I’m done crying, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. I’m wired to live in life…not death. I’m tired of hearing from others how sad I look. I’m tired of folks pulling me in for a hug. I’m tired of sadness and death. I’m done. Instead of crying…I’ll celebrate your life. Remembering your laugh, your energy and orneriness. I’ll be kinder, maybe a little more attentive and better than ever. My hugs will be happy hugs. I’m going to start giving people some good-natured shit. I’m going to start being me again because “sad me” ain’t me.
What’s my “take-a-way” from your death. Life’s short. Touch someone in a positive way like you did. Be someone’s hero. We all like hero’s…right? Be one.
Drop off food to a food bank
Take some clothing and toiletries to a mission or shelter
Bake someone cookies and drop them off just because you can
Buy someone a flower
Share your time and attention
Be nice when everyone else isn’t
Text someone a nice note
Forgive a debt
Reach out to a friend who’s having a tough time and then reach out again
Call someone and leave the following message “WWWHHHHHAAAATTTTZZZZZUUUUPPPPPP?!”
Don’t be so critical of yourself
Act like a bigshot and order hot fudge sundaes for the whole table
Encourage high fives when its so awkward that its funny “don’t leave me hangin’ homie!!”
Bring a dozen donuts when no one expects you to
Do what it takes to show others your love for them
I think that our good and gracious Lord talks to us throughout our day. On the way to your visitation I turned on the radio and Guns and Roses “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”was just beginning. On my way to your funeral this song came on. I had to smile, if even through the tears. Its one of my favorites. It rings so very, very true to me these days.
Crying won’t bring you back…celebrating your life keeps you alive in my mind…in my heart. They buried a body…they didn’t bury my friend. My friend lives on. I’ll see my friend again. I’m going to start living again.
I’m not supposed to have favorites. Like every manager I have those that I like to work with more than others. Some employees need supervision on everything, while others do not. Some go the extra mile without asking, others barely make it to the end of their shift. Some make me work on making them better while a few select, a very small percentage, excel and challenge me to keep them busy. I’ve been abundantly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life through my profession, some have even gotten their way into my heart. You were one of them.
You were reliable, energetic, funny, bright, handsome, hard-working, quick-witted, fiercely competitive, stubborn, a world traveler, but most of all…you were my friend. I took you into my confidence. You were one of the few who teased me back and busted my chops. I trusted you.
Wednesday 8/17/2016…you were uncharacteristically late. You didn’t answer my phone calls. You didn’t answer my texts. I grew concerned. I called your grandmother. I was on the phone with her when she found you. Her frantic screams at the other end of the phone are still ringing in my ears. I hung up and called 911 then rushed to your home. It was too late. I stood on your lawn. What do I do now? Your neighbors gathered on the sidewalk, away from your house. I took a wide walk away from them to avoid their questions. I’ve always prided myself on knowing what to do, who to call and how to brush aside the emotion and stress of the situation and get my job done. 27 years in the hot seat will do that, but this…the death of a friend who’s a big part of our store? That’s altogether unchartered territory. What’s my job now? Why…?
Who do I call first? What do I tell them. How do I keep the present crew in the dark while I try to wrap my head around this….all while mourning you myself? I go over the last conversation that we had that day. It was all business. Did I say something wrong to push you over the dark edge that you were at? Was I curt or a prick? Didn’t you know how much we loved you? How much I loved you? Jordan…all you had to do was call any one of us and you would have had an army of friends and family to hold you until the darkness passed. Now…its too late. Why…?
Arrangements to be made. Hollow heart. Scattered brain…I can’t keep my thoughts on track. Orders to be written. Customers to wait on. Coworkers to comfort. Customers ask why everyone on the crew is forlorn, so sad. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, to repeat the story and hear their shock, their disbelief. I have to go in, to work, to comfort to try to get everyone else and myself through this. My head hurts from crying so much. I’m told that I can go home. Spontaneous crying, cold shock and unanswered questions are the ingredients of this horrible day. Why…?
At night I try to sleep. I’m exhausted but memories of our exchanges cross my darkened minds eye like flames that flicker at a candles end. Bright flickers…just asking to be replayed again and again. Why…?
