Kevin and my brother were throwing the ball around in the front yard and I had my little Brownie camera out trying to capture the action. They moved way too fast, so I asked them to stop and just pose for my photograph.
We’d moved to this house several weeks before, and Kevin lived down the street with his brother Tony and their parents, Bill and Ce. I knew them as Mr. and Mrs. Mull, of course. Or rather, Dr. and Mrs. Mull, as Dr. Mull was our family dentist.
This was typical of our tight-knit city neighborhood. My fourth-grade teacher lived about six houses away, my third-grade teacher two blocks away, and my kindergarten teacher’s widower at the end of our block; they could all walk to the elementary school. Mrs. Mason down the street paid me to mow her lawn every summer. Mr. Thompsett up the street paid my brother and me to stain his privacy fence and do other jobs. We made money all winter shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways all up and down our street. We even delivered the afternoon newspaper for a couple years.
Twice a year I’d ride my bike to Dr. Mull’s office, which was in an old house about a half mile away. He was seriously old school even then, working alone, doing every job himself. His equipment was outdated even for the time, including his drill, which he operated by foot pump.
As time went on I saw more of Dr. Mull at my annual checkups than I did of Kevin and Tony. Their parents sent them to St. Matt’s, the Catholic high school, and our circles quit overlapping. Then we all graduated and moved on with our lives.
The Mulls moved to a small town south of South Bend, and later retired to North Carolina, my mom told me. Then Kevin died. I couldn’t imagine the pain Bill and Ce felt. I had little experience with death then, and I had never known anyone to have lost a child. I know that pain now firsthand.
I looked up the Mulls while writing this. At some point they moved back to Indiana to live near Tony. Bill appears to still be with us, but Ce passed away in 2019.
I’m glad for this lone image of our neighbor boy, a tangible connection to these memories.
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