Published 2014-07-19

Our next-door neighbor Langton was found dead in his home this week. He was a quiet and kind of prickly guy a few years older than me with sort of hermitic habits. We'd noticed that we hadn't seen him for a while, no one answered when we knocked at the door, his truck hadn't been moved in a while. From our deck we could see a cat feeder on his kitchen counter so we thought he might be on vacation. But eventually the cat feeder was empty.

On Tuesday I called the police and they found him lying on the floor in a back room. I don't know how he died. He wasn't in great health; apparently he had Type I diabetes.

We never in our three years here saw visitors to his house. He was not popular in the neighborhood. He was so rude to me when I first met him that I almost told him to F--- off, but I didn’t. After that we made a point of being courteous to Langton. Unpleasant people deserve dignity too. Jenny started a conscious charm offensive and the kids eventually would go out of their way to say hi to him. I think he felt a little protective of us, in his own way.

Jenny wrote this in an email to the HOA mailing list:

"Langton was a quiet person who preferred the tranquility of Tryon Creek Park to the noise and energy of the neighborhood pool, but he never hesitated to help us. He always volunteered to clean the leaves off of our driveway and the street, he built a fence between our side yard and his to keep our daughters safe from his pond, and he gladly shared a box of tinfoil with us when we were in need. Langton lived at the end of the street for about 13 years. Although we only knew him briefly we all looked forward to seeing him and appreciated him for who he was."

Because my name is on the police report, and because we were neighbors, I feel a certain responsibility. We never once invited Langton to our house. I remember one Thanksgiving directing a guest to park somewhere away from Langton's house — he would complain if you parked in front of it — and thinking: “I know Langton is home alone today, maybe I should invite him for pie.” Of course I didn't. It would have been awkward and I hate that. I'm a coward for not doing an obvious neighborly thing because of a social anxiety. My social anxieties were minor compared to Langton's.

Anyway I'm sad because our grumpy neighbor liked us and he died alone and no one noticed for a long time.

Update 2014-07-25

This past Sunday Jenny organized a neighborhood get together in the HOA pool house, about a dozen neighbors (of 36 families) gathered. It was occasioned by Langton’s death but a good opportunity to connect with some folks in this sort of reclusive neighborhood tucked away in the forest. A few people had surprisingly warm memories of our neighbor who was more generally known for being abrupt and unpleasant.