When I finally leave this earthly home, I wonder if God will look the other way once you and I finally meet again…because I feel like punching you hard in the chest…not violently…just to knock some sense into you. We trusted you. We called you our friend and now we’re hurting because you took you away from us. We’re selfish, Jordan. We wanted you here for a long, long time…to watch you complete college, to excel and get a career, to get married, raise a family to travel the world. That’s all gone from us now and…quite frankly…we’re hurt. We’re pissed and hurt and sad. My whole body hurts. Why Jordan…why?
This will hurt for a while…but I’ll never forget you buddy. You were a blessing to those around you…maybe we should have told you that a little more often.
Its been a dramatic and event-filled summer here at the Palatial Estates. Here are some notables that didn’t get their own blog but warranted an honorable mention by yours truly. We jump all around the spectrum today so I hope that you’re warmed up, ready to read and mentally fortified to take this all in. YOU’RE WELCOMEAmerica.
This is my first vehicle. A 1972 Chevy LUV pick-up truck that Dad and I bought together. 80% rust. The only things that didn’t have rust on them were the brake peddle and steering wheel. Four cylinder engine. Four on the floor which required the middle passenger to move their leg one way or the other when I shifted. Crank windows. Manual choke and steering. The horn was a button on the dash beside the AM radio. I installed a secondhand 8 track player and TWO 6X9 tri-axial speakers that rolled around behind the seat when I whipped kitties in the gravel. IT. WAS. AWESOME!! On a rare half-day from school me, Scott Carlson and Gary Kelting would squeeze into the cab and head off for Northpark Mall in the big city of Davenport. Scott brought his boom box and a collection of cassettes. Foreigner, The J. Geils Band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts sprinkled in with some Back in Black by AC/DC. Not good times…EPIC TIMES!! I was 16…my buddies 15. I didn’t know any better. Remember that for later…
We tore off our old sunroom and put in its place a brand spanking new one. We love it! I christened it with a nap shortly after its completion. Its also good for drinking coffee in during the morning and beer in the evenings. Who knew?!
We tore down our old tool shed, displacing hundreds of crickets and spiders, and had a new one put up. As a result I had to get a tetanus shot after being assaulted by a piece of plywood with a rusty screw protruding from it. The nurse commented several times that she’d never heard a scream as shrill as mine. True story.
We’re getting new neighbors for only the second time in fourteen years. Our neighborhood doesn’t turn over that much. When you live next to eye-candy like me you won’t want to leave. Just sayin’.
I have just about everything ready for my Halloween costume. On Monday October 31st you’ll see it on Facebook and remark “he apparently has too much time on his hands…” or you’ll high-five the nearest person shouting “THAT’S WHAT I’M FREAKIN’ TALKIN’ ABOUT!!” I play to win. Everyone else is dressing for first runner-up.
I kept a 1972 Eisenhower silver dollar in my pocket for the last two baseball seasons. For most of my Little League and 3 on 3 basketball league games the initial possession is decided by a coin flip. Hundreds of games have been started with the flip of that coin. Hundreds of hours spent in my pocket during the last two summers. I gave it to a young girl on the final night of my season who had volunteered to keep score at her brothers games that night. I’m guessing that she was around the sixth grade. Her brother and his teammates gave her crap all game. She took it like a pro and didn’t let them get to her. As I gave it to her I told her how many games I had started with it and that I wanted her to have it for helping out all night long. Her face lit up as she whispered “wow”. I hope that she keeps it.
After the 2015 high school baseball season I made a decision to take a season away from working varsity baseball games. I was getting home at 11:30 at night, getting up at 5 the next morning and repeating the process. It also seemed like every night one of the coaches chose to act like a prick. I decided to step away and only work USSSA kids baseball games and local sub-varsity games. It went so well that I’m getting away from varsity baseball altogether. The money is about the same while the time away from home is much less. A final note about that high school season in which the coaches were edgy…I received two post-season recomendations…which is a nice acknowledgement that I was, in fact, doing a good job. Go suck an egg Coach!
I realized that I sound great singing any Dwight Yoakam, Trace Adkins, George Strait or Diamond Rio song while driving my truck. I’m quite talented that way.
