This might take a minute, but if you’ve lost a parent and you miss them like I miss my dad, this post will be worth the read. Grab a cup of coffee and sit with me for a few. I’ll do my best to make it worth your time.
My dad passed away January 21, 2014 from Alzheimer’s and wet brain, a double-whammy of dementia.
I miss him a lot more than I expected I would. I miss golfing with him. I miss taking him out to dinner. I miss the look on his face when we’d tear into a Big John’s Steak & Onion sandwich, the closest thing Michigan has to a Philadelphia Cheesesteak (henceforth referred to by its real name, the Philly cheesesteak). Most of all, I miss the pep-talks. He had a way of helping me through life with just the right amount of toughness and love… I thought I was ready for his passing, but with each year that goes by – I’m trying to put words to the emotion – I don’t miss him more, I remember the good stuff and our bond (as flawed as we could be) more intensely. I miss him, but in a good way. It’s not that I spend my days wallowing in the guilt I should have done something differently before he passed. I miss the things we did on a regular basis together, know what I mean? I love what time we had. We did good with it, as busy as I was.
With that background out of the way, here goes.
My wife and I purchased a mattress a few months ago. I offered to go to a medium for my wife’s benefit. I prefer a softer mattress, but she’s always said she likes a little firm for a mattress. Too firm causes me intense back pain, but I was willing to risk a compromise for her. My wife decided, in the last couple of weeks, that we should look into taking advantage of the 120-day swap-out policy that came with our purchase so we went to test the soft mattresses yesterday afternoon. The process of picking the right one out of three took more than an hour and a half. We left nothing to chance and spent ten to fifteen minutes on each, laying in our normal sleeping position. I was great with two of the three, but my wife liked one in particular, so the salesman started to work on the details of swapping ours for the new one, plus the price of upgrading to the next level up.
Where this gets interesting is we’d made a couple of missteps on the purchase (mainly purchasing the mattress online, but still giving our salesman credit for the sale) that made the swap nearly impossible. Our salesman took us to the store manager and assistant manager to see what could be done. He gave the information to the two managers and the assistant manager bowed out of the discussion to take care of other matters. Chris, the main guy, went to work on the issue and figured out how to work around the difficulties we created and we were just about to wrap up when my wife mentioned that we knew a couple of people who had worked with the furniture company that had previously owned the building we were in. Chris asked who, and before she could answer, I said, “my dad”.
He said, “Oh, who was your dad?”
I responded, with my dad’s full name.
Chris’s jaw dropped. “Your dad was my mentor on my first day in the furniture business. When I introduced myself, he said ‘I know who you are. I used to do business with your dad. I’ve known you since you were this high [puts his hand at the level of his knee]’.”
Now, you expect a line like that from a salesman, and Chris had clearly been a salesman before ascending to store manager – maybe he embellished the relationship, say he knew of my dad… but he jumped right in with details that only someone intimately familiar with my father would know. The type and color of sport coats he preferred, including a green jacket he’d wear during Masters Week (the golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia). “Oh, man, your dad loved golf!”
“He straightened me out on a drinking problem I had back then, too. He said he had a son who had major problems.”
That was me. I probably had between five and nine years clean and sober at the time Chris met my dad.
Then he went on to say, “And your dad would straighten me right up! One day I’d really tied one on the night before and I reached for the register and my hand was really shaking, so he reached into his pocket and pulled out a few dollars and said, ‘Go get a coffee [next door] and straighten yourself out. Don’t be a bum, capisce?’
Jesus, that was my dad to a tee! And the “capisce” (pronounced capeesh)? Not only had my dad mentored Chris, the two spent serious time together.
Chris, my wife and I spent another half-hour talking about my dad and the profound impact he had on our lives. My wife was patient and wonderful and I could feel my dad there, as if he had his hand on my shoulder. I felt a comfort I hadn’t felt in years.
Chris left us with Ron, our salesman, so we could work out the details of pick up and drop off of the old mattress and we worked our way over to the payment counter.
A short time later, Chris appeared behind the counter, a smile on his face and said, “The details are all worked out with corporate. You’re family to me, so I spoke with them and it’s all done. I’ve managed 13 stores in my career and I wouldn’t have been there without your dad.”
That was it. The tears were welling up. I couldn’t help it. I thanked Chris for talking with us and for bringing my dad back for a bit. With the paperwork done, we said our good-byes and went our separate ways.
If everything hadn’t turned out exactly as it had yesterday, I don’t know how God could have made that happen, but it would have been a lot harder…
My dad reached out and gave me a hug yesterday. And thank God. I needed it.