A few weeks ago, my husband, younger son and I attended the memorial service for Jerry, our “backyard” neighbor. Jerry was 79 years old and had lived in our neighborhood for many, many years — he and his wife bought their house when it was built in the 1940s. When my husband and I moved in nearly ten years ago, they welcomed us and have been stellar neighbors ever since — giving us a beautiful, handmade quilt when our first son was born, providing scrap wood for our wood stove, sharing chuckles over the back fence.
After Jerry died, my husband remarked that our neighbor was someone who always smiled. I agreed. Jerry was the epitome of easygoing. Granted he was retired by the time we met him, and didn’t have two young kids racing around the house or yard, but I doubt that much ever rattled his cage.
During the memorial service, I wasn’t surprised to hear former bosses speak of Jerry’s quiet dedication, of a grown neighbor girl’s appreciation for how generous he was when letting the kids use the one bathroom in his house first, and many other heartfelt stories.
And, according to the chaplain’s remarks, Jerry made his own breakfast everyday. Whaaa? When I heard it, this statement took me by surprise. Why was making one’s own breakfast noteworthy, I wondered? Was that really one of the details the chaplain had selected to share in this remembrance of my neighbor’s life? My husband has made his own breakfast since we moved in together. I make my own breakfast. But for people in Jerry’s generation, a man making his own breakfast was probably unusual, if not outright scandalous.
It’s no longer 1940 and thankfully much has changed in the landscape of gender roles since then. Even still, many stereotypes remain about what a man should do and what a woman should do in terms of household chores, work outside the home, and even parenting roles.
It’s good to know that our backyard neighbor was doing his part from long ago to start some revolutions. I’ll try to follow his lead — one breakfast at a time.