I’m part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, pairing men and women with at risk kids. (I’m a “Brother” in case you’re scoring at home). My little brother comes from a love-filled, single parent home. Dad’s not in the picture, hasn’t been for quite a while. My Brother is quiet. We’ve been together almost two years. He doesn’t know some of the basic “guy” stuff so I’ve set some goals that instead of just going to movies and such we’d work on some of those things…basic “dude” stuff. Today we washed and waxed my truck but not before turning on some classic rock on the garage radio (its a rule…you gotta have the tunes rockin‘) then grilled some burgers with him setting up the briquettes, doing the seasoning and grilling. He’s almost fourteen, stands close to six feet tall. Too old to be a child. Too young to be a man. I made him work. I made him learn. He had fun. Summers drawing to a close very soon. I hope to get in some more stuff with him before its gone, though today…today was a good day.
Did I mention that I taught him how to clean up chrome rims? If not…here’s proof that I did. I figured that since I enjoyed cleaning up my parents car and truck when I was Logan’s age that he might just like it too if someone taught him. He did.
I’d imagine that a better writer would find some coy and thoughtful way to wrap up todays blog, using an analogy to mirror the similarities between working, learning, having fun and maturing from kid to adult….but I’m not that guy. I only wanted to help out a kid like the many folks that have helped me out somewhere along my way, getting me to where I am today. Blessed I am. A blessing I try to be.
I’m one of the managers of a small drug/grocery store. 27+ years in the books. I’m neck deep in middle management stuff every day. Interviewing, hiring, scheduling, reports, checking cooler temps, building displays, planning for the next holiday, watching labor costs, counting money, talking to customers, ordering, selling stuff, talking with co-workers, unplugging the toilets in the women’s restroom, picking up litter in the parking lot and doing other desirable and fulfilling things. Some tasks are important requiring confidentiality and years of training while the loins share do not. (see “picking up litter in the parking lot” and “unplugging toilets above”…)
Recently a young employee asked me “what do you do?” I replied with my standard “I try to keep as many folks happy at once.” She didn’t buy it “No…really…what?” Geez…she kind of got me on that, what did I really do? I started out the next day jotting down some of the things that fill up my day. Most of it trivial, very mundane stuff. Like most jobs the devil is in the details. Take care of the little things correctly everyday and they won’t (on average) bite you in the rump.
While compiling the list I wrote down things that I do not like about my job. Mind you, I enjoy the vast majority of what I do, though these things drive me crazy. They are as follows in no particular order:
Snow storms. Customers think that grocers love large surges of shoppers prior to the arrival of a storm. We don’t. Give us a steady stream of customers buying stuff every day. Selling two days worth of bread, milk and everything else not nailed down in eight hours is hard on us. We can’t plan for it. Grocers love to plan.
Alarms in the middle of the night. Meeting the police outside of our store at 2 AM when an alarm is going off really, and I mean really, throws off my sleep for the night.
Pickles, spaghetti sauce and canned goods. They’re all really heavy to stock. A few cases aren’t so bad. Try unloading fifty of them and you’ll see my point.
Power outages. Have you ever tried to keep your ice cream frozen when your power goes out? Try it in a store when you have thousands of dollars worth of perishable items. The powers out and the clock is ticking.
“The customer is always right”. That saying was coined in 1909 by a businessman in London. Things. Have. Changed. 99.99% of the people that I’ve had the pleasure of caring for through the decades have been absolutely great. They’ve put food on my families table, paid for our medical insurance, home and other bills. The other .01% are idiots. In those 27+ years I’ve only told one person that we were unable to meet his needs and that he’d be better served at one of our competitors. His jaw dropped. He couldn’t believe it. He’d been giving us hell each and every day for years. I simply gave him permission to move on. He was gone for a month, then came back to us a much tamer tiger.
