It’s the start of the holiday season, and while I do try to be appreciative every day of the year, it’s inevitable that this time of year nudges at me until I take a break from work and indulge my sentiments. I suppose the title of the holiday, Thanksgiving, and the overall nostalgia of Christmases past might have something to do with it.
It’s funny how nostalgia can take a hold of you and make you think life was better “back when.” And perhaps it was. But today isn’t bad either. In fact, I have been quite blessed – with four great kids, two fantastic dogs, family that I love – or…at least tolerate. Kidding! Just kidding. The business is going well, we have acquired three rentals just this past year and while things are more than busy and I sometimes (often times) envy my Facebook friends and their vacation photos, I know I am blessed. We are blessed. And I am thankful for that.
Someone recently posted about the “winter” of our lives… how it creeps up on you and takes you by surprise. I’ve often remarked that in my mind, I’m still 20 years old and I wonder when I will be “grown up.” What it means to be an adult….is it an age? an accomplishment? I’ve come to realize that I don’t think it really matters. You just do the best you can, when you are young…when you are old. Of course, there are things I wish I would have known, would have done (and not done) when I was younger, but you can’t live in the past. Live in the now – appreciate the now, what you have, WHO you have.
Which brings me to the reason for my musings. Somewhere around 2 years ago, before COVID stomped on all of us, I met a man named Ed at the Driver’s License facility. The lines were long and the wait time was worse than anticipating Christmas Eve as a child. Well, if you know me, you know that I make friends with everyone. I like to talk, and I like to get into your head. I want to know about you. And so, in my typical fashion, I struck up a conversation with Ed. He lamented that he was worried about his wife being at home by herself for so long while he was here. She was not well and had trouble getting up and down the stairs. You see, Ed and his wife were in the winter of their lives. During the process of our friendship-making, he asked what I do for a living, and I told him. He said his wife has been asking to have the downstairs tub removed and put in a low-profile shower, so it would be easier for her to get in and out of. I promised him, if we ever got out of the DMV prison we were in together, I would come by and give him a quote and gave him my card.
I didn’t hear from Ed during 2020 and I assumed he was hiding out from the pandemic. More than full year after we met, he finally called me and said he was ready to move forward with the project. I went to his house, gave him a quote and he accepted. I didn’t get to meet his wife. When we arrived to do the work, we naturally chatted for a while and he eventually told me through choked tears that his wife had passed away several months ago…not from COVID, but cancer. He didn’t know she had it at the time we had met. She went quickly. He admitted that he hadn’t been upstairs since she died – he slept in the downstairs guest room. And he was going forward with the bathroom remodel for her, even though she was gone, because she had asked for it, and he had put it off until it was too late. This was his great regret. To have such a strong relationship that your one regret was something so negligible in the grand scheme of things speaks volumes. During the weeks we were there, he also confided that he has lost two of his four children as well. I felt for him.
We recently finished Ed’s bathroom and I was sad for it to be over. I knew I liked Ed when we met at the DMV, and getting to know him personally over the weeks we were in and out of his house, made me really come to care for him. His story had an impact on me, and I took time to reflect on what I was grateful for, including that chance meeting at the DMV where I was introduced into Ed’s life. I really believe nothing happens by coincidence, that there was a reason we met. Maybe we helped each other, in some way.
Ed sent us payment for the job the other day – I felt guilty even taking the money from him. As customer’s often do, he left a little note on the return invoice, thanking us for the work we did, and which made me choke up a bit. You can read it for yourself in the attached image. It also brings me full circle to why I wrote this. Be thankful for what you have, and who you have. You never know if it’s the last day you will have with them. Treat others with respect and dignity. You never know what their story is. And if you get the chance, strike up a conversation with a stranger. You might just make a friend.
From my family to yours, have a very happy Thanksgiving, enjoy to it to the fullest, and give your family hugs.