What's Your Next-Door Neighbor Story?

How To Be A Good Neighbor

You know how every relative has one story about you that they tell over and over again? Well, my grandpa's was about how I adopted him into our family.

When I was four, my maternal grandmother-the only grandparent I had ever met-died. As a very serious child, I was heartbroken. When we returned from the funeral, my next door neighbors came over, an older couple named Linda and Wayne Baughman. Wayne stopped to talk to me, saying, "So, I heard you had a death in the family."

I looked up at him with my innocent blue eyes and in my sweet little voice said "Mr. Bachman, I don't have any grandparents anymore. Will you pwease be my grandpa?"

Wayne said yes, and for the next eleven years, that's what I called him. He and his wife were a constant source of love and support in my life, coming over every Christmas in their pajamas for lunch, going on a camping trip every year christened "Camp Soggy-Bottom," having special outings for each of our birthdays, and supporting my and all my writing. I was published in sixth and seventh grade for poetry, and this past year became the youngest junior editor at my school's literary magazine, the only editor who's not a senior. Wayne has all of my books on display on his desk.

Wayne was a professional story-teller. He gave classes at major industries and colleges. He was published in many books, and recieved a multitude of awards from Toastmasters and Boy Scouts of America.

In November of last year, he and Linda took me, my two younger siblings, and all three of his lood-related grandsons on a surprise trip to Disney World. He had ocular melanoma cancer which had finally turned malignant, and this was on the top of his bucket list.

Wayne passed away on Thrusday, May 7, a few weeks after his birthday. His memorial service is in about 11 hours. I'm going to read the poem I wrote for him.

Wayne will always be my hero. He loved and gave without asking. He is the true embodiment of the Christian doctrine, "Love thy neighbor." He loved all of us, considered us part of his family. He has taught me his favorite saying, which I will always keep with me:

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."


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Have a Next-Door Neighbor Story?

As part of our new webcomic, Next-Door Neighbor, we thought it appropriate to have a little contest. Tell us your best true next-door neighbor story, and the winning tale will be matched with an artist and transformed into a webcomic and included as the final installment of Next-Door Neighbor.

About Next-Door Neighbor

No matter how close or how far, we all live next to someone, and we all have a Next-Door Neighbor story. With that in mind, editor Dean Haspiel asked some of his favorite storytellers and cartoonists to create their favorite NDN stories so we could share them with you.

The Fine Print & Contest Rules

By submitting an entry, you are granting SMITH the right to reprint or republish that entry online or in print, as well as make any necessary edits. See SMITH's terms of service for complete details.

This contest ends September 1, 2008. Prizes are not redeemable for cash and must be accepted as awarded. Winners are decided at the discretion of SMITH judges and all decisions are final. SMITH reserves the right to change the contest rules. Enter as often as you want. SMITH reserves the right to reprint or republish all entries.

SMITH Magazine

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