Today another little piece of my history smoldered and stuttered out. The hardware store I worked at age seventeen closed abruptly. Employees were given notice two days ago. I only found out this evening, a few hours after they shuttered for good.
The hardware store was my second-ever job. But more relevantly I worked there alongside my father, who served there much of my life.
Working with him was such an incredible joy.
My dad loved his job and he was good at his job. His customers esteemed him too. Especially the women, because he was helpful, professional, kind, tall, and courteous. Later I’d found out so many men don’t live up.
So sure I learned about plumbing and electrical stuff and how to make keys and what kinds of creepy chemicals and solvents did what, and how a pressure cooker worked and some basics of automotive care. Yeah. But more than that, I learned something truly valuable. I learned how important it was not to squander my working hours, if at all possible. I learned to place my self-respect over a paycheck if at all possible and I mean if at all possible, and over status and over what other people’s expectations were – or what I guessed they might be.
Being raised female, I’d been told a hundred ways by a thousand people that I needed to make everyone happy before I could even think about my needs. So that was set against me. But I learned something different, in working with my father. I don’t remember a single speech or lecture. I remember his example. It somehow shone through a lot of life’s dross.
That’s how I learned how to love a job – and to respect myself at a job. That’s how I learned to love a good man, and I suppose in part how I ended up finding a good man.
So today it hurt a little to know I couldn’t walk through the aisles one last time, to bring my sons along and just tell them a little about it, before taking them out to coffee. See I know those aisles would smell the same as twenty-five years ago, in the low golden light the place always seemed to hold. Fertilizer and rubber and the little drawers of precious lamp switches and chains, and a bleachy squeak and most the things you need for your home and if you couldn’t find those things, Dave could tell you where else to look.
It hurt a little to know that a bit more of my father is gone, that I too have diminished. Yet again! Another one of life’s grubby little robberies.
But, shit. I don’t connect with self-pity when it goes up in smoke, if it’s stolen, dies out or fades away. That’s life! Like – it’s all going to burn, right? There is no posterity, some day it will all be annihilated, and it has often seemed a great and silly game that so many want to pretend otherwise. Who doesn’t know this? Damn. I find comfort in that absurdity, that groundlessness.
Another thing I learned at my father’s hand: my Buddhist practice.
So I just grieve. It’s simpler. I’ll miss the store – terribly, of course. Like I miss my family home, like I miss my grandparents’ home, like I miss all those things lost to me. Like I miss my father.
But see: I had them. I held these things, I moved through these rooms and that sun fell on my face. I will always be grateful for this golden dust in my veins, shaking it in my tingling fingertips. I can still feel that life. I won’t lose that gratitude. That, I treasure and hold as mine.
And I honor loss. That’s why I write about it here.
But I’m not sure I’d enjoy things as much as I do, if I felt entitled to them staying exactly the way I want them, for exactly as long as I demand.