• Darrell Berger

Grassroots and Branches

My Red Neighbor


My wife and I were summer and weekend people until I retired in 2017. Kathleen switched from her Manhattan office to Zooming at home when the virus landed. 2018 was the first year I voted in Pennsylvania.


One of the first people I met up here was my neighbor, a retired fire fighter. We were about the same age. He told me about visiting Ebbets Field with his dad. I told him about my dad taking me to games in Cleveland and Detroit. We invited each other for a beer, in his man cave and on our deck.


He played bagpipes at funerals of fallen comrades. I can’t say I enjoyed listening to him practice, but I appreciated his commitment and heart. He was active in the American Legion. While I was in graduate school, he was in Vietnam.


He was a bird hunter and his five dogs enjoyed playing with our two. I have pheasant tail feathers that he gave me displayed in our kitchen. When we found a gigantic wasp nest under our roof, he soaked it with the right stuff and disposed of it about five minutes after I asked him for advice.


We had one conversation about the election of 2016. “I just can’t vote for Hillary,” he said. Of course he couldn’t. We were both representative of our demographics.


His cancer came back soon after the election and he passed away before midterms. What if he had lived? Would we have had other discussions? Would we have been able to maintain our friendship? Would he still want to tell me stories about Jackie Robinson once he knew that I thought black lives mattered? Would he want to tell me how to make American great again in ways that I found abhorrent?


I miss our friendship because he died. I wonder if I would still be missing his friendship if he had lived, a casualty of the times. Kathleen said, “I don’t think so. Friendship was more important to him than ideology.” She is right. It is me I wonder about.