Dear Lou,

Dear Lou,

You don’t know me. You might recognize my face because you’ve been helping me fix stuff for probably a decade. I figure we have an open relationship; you help other customers, I ask for guidance from other orange aprons. To you, I’m probably another face in a sea of customers and I get that. After all, you see a lot of people in a day.

Despite what sounds like a full-on Yankee accent, you are awfully good at making me feel welcome. You also don’t make me feel stupid when I come in grimy from whatever I’m fixing – even though you know I broke it despite my lies to the contrary. I appreciate that.

I doubt you’ve noticed, but lately when I see you across the store, I almost always duck down an aisle. It’s nothing personal. We’re still on good terms, you and me. You have no way of knowing what happens in my life when I leave Home Depot #6978. Although I’ve managed to keep my home and yard in a relatively good state of repair, my life’s been more of a challenge to fix. You might point me to adhesives in aisle five, but they haven’t made one strong enough yet.

IMG_1883When my youngest daughter, Kylie, was little, I called her Dr. Stoopandfetch because she loved to be my helper. She also loved to come to your store with me. One Saturday, we were walking through and heard hammering that piqued our curiosity. We followed the sound to the lumber section where you were instructing kids on building birdhouses. Because every space was full, we were about to leave… until you saw us.

You approached her and said that there might be one more kit if Kylie wanted join the group. It was as if you’d been keeping one in reserve, just in case. You dug it out, found a spot, and caught her up to speed. Kylie had a ball. She was so proud of that little birdhouse because she made it herself. I wish I had taken a picture of her with it. I wish I could show you her smile. But I didn’t know then just how precious the memory would be.

That’s the problem with life. When we’re living the good times, we have no way of knowing that they might actually be the best times and their supply may be finite. If only we had the foresight to see those times as they truly are… to place the appropriate value on the moments that matter and squander nothing.

We lost Kylie to cancer two years ago. My supply of memories is limited to the twelve years she lived: the best of times. Those memories are little nuggets that keep her with me – trips to the zoo, wrestling matches in the den, songs sung at inappropriate levels, and a surprise Saturday morning birdhouse class.

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Her apron hangs on a nail beside mine. Every time I see it, it reminds me of running errands to Home Depot and that day when there wasn’t room for her… until you made a place. You fabricated that memory out of some pine, a little glue, and kindness. Thank you for that.

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That’s why I dodge you sometimes. Because when I see you, I remember. And while it is a good memory, it hurts a little too. I don’t think I could express just how much it means without a disintegrating into a blubbering mess. I’m guessing they discourage that kind of thing at the Home Depot. But hey, at least aisle three has plenty of mops and paper towels to wipe it up.

Thanks for that memory,

Mark

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20 thoughts on “Dear Lou,

  1. That’s the problem with life. When we’re living the good times, we have no way of knowing that they might actually be the best times and their supply may be finite

    But when we realize we are living in the best of times, we should hold those times dear to help us through what might come.

    1. Absolutely true. The problem I’m finding is old age is conspiring against me. Good thing I have a lot of pictures and other kids to remind me of the good times.

  2. I’m not much of a photo person and most people don’t understand that. I try to explain, but only a very special few ever get a glimpse of what I’m saying. We had a devastating house fire several years ago when our boys were teens. We lost a lot but we never lost the memories. Each became a thread which added a special brilliance, a soft nubby texture or a sensible thread holding them all together in a personal tapestry which we could hoard ourselves taking it out when we felt like it. We didn’t have to frame it and expose it on a wall. Eventually, that tapestry defined more and more what we truly cherished. Don’t get me wrong….pictures can be great joggers of those special moments, but, memories can never be lost. They define the depths of our values, a comfort in times of need and spontaneous laughter as we take each thread which has been secreted in our hearts out at times of our need and choosing. Little did HD realize that aisle three is really the jar God uses to collect our tears.

    1. That is so true and well put. Memories are the best. I do need those reminders sometimes, I’m finding. About to turn 50, the brain doesn’t work as well. But they do come back. I can’t imagine a house fire, though. How tough…

  3. what a poignant post. i imagine there are many stories and memories along the way. each place, person, or event, will trigger these feelings, and that’s okay. that’s how you know they are real, both now and then –

  4. Your stories take me into your heart. ALWAYS! I just came back from a YaYa Reunion with friends from forty years ago. One has Ovarian Cancer and so where I usually go right a long with certain plans and then bow out gracefully, I’ve been learning to take my bucket list seriously and have actually been ticking off some of those things on the list. In fact, I came on here to write my own post but when I read yours first I had to stop by.
    I have learned a couple of things in all my years and one I’ve been learning now… Some of those things on my bucket list take me outside of my comfort zone. But I am really glad I to have done them. They are the memories I will always have.
    My daughter has also tried to teach me not to take so many pictures. She says you miss the moment and has told me that the ones in my head are much better. I’ve been trying that and I think that it may seriously be true for those of us who are writers, I loved to go to the hardware store with my dad too. I felt special and on the way there and on the way back, those were are best talks ever.
    I understand how the memories can sting a little. My dad is also gone. Though he was a parent and not a child and I can’t even imagine that sting. But I do hear you. Sometimes… those memories in our heads are better than a picture could ever match. You were an amazing dad. You still are.

    1. I have come to love being outside my comfort zone. It started before cancer, when I took a mission trip to Africa to build an orphanage. Good for you. I have some things to tick off my bucket list. I’m going to have to vicariously watch you run down yours!

  5. “I wish I had taken a picture of her with it. I wish I could show you her smile. ”
    Mission accomplished; this was lovely.

    (I wonder if someone in Home Depot HR or Management might appreciate a copy–they can return the favor by sharing it to their workers–or the one. We all like our jobs a little more when we know we’ve made a difference to a “real” person.)

  6. I know Lou! He has helped come up with material to use for props and other set stuff. He wanted the ATL kids to come in and tap dance for the kids during craft time on a Saturday before Millie:). It didn’t work out schedule wise, but just the suggestion was so sweet! I bet that tapping would sound great on those HD floors… should see if we can make it happen this year.
    Thanks for the reminder to slow down so we don’t miss the little stuff. I’m so sorry that Kylie is not here with you, so special that Lou created this memory with his kindness.

  7. Your letter to Lou brings me right into the moment with you. So heartfelt and well written. It’s a great reminder that we never know what someone else is going through. Your avoidance of Lou is more about a connection you share, not a problem with him. The other reminder is to be present in these moments that we tend to take fro granted. Thank you!

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