One frigid evening in the dead of winter of 1970, my dad was tromping around from door to door selling peanuts to raise money for the Kinsmen. (I think Kinsmen is the Canadian equivalent of Kiwanis.) “Frigid” was an understatement. Winter in the Canadian prairies is cold by anyone's standards. So being underdressed worsens matters.
At the home of Abe and Elsie Suderman, Dad was met by a question from Mr. Suderman, an inquisitive man with a whimsical way of being, "Is that the shoes you're walking around in?" He had noticed my dad's low cut dress shoes, soaked by the snow that stumbled in.
In fact his feet were freezing and the evening of volunteering was not what he had expected. The two men knew of each other superficially. Then again when you live in a town of 2,700 people, you kind of know everybody. One was the postmaster. The other was a surgeon.
"Well come on in, let's get those shoes dried off and warm up your feet." Mr. Suderman said without hesitation. He was always a generous soul, and always one of action. Mrs. Suderman made some coffee to warm up my dad and the three of them mused about the winter, clothing, and other topics with surprising ease. This conversation would be the first of many.
"Here," Mr. Suderman said, holding out a pair of rubber overshoes as my dad prepared to leave, "You should put these on for the rest of your evening. Don't bring them back, I can come by the clinic tomorrow and get them."
- - - -
A year later, Mom and Dad had decided to find an empty lot and build a house. Such a lot was right next to the Suderman's house.
In a phone call today with Mr. Suderman, he recollected how my dad came to their house in 1971, mentioned his desire to build next door and asked for the Suderman's permission. "I have never in my world met a guy like your dad. Who asks for someone else's something like that? I have to say we were so lucky your family moved next door."
It was the meeting of goodhearted people, who inspired each other for decades to come. We had many good days across our two homes that I have often remembered. My sisters played, and squabbled, and played with their son Carrie countless times, always coming back together. Their two older daughters, Deb and Barb, babysat us when needed. And those fleeting six years were made so much richer.
I wish we could make some decisions with the less obvious factors in life. Such as buying a home based on the neighbors, rather than the floorplan.
It many instances, it would turn our existences upside down, in a good way, no?