The 1991 biography, “Gil Hodges: The Quiet Man,” chronicles the career of the Dodgers’ first baseman and World War II vet. Against the sensationalism of Mickey Mantle, Hodges was a man easy to miss, yet there he was, faithfully turning out the work, not asking for and not getting the credit he deserved.
My neighbor Bob might have been easy to miss, as are all who are humble and subtle — you don’t really notice their impact until they’re gone. Bob died just before the pandemic took hold. Neighboring was effortless with Bob — and still is with his wife, Tracy. The countless matters of comfort and convenience that tangle up neighbors (tree limbs, gutter discharge etc.) all seemed to find their proper place well below the higher ethic of “Love Thy Neighbor.”
Bob and Tracy were both mail carriers, a vocation I began to value more highly during the protracted lockdowns. Watching my mail consistently delivered from the safety of my home office had me reassigning the word celebrity, not to those who do something remarkable occasionally and demand the merits forever, but to those who do the same risky thing every day and never ask for recognition.
Life hadn’t always been fair to Bob, but I never saw him bitter — quite the opposite. During our Saturday evening banters across the fence as he held court over his smoking Green Egg, I would note the natural smiles and easy laughter that came from Tracy and his son, Ben, which only come from living in homes filled with grace and freedom.
I never got to tell Bob these things, which is probably just as well — I doubt he would have been comfortable with such adulation. But I think of him often when my mail slot slaps shut.