This is not one of my “usual” posts. Not that anything about my posts are “usual”. All of these events occurred last week, just a few days before Christmas. See if you can see the common theme.
As some of you know, I am a salesman. Retail salesman at that. Everything you heard about it is true. One of the best parts is meeting a lot of diverse people. The other night I met Greg, not his real name. He is an older gentlemen, early to mid-seventies I would guess. He came in to buy a gas range. As my usual modus operandi, I start talking and asking questions about him. Well, Greg, was a NYPD detective. He started out as a patrolman, which means he beat the streets, and worked his way up to detective. He said he became quite a well-known name as a detective. He told me of standing up to street thugs and gunfights and out of control criminals. I stood there, fascinated and deeply enthralled by his stories. Greg must’ve gone on for over twenty minutes with me as his obedient audience in the middle of the store.
Finally, I realize where I am (and my closeted existence compared to his) and I ask him for the sale. He turns to me and says that he is now fighting his toughest fight. I can’t even begin to imagine what that might be – social security lockdown, knee and hip replacement or maybe even selling his house and downsizing. He says that his wife for 50 years now has Alzheimer’s and she does not even recognize him.
Shortly after I moved to NYC, I worked for a very large and well-known company. You would all know the name of it. I worked in accounting for their R&D division. In fact, I was the accounting department for this particular R&D division. My boss, Jim (not his real name), was located about a hundred miles away in another state in another division of this company. But, he was a Finance manager and was assigned to manage the department I accounted for.
Well, things went very well. He would call me every month and tell me how much he liked my work and he had only heard good things about me. I went to his location once on a day trip. I don’t remember why except I think it was just to become acclimated to the big picture of the company and I could see how my accounting affected the rest of the business. Jim was always extremely nice.
Occasionally, he would tell me about his home life. His family just moved from one area to another to be closer to work and his beautiful wife was expecting their third child. Their other two kids were under the age of five.
I was working as a temp at this company and one of the requirements was that a temp position would only last a year. Jim was trying to get me hired permanently with this company. (The company ultimately made me three job offers). As my time was coming to a close, Jim came down to the city and took me out to a lunch at a very swank restaurant. I thought they must’ve really liked me. We said our good byes and keep in touches and off we went.
I’ve thought about Jim through the years, like I suppose I think about a lot of the people I’ve met and worked with. I decided to look him up on the internet last week.
Within a couple of years after I left that company, Jim’s wife got cancer. Apparently she fought a very brave battle even up until the very end. Three years to the day that she died, Jim took his own life at her grave. His obituary said he died of a broken heart.
Archie and Morty (not their real names) are great kids and the lights of my life. On this particular day, I was getting ready to go to work as the little buggers are getting ready for school. SMM (Sergeant Major Mommy) comes to me not five minutes before I was going to leave and tells me that Archie has to go to school early and get some special help.
Archie was diagnosed with a learning disability last year. SMM and I worked with the school to set up a program for this year where he would get extra attention. Nevertheless, I completely forgot about the day and time for his extra help. I like to keep an orderly schedule, so when SMM broke the news to me, I was thrown off balance. I quickly recovered and accepted the task at hand, getting Archie to school.
Well, Archie, is seven and he has his own dis-orderly schedule. I was trying to get him ready and as politely as possible urging him to hurry up. But, Archie didn’t quite feel the sense of urgency I did. So, I perhaps got a little short with him and raised my voice. We somehow got ready and out the door and to school.
But, I felt bad all day because I could’ve probably been a little more considerate of Archie. Archie doesn’t always understand the why’s of doing things according to schedule. Anyway, I obsessed over how bad of a day Archie was going to have because his daddy, me, moi, big dog, numero uno, superhero daddy, got him dressed rather abruptly and carted him off to school. I had a bad day, so I decided I would own up to my shortcomings as a daddy and confront him when I got home and tell him how sorry I was I dressed him and urged him so strongly to move quickly. How could I have been so thoughtless about the feelings of a seven year old? He was gonna hate me. If not now, ok probably now, but definitely when he wrote his expose on being the son of DaddyisBest-for-nothing.
I get home after work and the little buggers are sitting at the table finishing dinner. I ask Archie if I could have a word with him. We go into his bedroom and sit on the bed and I begin a long, drawn out tale of how I was only trying to do the right thing and take care of him and I still love him and please don’t hate me for the way I acted this morning. Archie looks at me and says sweetly, I don’t remember.
So, there you have it, three very different stories. The common theme for me is that life is bigger than me. As much as I love to solve the world’s mysteries and problems inside my own little head, and live my life there also, life is bigger than me and you. And as much as I think I have problems, other people may have even bigger ones, real or perceived, than me. Maybe that’s the real meaning of Christmas.