That other 99.99%, where do I begin? They’re our “regulars”. They come in every age and size. From the business folks who dress nicely and smell good to the haggard addicted who show up early for their breakfast beer, hand shaking as they pour their loose change onto the countertop then disappearing until they need another. It’s the homeless who borrow a couple of bucks from a longtime employee for food. It’s the little old ladies who come in three times a week and ask a million questions before telling us “I don’t know what I’d do without you here to help”. It’s the old guys who buy their lotto tickets, beer and newspaper who tell you about the rainstorm that moved through at 3 in the morning…they were wide awake while the rest of us slept. It’s the children of our customers, wide-eyed and innocent, scampering through the aisles. I tell them that I’ll hire them when they turn sixteen and they run off. “I’LL PAY YOU IN ICE CREAM SANDWICHES!!”I holler as their parents and I laugh. It’s those folks looking for a meal solution at 3 in the afternoon. “We sell a lot of taco fixings this time of day. Quick and easy. Everyone loves tacos” I reply. (not once has anyone brought a taco back to me….). It’s the lady looking to buy a bottle of wine for a friend’s birthday and I up sell the gift bag to go with it. It’s the pharmacy calling and letting us know that they have a prescription to be delivered to a nursing home for a sick resident, and us getting it to them in ten minutes. Its our employees sending a get well or sympathy card to a long time customer who needs to know that just because we haven’t seen them in a while that we haven’t forgotten them. Its trying to program the Muzak so that everyone’s favorite is playing sometime during the day. Its unloading semi trucks filled with groceries outside in the rain, heat and snow. It’s being a red-ass one moment, a counselor the next. Its shoveling snow several times a day during a storm. Its listening to a co-worker tearfully pour out their hurt while you lend a sympathetic ear. Its working nights, weekends and holidays. It’s discretion when I’m told of something confidential. Its restraint when I’m upset. Its screwing up, then learning from that mistake. Its being flexible. Its getting to know your customers names and likes. Its knowing who puts bread on your table and gas in your tank. Its working hard. Its leading. Its showing our crew the example to be followed. Its setting the bar in attainable steps. Its teaching, equipping and enabling our staff to do better than before. Its damned rewarding when it all works out and comes together. Its measuring a situation then handling it well, sometimes being the hammer while most of the time being a patient negotiator. Its going to a meeting that I don’t want to attend and running into other longtime employees, reminiscing over coffee breaks and a meal…and learning something new at that darned meeting. Its being the face of the company that I work for in the neighborhood that we’re planted in. It’s lightening the mood by doing my Deputy Barney Fife imitation. It’s razzing the customers and enjoying a light moment, they’ll never be ignoredwhen I’m on duty. Its hiring someone as a high school kid and still being their friend twenty years later when they’re raising their own families. It’s answering tough questions honestly. Its doing the right thing when no ones looking. Its taking a chance on a teenager and giving them their first job then standing with them in all of their mistakes. Its giving a senior citizen their last job and wishing that I had met them sooner. Its constantly learning new things. Its being held accountable when things don’t go right. Its taking responsibility. Its exhausting every day. Its being polite when a customer is treating me like an idiot. Its doing the best that I can do even when I don’t feel like being the best.
Why do I do this? Simply put…our customers can go to ten different stores within ten minutes of our location and get essentially the same thing at prices close to ours. We need sales. Sales drive profits. Profits keep the lights on and employees paid. The challenges are real with an economic impact that trickles down to our employees who want to buy cars, pay rent/child support, purchase homes, go on vacations or retire. It all matters.
Several years ago, shortly after we opened at our current location, an elderly man chewed my ass for not having a coat hook in the men’s restroom. “Where’s a guy supposed to hang his coat when he’s using the toilet?!” this man snapped at me. I replied with something less than what the irritated man wanted to hear and he kept at me, shaking his bony, crooked finger in my face, calling our company “damned idiots”for planning a store without a coat hook in the men’s room. Within a few days we installed a coat hook in the men’s restroom AND every time I saw the old grouch I ducked down an aisle or into the back room. One ass-chewing from the old geezer was enough for me until one day he waved me over before I could duck and cover. I apprehensively approached him, sure that I was in store for another barrage of haranguing. He held out his hand for me to shake, a smile graced his wrinkled face “My names Leo. I see that you’ve been avoiding me.” I half-lied “oh…I’ve just been busy”. “Well I wanted to thank you for installing the coat hook”. Leo and I became friends. He was in poor health and declined from there. A few months later I was in the pharmacy when man came to pick up Leo’s medications. I inquired about Leo to the mans surprise. “How do you know Leo?” the man asked. I answered “He chewed me out one day real good.” “Sounds like Leo. He’s tough to handle, says what’s on his mind” was the man’s response. The man was Leo’s nephew, taking Leo his medications. Leo had since been moved to a nursing home and shortly thereafter passed away. Every time that I see that coat hook I think of Leo and how simple it was to make him happy and keep a customer. Now when a customer gets after me about a perceived injustice I listen to them. If they’re that upset about it then it deserves my attention. Leo taught me that.
