Posted by 3rdeargirl
The death of an elderly neighbour in my street who appeared to have no family or friends stirred me up so much I had to write about him. Dying alone and decomposing is an awful way to leave this earth, even if Aeroplane Man was a miserable old goat.
Having lived on my street for over 20 years, I’m familiar with the many residents who live alongside me. The good, bad, ugly, nosy, dangerous, stuck up, etc. I’ve seen families come and go, watched kids grow into adults, police raids and many people carted off in ambulances; both emergency and private ones. Last week an elderly gentleman who lived up the road was taken away by undertakers after being discovered dead for a number of days by the police. No family or friends were there to claim his body or take charge of the possessions in his home. There will be no-one to oversee funeral arrangements or shed a tear for him and it really got me caught in a sadness for him, even though he was a miserable old goat.
‘Aeroplane Man’ was probably in his late 70s, early 80s, tall, stony-faced, soulless eyes and always wore the same clothes, that 1980s grandad look; patterned jumper and casual slacks with a smart but worn and weathered overcoat. In all the time I’ve lived on this street I’ve never seen him hold a conversation with anyone except workmen visiting his home or yapping at kids to leave him and his toy airplane alone. His handmade wooden airplane is how he earned the name Aeroplane Man. Up until around 10 years ago he’d often fly his airplane on the green near the local park in the warm weather. The local kids would crowd around him and ask him for a go. He’d ignore them till they got too close to his plane, growl at them then retreat back home. Sometimes I’d walk past his house and he’d be staring out of his window at nothing, if his gaze caught mine, he’d swiftly turn his head or just stare through me just as he would if I passed him on my travels to the local shops. I remember walking in the road so he could freely walk along the crowded path one winter. I looked into his face for any kind of acknowledgement; a smile, a nod of the head maybe but there was nothing. I uttered “miserable old goat” under my breath, which he could’ve heard but he really did come across that way. Even the elder folk in the area referred to him as a “funny one”. No-one knew anything about him in life and not many gave a toss about him in death.
I’m not aware of who alerted the police that something was wrong but after they’d smashed down Aeroplane Man’s front door the nosey crew lined up around his front garden gate smoking their cigarettes, gossiping, peering through any open space in his home, badgering the police for any information. I too peered from my window as events unfolded, saddened that this man who as miserable as he was, must’ve meant something to somebody and had some meaningful purpose in life at some point was now just a lonely corpse. Once the undertakers had removed his body, the Housing Association workmen boarded up the smashed door and secured the locks. If there truly is no living relative of Aeroplane Man, within a week his belongings will be cleared out by strangers followed by any repairs that need fixing in his home in order for a new tenant to move into the property as soon as possible.
Dying like that scares me. My daughter assured me it will never happen as we watched the private ambulance drive away, but who knows what our fate is in life? In spite of the families we grow up with, the friendships and relationships we form, the precious items we value in life; in death we are just a body. Aeroplane man may have been a Miserable Old Goat but I pray for his soul and hope he finds both peace and his smile in the afterworld.