Reverend Mills lives next door. He and Mrs. Mills are moving in with their daughter in Maryland next month. Their house has sold already, but he is still out watering the lawn every afternoon.
I stepped out the truck today and called out to him, “You’re spoiling those people who bought your house, taking such good care of that lawn.” He grinned and said that they were so sweet and they appreciated how well he had kept up the house when they bought it. “I wasn’t gonna plant grass seed. But they are so excited to move into this house, I thought I’d do just a little extra for them, ya know.” I nodded knowingly, bursting with delight at the “ya know” finishing his sentence, a statement versus any sort of question.
I told him about buying my house in OV and how the people we bought it from cried at how nicely we had restored the home they had originally built. He reminded me that he and Mrs. Mills had built their house, just as “Lenbert’s parents” had built the house I was about to enter.
The L&J Gardens neighborhood was a pretty big deal in the 60s – Bay Colony for blacks. These were professional black families – architects, lawyers, doctors, businessmen and women, school principals, Tuskegee Airmen. Reverend Mills has lived here for 50 years.
He admitted that he’s not quite ready to leave yet. His wife is excited about the new house. His daughter is excited. It’s a gated community and a new development. But he trailed off wistfully that he’s gonna miss this little ranch house something fierce. I reminded him that we’re not happy to see him go either.
“You have an obligation to make sure that you leave something for the people that come after you. Your children need an inheritance. It’s how you make sure that they live a better life than you did. I just told my daughter – she’s my angel, ya know – I told her that her inheritance is coming now for this new house.” He laughed at himself.
“Have you ever seen an angel? I mean, they walk among us every day, but have you ever seen one in the flesh? That’s my baby girl. I am looking forward to seeing her every day. I’m 83, ya know.”
He finished by saying, “God is good.” I’m not sure if he was telling me that or just acknowledging it like the weather today. He went back to watering the grass seed.
It’s been a rough week. I don’t know if Rev. Mills knows how much I needed to chat with him today. We can’t control how well people will treat the things we love dearly going forward. But we can keep doing what’s right while it’s ours.