Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy were my next door neighbors growing up. They were the nicest people. Middle aged, no children, just a little apricot poodle named Sweetie. I worked for them every Saturday from when I was eight years old until I ran away at age 16.
Mrs. LeRoy was Cuban and made the most delicious food. She always saved me something to try. My favorite was ropa vieja (“old clothes”), which was shredded skirt steak with spices in a tomato base. She was a great cook. It seemed she was always cooking when I was there.
Mr. LeRoy was a big tall man, strong, kind of handsome for an older dude. Gentle, kind, patient, a born teacher and always respectful. He paid me $5 usually, sometimes a dollar or two more but no more than that and for that $5, I weeded his flower beds, mowed the grass, painted fences, raked leaves, etc., whatever he deemed was the chore of the week. This money went into an envelope and I bought my school clothes with it when September came.
I visited them a few times after I left home and even when they moved into a retirement place, I went to see them. They always seemed glad to see me. That makes me smile.
Kindness lived next door to me for the ten years I lived in that house. They couldn’t save me but they showed me what real parents could be like, what real men could be like, and for that I will always be grateful.