanted to talk about it, and from the few facts and stories I have heard, I am not surprised.

“He was a funny old b*gger,” commented D. “But with all he’d been through one way and another, he deserved to be!” May he rest in peace, and remain well remembered as one of the characters who brightened our little neighbourhood.


16 thoughts on “One Man And His Dog

  1. One has to respect an old man such as he. Thank goodness there was someone whom he could rely on in his later years .

    • It’s a sad fact of life that once we retire, a very large part of our identity is lost. People see only the old man or old woman, and not the driving force we once were.

  2. Thank you so much for bringing this man to my attention and saluting his memory. These people, in my opinion, knew and know almost more about life and its twists and turns, especially given his war time experience, than most of us can get near achieving. He deserved this wonderful acknowlegment

  3. Thanks for this post. It made me really appreciate how it must be for someone without family in those frail elderly years. What a last laugh he had in giving all his assets to charity 🙂

    • What really struck me was how wonderfully the neighbours rallied around Harry, who had always been very stand-offish – and really took care of him in spite of his cranky ways.

  4. A member of mensa! Had anybody known while he was still alive?
    Nearly blind and difficulty with hearing. I wonder whether he had been still able to read or watch TV. And what about writing? Had he ever done any writing and when did this stop?
    He had been married. Were there no children of his? Apparently not. But there was D, who acted a bit like a son towards the end of Harry’s life. D must have felt like wanting to look after him as much as this was possible. This is quite remarkable! I wonder what Harry’s occupation had been before retirement.
    A very interesting life, this life of Harry’s. Thanks for sharing, Cat. 🙂

    • Sorry to say he had given away his TV long ago, and couldn’t read any more or even listen to audio books. No memoirs, no children, very few personal possessions left in his house: No visitors, apart from the District nurse and the 2 neighbours he allowed in – his door was barred to everyone else. I believe he worked in an office somewhere, but the Vicar at his funeral mentioned that he had gone down the pit (coal mine) when he first left school. I believe he felt he had outlived himself.

      • Here is what can happen even to a member of Mensa in his twilight years. Rather sad, isn’t it? But if you are a believer, you can say this is how God wanted him to live towards the end of his life.
        Here in Australia our government wants people in future to work till they are 70. No entitlement to the age pension before you turn 70!
        Meanwhile the jobless young people are on the increase! LOL
        Social justice? I wonder.

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