A long time ago, in a neighborhood not so far away, in the heart of Ahwatukee there was a street where people sat on their front porches in the evenings and kept an eye out for each other, kids fought lightsaber battles on the front lawns and Fire Pit Fridays in the driveways were the rule.
And in the heart of the heart of Ahwatukee stood Daril, who never met a dog he didn't like, a lawn he couldn’t turn lush and green or a neighbor he couldn’t help with a home repair. Even though he worked nights, somehow he was always available during the day if you left your garage door open when you left for work or to feed your cats or even pass his lawn mower over your yard if he knew you were stressed and couldn’t get to it yourself. Daril was the guy who remembered that your water heater was getting long in the anode rod and and helped you replace it on a free weekend afternoon.
At Christmas he and his wife, Deborah, would create a light show in their tiny front yard that rivaled a supernova. When the families on the street got together to close the road on New Year’s Eve and throw a massive block party, those fire pits were dragged again from their backyards, Crockpots were hauled from their kitchens and karaoke machines were sound checked. And Daril, with the heart of a 12-year-old, booked multi-story bounce castles that stretched the width of three house lots.
When Fire Pit Fridays and holiday parties ran long, as they frequently did, it was not uncommon for the partiers, led by Daril, to turn their attention to good-natured escapades. It was not unusual to wake on a Saturday morning to find a mannequin on a kid’s bike lashed to your chimney in a traffic - and heart-stopping display. If you remodeled a bathroom and made the mistake of leaving a fixture on the side of your house for a day or so, you might wake on a weekend to find a full bathroom (complete with tub, commode and sink) set up in your front yard, with a helpful spotlight to make sure no one missed it.
To the delight of our basset hound Elmer, every dog who crossed Daril’s dog-loving path was offered a Frosty Paw from his garage freezer. Every time Elmer left the house, his hound ears would swing as he longingly checked to see if his favorite neighbor was holding court in his driveway.
That devotion was mutual. Years later, Daril moved away and heard that Elmer was ill and heading for the Rainbow Bridge. He appeared on our doorstep, one more Frosty Paw in hand, so he could sit on the couch one more time with his old friend, who mustered the energy for a weak tail wag and one more sympathetic pat from his favorite neighbor.
Time has moved on, and neighbors have moved away and taken their fire pits with them. Last week we pulled ours out to the driveway one more time to honor our dear friend Daril, whose heart finally called him to join his beloved pets forever.
And the hearts of the heart of Ahwatukee are forever broken.
Elizabeth Evans is a local mother, wife, daughter, sister, former stay-at-home mom, former work-outside-the-home mom, former work-at-home mom and a human resources consultant.