In short…that’s what I do. I try to keep as many folks happy in one day as possible. I’m not alone in this quest. I’m a tiny gear in a massive machine that tries to keep the “Leo’s” of the world happier. Honestly, I fail at it more times than I succeed. Maybe after another 27 years of this I’ll finally get it right.
I knew that this day was coming, this storm…so to speak. I’ve known about it since January when our youngest daughter, Macy, sat down next to me on the couch as I watched a game on TV and ate supper. “How have you been?” was her question. My stomach sank. I reached for the remote and shut off the TV. I placed my plate, half-finished, on the end table. I looked at her and replied “what’s wrong?” You see, our daughters don’t just ask those kinds of questions. At least not yet. She was moving to Germany in the summer to become an Au Pair for a German couple, taking care of their kids, for a year. After the year she’d start attending a university in Berlin and resume her studies while getting a job. Germany has free college. She’s fairly good at speaking German. My guess is that she’s going to get a lot better. I asked her if this was an “idea” or a “done deal”. Her reply “95% done deal”. My stomach sank further while my heart rose into my throat.
Our middle daughter, Karalee, was due to graduate in May. She got a job in Japan. Literally, within three weeks during the coming summer we’d lose two daughters to two countries. 4,545 miles and 6,371 miles away respectively. The storm…was gaining strength. I could see it in the distance. It wasn’t going away. It had been building since the day of their birth I suppose. Since their first step. Since their first defiant toddler tantrum. Since swimming lessons, learning to ride a bike, driving a car and so on and so forth. Its been a steady and relentless learning curve to try and conquer new things. Scary things, except this time around I’m the one who’s scared…scared for them and maybe, just maybe…scared for me.
We’ve been temporary empty-nesters for two years with both daughters living half an hour away while attending college. If they needed us we could be there in a short time (they never did..). What’s my role now? How am I to be defined? Too young to be old. Too old to be young. Not wanting to be hip. Not wanting to be stodgy. The salt is overtaking the pepper atop my head. Do I try to be that old guy who wears denim shorts, black knee-high dress socks and sandals with a fanny pack when I go out? Maybe try wearing a tie-dye shirt and grow a pony tail? No one told me how to do this. I’m serious when I write this. What’s my role now? My wife can only withstand so much of me before she shoots me the stink-eye. I’m not always a delight to be around. (true story)
They’ve moved into good countries, not third world places. I can’t imagine how parents with kids in the military feel when their kids are put in harms way in a bad part of the world.
That storm kept coming. It brought tension, the silent type. I told them that they could come back home if things didn’t work out. That life sometimes hands you failure that you can learn from, but life continues to go onward. I told them that I was proud of them, loved them and to be safe. To trust their inner voice. That trust is earned, not given freely to strangers or folks that you just met. I don’t know if any of it sank in. I was young once too, bullet-proof and foolhardy.
The day of the storm arrived. Our last child would be flying from our home. The storm wasn’t made of lightning, thunder nor rain but of questions, uncertainty, an emptiness in our lives, a hole in our heart. An awkward vacuum left in the place of parenting up close and personal. Each of our daughters, all three, have plans. They made them themselves. They’re theirs to live and fulfill, regardless of our feelings as parents…and for that I’m thankful. They’re good people. I’m proud of them.
At the airport. Silence speaks volumes. Exuberance verses apprehension. Exciting future verses the tedium of daily routine. Throats tight. Goodbyes whispered. Eyes misty. Silent walk to the parking lot as nearby jets rev their engines. Quiet car ride to an empty house. Prayers sent. This storm, is it over or just beginning? Trips to be planned. Reunions in the future. I wish that I had paid a little more attention to parenting while it was happening and savored those moments. It went by fast.
