Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Sweetest Words

I’m one of those people that can go to a grocery store with a list clenched in my hand and still not come home with everything that I needed to buy. Hey, there’s a lot of things to distract you in a grocery store!

Fortunately, for me, there is a convenience store right by my house that literally has everything in the world anyone might need. Seriously. I have never seen such a well-stocked convenience store anywhere.

That place used to be a dump. It was dirty and there was little stock on the shelves and what was there had usually expired by like a year or so. I always wondered how the heck it even stayed open, but that question was answered when the owners got busted for running an illegal gambling operation out of the back room. When I forgot something back then, I had to go back to the big grocery store.

About three years ago, a young guy named Ron bought the place. His family had been in the convenience store business forever and he wanted one of his own. He cleaned it up and remodeled it. Once Ron had the place, you could walk in there and literally get anything you could ever need. There might have only been one brand to choose from, but the item was there.

He prided himself on this and was constantly researching the most purchased items. His customers were important to him and from the first time you went in, he remembered your name.

As I said, I forget things at the grocery store all the time, so I saw a lot of Ron who was always in the store and behind that register from open to close.

Ron was one of those people who you just meet and feel like you know. He was so open with details about his life, his upcoming wedding and his family. He was always reading the newspaper and while he was checking out your purchases, he’d ask what you thought about the day’s hot topics. The conversations we had over many two minute periods of time were rather amazing. Ron also spoke a lot of his culture and would teach me some Hindu words now and then. He said I was a quick study.

He also really liked food and he knew my husband liked to cook and was always asking for new recipes that he could try out. Sometimes, if we had a bunch leftover, I’d pack up a plate and bring it to Ron. His appetite was insatiable. His favorite was my husband’s beer can chicken. A lot of people brought food in for Ron. Something about him just made you want to do that. I don’t know what it was.

One night last year, I was running like crazy with the kids and decided it was so late, we were just going to have French Toast for dinner. As I opened my fridge, though, I realized I had no eggs. I went to the convenience store and saw Ron sitting behind the counter.

“What are you making?” he asked.

I told him French Toast and he went on with this entire description about how much he loved French Toast especially with all of the trimmings like cinnamon, vanilla and whipped cream.

I thought he was hinting so I told him I would make him some and bring it right back. I was kind of surprised when he said no thank you. He looked under the weather and said that his stomach was incredibly upset. He was feeling so sick that he was thinking of closing the store early.

Very unRonlike. But he did ask if I could maybe bring him some French Toast when he felt better.

I said “Of course, see you tomorrow!" and wihtout even looking back, I walked out the door.

The next afternoon I stopped at the store after work to grab a cup of coffee and saw a strange man behind the counter.

“Where’s Ron?” I asked.

The man’s eyes filled with tears and he let me know that Ron had passed away the night before in his sleep. They didn’t know what had happened at that time.

That was a year ago, today.

Ron had just had his 30th birthday the week before and he was to be getting married in just three short weeks.

The news hit me hard and I was overwhelmingly heartbroken. I didn’t even know Ron’s last name, but he was someone I considered a friend.

It’s funny, but the minute or two you’d spend with Ron was kind of like French Toast trimmings. French Toast is kind of plain without that stuff and Ron was the kind of person who added that little bit of extra sprinkle to your everyday life.

It turned out that Ron had an undiagnosed heart problem and rapidly went into complete heart failure.

I still miss him and from now on every October 23rd will be “French Toast” night.

I never told Ron about how much I enjoyed our conversations or how many times he brightened my day with a little joke, story or opinion. If I knew the two minutes talking about French Toast would have been my last two minutes with Ron, I definitely would have told him something else.

My point is that we never know. We never know what our future’s hold despite all of our best planning and preparation.

If Ron’s passing taught me one thing, it was that I was going to make sure that the important people in my life know I feel about them every day. I don’t want my last conversation with someone I care about to end with two meaningless words like “French Toast” ever again.

I make sure my conversations are now sprinkled with sweet words...and not cinnamon, vanilla and whipped cream, either..

My sweet words are “I Love You!”

Make sure everyone you care about knows that you do.


katherine. said...

what a nice tribute. And excellent advice. I really appreciated this story this morning!

Pen and the Sword said...

What a sad and yet inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this.

Damien said...

Yes, people leave abruptly sometimes don't they? I love the "seize the day" message of this story. And the

carrie said...

That's so sad...But a great message!!! Thanks for sharing it!

Kendra said...

oh my... that really is sad! i'm so sorry to hear that!

Qtpies7 said...

That is sweet, and just one more thing to make me tear up today. I am such a sap!

JAM said...

A wonderful tribute to your friend. Life's crazy and the nice folks in it stand out starkly against the others.

My Big Brother LOVED life and yet died at 41. Sometimes when I feel like just sitting on my rear when there are things that I need and want to do, I think of him and get up and get going. He had a zest for life and if I waste mine it always seems to me that it's an affront to his memory.

Karina said...

Wow, this brought tears to my eyes. So unexpected, and so sad. I'm glad you took something so special away from his short time on earth, it sounds like he had that impact on a lot of people.

Jenny McB said...

I bet you just made Ron's day each time you engaged in conversation with him. Think of how rude people are when they are in a hurry. I bet he appreciated your comments and food.

So true about never knowing what the next day will bring.

This Eclectic Life said...

I'm so glad you finally wrote this post! You told me about him a long time ago, and I knew it would be superb. It is.

Just so you know...

Crystal said...

How incredibly sad. You might think that you left him with an unimportant conversation, but I'm willing to bet he left life knowing you cared about him. I mean, who offers to bring french toast for someone if they don't care about them?


FRIGGA said...

That's a very sweet post. We come into contact with so many people in our daily lives, we just never know which one will have an impact like that. Here's to French Toast!!

Jessica Morris said...

wow - I have missed reading what you write, and this is exactly why... like everyone else has said, it is a very touching and beautiful post!

I think I just caught up on all the posts I had missed of yours... your daughters looked beautiful, and I loved the candy necklace!! haha.

I have been having a hard time staying on top of blogging... partly because Judah is more mobile and so I can't just put him down and do my own thing and partly because I am 'out and 'about' a lot more these days.

Do you have facebook?

julia said...

I started to get this feeling when you were referring to Ron as 'was'. And strangely, my grandfather died on October 23rd, so that's a reflective day for us, too. I agree with you that every moment is for cherishing life. Ron certainly lived his with gusto, charm and genuine interest in people. I have a feeling from Ron's current perspective, he knows exactly how you feel about him. Don't trouble yourself over that. The fact that he will now forever be associated with French Toast for you, will keep him one heartbeat away always.

Misty Dawn said...

You are so, so right! Sometimes when I tell my husband I love him, he will say "Honey, you just said that fifteen minutes ago." My reply is always "Yes, I guess you will never have to doubt that I love you and I'll never have regrets of not telling you enough!"