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among us

I don’t remember the last time I talked about the encounter I’m about to pour onto the table. I wish I could explain the “why” with some sort of insight or rationale, but that’s just not going to happen. In fact, none of my “why” questions have answers in this particular scenario.

The few times I have talked about it, I’ve gotten mixed reviews, which is totally fine. The questions are good with me, but I can’t undo what happened. It is what it is.

Patti and I had been married a little over a year. I was in my last year at Arkansas. Despite some of the positive changes that happened due to my spiritual awakening in 1978, I could be pretty damn narcissistic, full of “me monster” energy, and not very attentive to the needs of anyone other than myself. That’s kind of expected if you’re 12 years old. Unfortunately, those are horrible traits of a 20-year-old married man. I’m pretty sure that every conflict we had in those early years were pretty much due to my love affair with my own needs. It’s a miracle she’s still in the game with yours truly. I’m totally serious when I say that.

laundromatWe had bickered about something one morning. I’m sure I had stepped in “it” somehow. Regardless of what ever it was, she went to work hurt and I went to class pissed. Later that morning, I decided to take the clothes to the Laundromat by myself. I still had a lot of attitude from our earlier rumble, so I rounded up a handful of quarters to do the job, threw the clothes in the car, and went to complete the task by myself. It was something we usually did together, so my thoughts were more along the line of, I’ll teach her. I know… childish.

She and I had previously spent a lot of time together in that Laundromat discussing our days, making plans for the future, and generally sharing our lives together. Washing and folding clothes wasn’t work when we were together. I was 20. She was 19. Anything together was frikk’n awesome. But there I was, in my foul mood, mumbling my curses, and doing my chores under the cloud of self-righteous pity. I was pathetic.

About the time I was taking the clothes out of the dryer, an old man limped into the area where I was about to fold clothes. He introduced himself and started chatting me up about much of nothing. Suddenly, I realized he was talking to me about my marriage. He talked about love and respect for your mate. He reminded me that my “pretty girl” was a gift. He even asked me if I had ever considered such a thing. I loved the fact that this old man was “dialed in,” yet loving at the same time. He said words that hit my heart. I heard him very clearly and I was very appreciative.

There wasn’t anything spooky about this old man, but I do remember the khakis, white socks, and black work shoes he wore. He smelled like Old Spice and snuff. Those things definitely tracked with my memories of my deceased grandfather. We probably visited for a good 20 minutes.

I must add here that it was eerily strange that the place was empty. There was always about half a dozen people in that Laundromat. On that day, the place was vacant except for the old man and myself.

Once I had my stuff stacked in our laundry basket, I told him I needed to get to my next class. So I picked up the basket and walked out the front door. As I opened the door to the car, I could see through the storefront windows that he was still standing by the table where I had folded our clothes. I put the basket in the backseat, I closed the door, headed back inside to shake hands with the old man… and he was GONE! I hadn’t walked more than 15 feet to my car! I had seen him just five seconds earlier!

I checked the restroom… empty. I opened the door to the back of the building… nada. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. The old man simply wasn’t to be found anywhere! I was slightly freaked out, but still deeply taken with the words he had spoken.

I wanted to hug his neck. The hairs were standing up all over my body. But it wasn’t to be. The brotha was gone!

By the time I got home, I was convinced I had been sent a visitor to adjust my mind about a lot of things. Trust me, I needed the adjustment. Patti immediately drew the same conclusion when I told her about the encounter. I still see it in my mind’s eye like it was yesterday. Crystal clear and weird.

But, maybe not so much:

Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it!  (Hebrews 13:1-2, MSG)

Angel? Probably. Maybe. I’m not totally certain. But, I can’t explain what happened. All I know is that I needed a serious check on how I was treating my girl. Maybe it took all that to get my attention. Regardless, I got the message.

So… what about you? How are you treating the people around you? Do you need an “old man” visit or do you already know you need to adjust your dials? I do suspect they are among us, rooting, praying, and believing for our growth and positive character. I think we may need these encounters more than we realize.

Thanks, Nate and Di. You forced a great memory to resurface.

Live every day inside this magnificent truth: GOD LOVES US ALL!

Mike

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. September 20, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Mike, You and Patti watched me cry and cried with me when I told you how Joe and I connected finding a deeper love living with Alzheimer’s. A year or more later you more than anyone else heard my cries, listened to my fears (fears I won’t repeat here because I hurt just thinking about those thoughts) and that day while listening to my conversation my uncontrolled sobbing you listened to me, and you were with me “human” my angel.
    Thank you.

    • September 21, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Deane, such beautiful words! We love you! xo

  2. brianrayalonzo
    September 21, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Sobbering. 10 years in this reminder is needed. Thanks for sharing Mike. Love you.

    • September 21, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      You are a good man Brian.

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