I honestly thought that these photographs were lost forever. I hadn’t seen them in years…but that’s not where the story begins.
It was April 1984 and we were just a few short weeks away from graduating high school. My best friend, Scott Carlson, had hatched an idea to take some “cool pictures” at an abandoned farm house just a few minutes from where we lived. Since I was one of the photographers for our high school newspaper and had access to a 35mm camera, black and white film plus could develop said photos at school without supervision, he asked me to come along. Scott was a bit of a free-spirit back then. He occasionally smoked pot, was extremely talented in art and track and was kind of on the outside edge of the cool crowd. I was all of those things except that I didn’t smoke pot, wasn’t talented in either art nor track and the cool crowd was indifferent towards my existence….so it worked out well. All we needed for the photo shoot was:
tinted safety glasses (borrowed from welding class)
a black tux jacket (borrowed from choir)
Billy Idol sneer.
a total lack of regard for trespassing (we didn’t know who owned it and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway)
two cameras. One with color film and one with black and white.
a little imagination.
We arrived at the farm after school and started taking some pictures. As you will see, the house was a beautiful home at one time. Scott was adventurous enough to go inside the house while I hedged my bets that he’d fall through the floor and into the basement. Years removed from this afternoon I wish that I would’ve taken more photos, gone inside and perhaps invited some of our classmates to join us. How much more fun would it be to look at these now as I share them?
Once we had been there for a little while we heard a truck pull up into the lane, it was old man Spickermann. I didn’t know much about Old Man Spickermann except that he yelled really loud at basketball games and had an ever-present scowl residing upon his beet red face. Scott and I walked up to his truck in the lane like two kids walking to the principles office. I think that I did most of the talking while he scowled at us, on his property without his permission. Mind you one of us was wearing a black tux jacket and tinted safety glasses while the other carried two cameras…not exactly looking like two juvenile delinquents vandalizing an old and abandoned farm. Mister Spickermann listened, never giving us an indication of his feelings one way or the other…just sizing us and the moment up. Once I had finished with my apology for not getting his permission and telling him what we were doing (which was harmless) he turned away without saying a word, opened his truck door, got something off of the floor of his cab (it was shiny) and moved back towards us. At this point I thought that he may have had a gun to scare us with, instead it was a chrome Thermos. He chuckled as he poured himself a cup of coffee, using the hood of his truck as a table, and talked to us about the farm and local matters. I learned that his scowl was just him being him and that once turned upside down was really a very pleasant face to go with the man. His beet-red complexion a consequence of years of farming and being in the sun. Mister Spickermann departed shortly thereafter and so did we…not knowing if any of these photos would turn out. Here they are:
A summer ago I returned to those gravel roads that I grew up on, looking for that beautiful old farm house and its outbuildings. What I found shouldn’t have surprised me…it was completely overgrown with trees and brush with old cars and trailers parked in its overgrown lane. I couldn’t tell if the house was even standing. Its probably better that I don’t know.
I last spoke to Scott at a class reunion. We’re quite different and the consequence of that is we don’t keep in touch. I wish that I could share these with him, or at least his kids….they’d probably all get a kick out of seeing them.
That’s us….two kids, now in their fifties, having a little fun thirty-two years ago.
Thanks for coming down Memory Lane with me. Take care and God bless.
With our time in Colorado coming to an end we packed up and headed east towards home, a two-day drive for us. VACATION 2016was ending. The following are photos from various days that have a story to tell.
We stopped in Ogallala Nebraska for lunch on our way home. We found the place, a finished out Morten building on the far end of town away from the interstate, with help of Yelp. You could tell that it was thee meeting place, complete with bar, sit-down restaurant area and meeting room for banquets. After we placed our order at the bar the woman taking our order asked where we were from. I laughed, replying “…is it that obvious that we’re not from here?” We stood out from their “regulars”. Good food and we were back on the road towards Grand Island.
Our last night of vacation was spent in Grand Island Nebraska….still over six hours away from home. Our company has a grocery store in Grand Island. I’d sound less than authentic if I didn’t admit that it was good to get back to what I’m used to. It felt reassuringly familiar, even if it was Nebraska.
Thank you for coming along with us. I enjoyed your comments and hope that you had a good time reading. Take care and God bless.