The man who lives above us resembles my father so much. If not in physical appearance, then in his youthful mannerism and his soft-spoken way.

But it's his stone work ethic that most reminds me of Pop. He's gone every morning long before dawn off to his job driving a delivery truck. Like so many men from previous generations - who know the difference between bad times and good - he never questions the purpose of his effort. He never complains.

This man, who also acts as our building's handyman in exchange for reduced rent, chides me for rolling out the trash cans. This man, who is about to turn 70, refuses to let me help him get groceries, laundry, anything, up the two flights of stairs to his and his wife's apartment.

He catches me out in the hallway a moment ago, taking out the garbage he had for once forgotten. He thanks me, and I reply with my typical greeting, "How's life treating you?"

"I'm alive," he responds, falling into our routine. "I can't ask for much more."

I agree, as I always and honestly do.

And then he tells me, "I got into a bad wreck last month. Real bad. It was a head-on collision while at work."

"Jesus," I blurt. "Are you OK? I'm sorry to hear that."

"I'm doing better. I was busted up pretty good. The other guy died," he pauses. "Accidents happen."

I nod in disbelief. I want to ask what happened, but I think better of it.

"I had to make a decision. I thought I had the lane. But it was oncoming traffic.

"Insurance company won't cover me anymore, so I'm stuck working at a desk. They're going to let me do that until I retire in June. I was only working to keep my medical benefits. You know Barbara has a lot of health problems."

"I do," I answer.

"So it all works out," he offers.

"I'm so sorry."

"Accidents happen," he repeats, his voice wavering for the first time. "It's cool."

"Yeah, it's gonna be alright, Jim" I find myself saying. I want to reach out to him, to pat him on the arm and let him know I understand. Let him know this doesn't change who he is.

But I don't. Not knowing how he would take it, not knowing him beyond our usual encounters, I leave it alone.

And with that, he turns and climbs the stairs.