If you work at a place long enough, it can start to feel like a dysfunctional family. People that you normally would never associate with suddenly become the people you’re forced to interact with. Sometimes it goes successfully, sometimes not.
Over the last few days, my thoughts keep turning to Louie. He was a sweet old man that I worked with when I first started driving bus. Louie was a kind hearted spirit who always had a smile on his face and a corny joke to tell you. To say he was sweet would be a gross understatement. He had the patience of a saint. I never knew him to ever have a harsh word to say and the kids on his bus adored him. Everyone loved him. That is everyone but me…
Louie is one of my regrets in life. I know that they say you shouldn’t have regrets but if you treat someone in a way that you aren’t proud of, I think you should regret that. I wish I could say that I admired Louie for all the positive things he brought into this world but I’d be lying.
I was on the brink of being 21 when I started driving bus. I hadn’t even figured myself out, let alone what to appreciate in this world. When Louie would stop me to tell me one of his jokes that would make you literally say ‘ugh’, I couldn’t stop myself from being impatient. Always in a hurry, never able to enjoy the joy that he brought into the lives that let him.
Louie was a veteran from the Korean war. I’m sure if he’d allowed himself, he could have focused on the horrors that he’d seen. To be scarred from what he’d experienced. He was also a dad that had lost his son way too soon in life. If that isn’t a great reason to become hard or imbittered, I don’t know what is. But Louie wasn’t that type of person. He was the brightest ray of sunlight on the darkest day. And I never saw it.
I was pregnant with Gerrit and had worked there for quite some time when Louie became sick. One day he was there, one day he wasn’t. I heard through the grapevine that they had found cancer. I felt a twinge . Maybe I should stop by and wish him well. I remembered the book he had given me when I became pregnant with Emma called Motherhood. It was a sweet, simple book with pictures of mom & baby animals with lovely sayings in it. It had really touched me that he’d thought of me but I doubted I’d ever acknowledged that to him. Thinking of him, I’d tell myself to stop and get him a card. Something to brighten his day. Then, I thought better… I’d get him a book. I went to the store and found an amusing book to raise his spirits. But the doubts crept in. Who was I to tell him to stay positive? He was fighting an aggressive cancer. I barely knew him. I decided to keep the book until he returned to work and then give it to him there.
Louie never made it back to work. It wasn’t long until the cancer took him. I was shocked. How could someone so full of life die? I decided that regardless of how uncomfortable funerals made me, I was going to go to his. It was tremendously sad to me. All of the guilt that I felt. How I’d never appreciated how special he was came out that day. My friend, Pearlean commented when she saw me sobbing in the pew that she had no idea I felt so strongly about him. I told her I hadn’t known either. And the saddest thing… I doubt Louie ever did either.
The thing about regrets is you can either decide to let them eat you alive until you’re raw and useless or you can decide to use them as tools. Learn a lesson and become a better you. I’m 100% positive that Louie would have wanted me to become the better me. To pass it onto someone else. I can never sit down with him and laugh at his horrible jokes or ask him to share some of the wisdom that he’s acquired in his life. But maybe I can redeem myself by doing the next best thing.
So I read that book that I never gave him the chance to read and I decided to appreciate the things about others that makes them unique and beautiful. Sometimes, it may be maddening to me because it’s not like how I am but that’s ok. Everyone deserves to be acknowledged. And I hope they can see that I do. I only wish Louie was here for me to tell him all that’d I learned.