I recognized the place even before I turned into the cul-de-sac and verified the house number. No, I'd never been there before. But the scene was set and I recognized all the pieces.
This was a hospice drug run. There were cars lined up double the length of the driveway, more in the street along every possible spot where they wouldn't block a neighbor's driveway. The oxygen equipment truck with its back open was double-parked off the end of the driveway, its driver inside the house.
This was new, this bad news, somebody just home from the hospital, and time was short, short enough that the whole family found it important to gather.
Neighbors were gathered in one of their driveways, talking and watching the commotion, watching me to see if I would park to block them in.
I didn't. There was one last spot, questionable most days, but nobody was going to show up tonight to give out parking tickets.
A group of young men, late high school or early college, gathered next to the garage, talking. Cousins, probably. They looked half excited at the commotion and half bored at being forced away from their routines and their electronics. A forty-something father was keeping a gaggle of elementary-school-aged kids busy in the front yard with a frisbee, out of the house and away from the adults inside, taking advantage of a lovely May afternoon. The youngest started over to investigate me, this latest piece of strangeness in her life, but was called back, keeping her out of my way as well.
A grey SUV pulled in the end of the driveway, sticking halfway out into the street, right behind me as I started the walk up to the house. One woman came out, carrying a purse and a toddler, destined for the house. The rest of the kids piled out into the front yard and were directed to the game of frisbee. The gaggle had just doubled.
I could have let my feelings surround me. I'd been here, still too recently. But this wasn't about me. Not this night. I refused to let tears well up, put on my cheerful/helpful face, and walked up to the young men, asking where I might find someone authorized to sign for medications. I was being well paid for this little service. They needed the professionals to be professional. One of them left for inside, and a moment later a "real" adult appeared, signing and taking the medications. I wished her well as I left, knowing that she was not going to be having a good evening. Maybe not for a long time.
Every one of these people was a stranger to me, and will likely remain so, even should we meet again, here or somewhere else. And yet, as I walked back to me car, for this one moment I knew every single one of them.