Last night, around 10:30 pm, we heard a very near, very loud gunshot. We live in a somewhat rural area, and it’s not odd to hear target practice and such, but never so late, and never quite so loud (this was something pretty large caliber.) At any rate, after I checked on my household and crated the dogs, I grabbed my preferred weapons (12 gauge shotgun and 2 phones,) and stood watch while Tony went to check on our elderly neighbor, and on the dog at the shop across the road. As it turns out, all was well. Probably someone on the nearby highway hit a deer and then administered thecoup de grace.
But our elderly neighbor is a wonderful, chatty, gossip of an old man. He invited Tony in, and they visited until midnight. And Tony learned why the survivors of our crotchety old neighbor were so shocked when their 83-year-old relative died last fall. Turns out that the old coot had been scheduled to start chemo the next day, and decided he was just done. He shot himself. I heard that gunshot too. But it was something small caliber. It was in the daylight. I listened for a little while, and heard no other commotion, so I assumed that someone had shot a raccoon or the mangy coyote that we were all watching (everyone in the area has a dog or two, and a couple of laying hens, and children or grandchildren, so an obviously-diseased wild animal would be euthanized in the most immediate and convenient way.)
And now I feel like the worst neighbor ever. I even made a grim joke after hearing the gunshot, that perhaps the miserable old man had shot someone for trespassing on his lawn, or shot himself because he was tired of being a jerk. In my mind, I’m a decent person and an okay neighbor. I bake cinnamon rolls if there’s a death in the family. I watch the house or go heat up a family meal if someone is in the hospital. I bring the puppy dog home and help fix the hole in the fence if we find someone’s pet on the highway. I pick up the gossipy old man’s trash when we go to the county tip.
But I also make jokes about old men shooting themselves. I feel like a heel - not because I think that the late neighbor deserved more consideration, but because his family could have been spared a lot of trauma if I had been more concerned. And, except for one asshole son in law, the family is lovely. And I feel like the ass now.