I was told early on that my demeanor, attitude, and personality would change. That upset me more than anything. I liked who I was and certainly felt as though people liked who I was. I loved the opportunity of going to work and seeing people from around town, as well as those who were not local. I loved to hear what was going on in their lives and how their kids were doing. Some of the “kids” were actually my age, but I guess I thought of myself as just that, a kid. I lived for interaction with other people and loved the time that I was able to spend with them. I tried desperately to hold on to friendships that grew to almost feel like family. I miss that, and them.
The time that was spent cultivating these relationships varied. Some people were extremely easy to want to get to to know. Some took a little longer but I never gave up. Partly because I knew they were what was giving me my job, but mostly because I genuinely like people. Now don’t get me wrong, there were some that were a little more stand-offish. There were those I couldn’t bear to stand directly in front of because they had bad breath, or appeared not to know what soap or deodorant was. They were all very nice people, they just stunk! Those of you who work with the general public know what I mean. I had a few that was so bad that I almost lost my cookies upon our initial interaction. I wondered at the time what some of them thought as I slowly backed away and never went back within an arms length again? Perhaps it was because of the way that my parents raised me, that I realized that they were people too. They have a story just like you and I do. I was brought up not to judge others, but to this day I still struggle with that. I know that there are people out there that are in a better place than me, but I also know there are probably more that are in a worse place than me. I think the compassionate side of me is as strong today as it always has been and I pray that I never lose that. But I probably will.
I have noticed that I am on edge more than I have ever been and that scares me. What scares me even more is that right now I am aware of it and the time will come when I’m not. Little things bother me that I used to be able to shrug off. I’m extremely afraid to say something that is going to upset my wife. I need her. If I start to become negative toward her than I chance alienating my very best friend. And, I need her. My facebook page might say that I have a couple hundred friends, but I only have one that puts up with me, laughs with me, cries with me, prays with me, and supports me day in and day out. I need her. I don’t ever want to knowingly compromise what we have. She is as solid as I am not. I used to be, but now am apprehensive, timid, and uncertain. And most of the time I am aware of it. I think about this a lot. I have always tried to be optimistic and see the good in the final outcome. I have always been able to get my kids out of a funk they might be in and always get them to laugh. And I could always get my wife calmed down when we ran into turmoil. I would always say “we cannot do this on our own and you need to give it to God”. She in turn would tell me that she already did, in which I would respond with “you couldn’t have, because if you did, you wouldn’t still be worrying”. I don’t want to lose the ability to do these things though I know I will.
Perhaps I am more upset than even I think I am. We are all going to face the inevitable eventually. Some will get there sooner than others. Some will be totally unexpected, and some will be a relief to those that are left behind, knowing that their loved one is no longer in pain and discomfort. I, like everyone else have a plan for the future. It is a plan that involves my wife, a plan that involves travel. It is a plan that contains laughter, family, happiness, and love.
There are people in town that I am very fond of and am honored to call my friends. The girls at the Hilltop Store are among some of my favorite. Erna, Tina, Rhonda, Ross and Poncho are some of the first people I see as I go in for a morning coffee. Erna has one of the biggest hearts of anyone that I know. I am certain that there is nothing she wouldn’t do for me if it was humanly possible. She understands me and is sincere when asking how I am doing. She probably is not aware of it, but I think the world of her. We often will share pictures of our grandchildren and it is always so evident that we are both the proudest grandparents on earth. I don’t see as much of her anymore, as coffee is one of those luxuries that I have to go without because it is an expense that I can no longer afford.
And then there is Tina, who I also deeply admire for her work ethic and also for her sincere heart. She still helps take care of her parents while also raising two boys on her own. Her family is everything to her and that quality shines through in an amazing rainbow of colors. She too, is an awesome person.
Ross and Rhonda are the store’s owners. There devotion to keeping the store going is amazing. The endless hours that they work every single week is just that, endless. Very seldom do I go into the store and not see at least one of them working. The dedication alone is something that young people today should take notice of, for it is a very rare scene today. They are to be commended for their loyalty to their store, but more importantly, to their employee’s. They are a couple that should be highlighted just for who they are to our community.
And then there is Poncho. Now here is an amazing individual. She has one of the biggest hearts of all the people I know. I love catching up on the towns happenings every time I go to fuel up my truck. She is a sincere friend and I appreciate her more than she will ever know. Her heart is as big as the ocean, and twice as deep. She is genuine, and I appreciate that about her. She is also one of the funniest people that I have ever met, and I am a better person because of her. One day, I hope that I can do for her what she has done for me.
Ponch’s sidekick, Berta is always there with a smile and a story. I look so forward to her telling me how her husband and son are doing. She is chatty and happy and a ray of sunshine to the ridge. What would we do without her?
And I would be remiss to not mention three other amazing people who have become special to me. Kathy, Molly and Vicki are both so kind and sincere. They have hearts that show in their actions alone. Kathy can always make me smile even when I don’t want to. She has the ability to know when things are not going well for me, and always has some words of wisdom. She reminds me so much of my mother. And Vicki is a flirt who is always telling me that I smell good. She also, has a big heart and is genuine when asking as to how I am doing.
All of these above mentioned people are special to me and will always have a permanent place in my heart. I truly am a better person by simply being associated with them. These are just a few of the amazing people in my life and I am blessed to call them my friends. I know that I could call upon any one of them for help, and they would move mountains to help me if they could. There is an endless list of people in town that fit this description. It is my hope that I can some day I can pay it forward to these people and their families, but the fact is that I will run out of time. But, my family will be able to and I know they will do everything in their power to make it right and pay it forward for me. We all have a tremendous sense of right and wrong. I am proud of them, and I pray that all who come in contact with my wife and kids in the future will see that dedication and respect shining through. I sincerely hope that anyone who meets them will be blessed, just like I have been.