A Bench and a Smile

Megan and I were deeply saddened yesterday to learn that Bruce had passed away. Since we moved to Cambridge, Bruce had been a fixture in the community for us.

Megan and I love walking around town. This love only grew with the birth of our son. We go on near daily walks on the same or similar route with Teddy in his stroller. That route brought us by Bruce, inevitably always on his bench where he sat, took in the beauty of the day, and greeted everyone that passed by.

We weren’t friends — not in the traditional sense. We didn’t know each other’s past. We rarely took the time to share stories of times gone by. We didn’t have dinner together. We didn’t attend the same social functions.

But, in many ways, we were friends. We were regular parts of each other’s days. He would see us approach, would shape his hands into square, and would say “look at that beautiful family.” We would always stop and talk. We would exchange conversation about the weather (“what a nice day for a walk”), Bruce would comment on how Teddy was getting big or how he had a great smile. He was kind to us.

Nothing particularly significant would ever happen. We would just stand and chat. Not about anything important, at least not important at the time. But, now, having learned of Bruce’s passing and having missed the memorial, we realize how important those conversations were. Those pleasant, kind, smiling fixtures in our lives that improve our days. They make us feel connected to a community. Those conversations help put the troubles of the day into perspective. We just assume that those people and those kindnesses will just always be there.

Over the last month, we saw Bruce far less. We feared something was going on. But, inertia or the obstacles of daily life kept us from following up with The Mansion to see where Bruce had been. We told ourselves we didn’t want to intrude. So, we stayed away. Afterall, did we really know each other?

We regret that choice. We wish we had gone to say good-bye. We will miss seeing him on his bench. Most of all, we will miss the genuine acts of kindness that he showed us every time that he saw us (without exception). Those acts, though small, accumulated and meant a lot to our young family.

We will miss you, Bruce.

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