There’s still a big Maple tree out in front of his old apartment, right next to the road. It turns the most beautiful, vibrant red in the fall. In the spring, I’m sure he watched the green buds grow into leaves from his balcony. But he wouldn’t be around to watch them burst into color and fall into the street in autumn. A sobering and strange ball of emotions drops into my stomach whenever I think about that.
I drive under that tree, past his old apartment on my commute to work. I always slow down and look up into his balcony. The last time I saw him, we stood on his deck, comparing the view to a photo he had that was taken from that same spot in 1900. The deck chair is gone now. The windows are always dark. The hanging plants have been removed and cared for in our fire station. It’s empty. In our hearts, he will never be replaced. There’s something strangely comforting about seeing that same sentiment reflected in real life.
Then one night, I drove home, past the nearly-bare Maple and the old apartment. But this time, there was no comfort to be found. White deck furniture had been placed on the balcony. A lone pumpkin sat on the railing. Someone had moved in. Someone was starting a new beginning. It was more of that cycle; one’s end is another’s beginning. I know it through and through, and time erodes, dulls, fades, and helps. But another pang of sobering reality jabbed into my gut. He was still gone. And life was still moving on.
I still miss you, Commissioner.