Did you ever wish you could thank some people from your past who helped you when you needed it?
For me, two of those people were Esther and Joe. They owned a little “mom and pop” grocery store around the corner from where I lived.
After my original parents divorced, I was living with my mother. Well, the word “with” is slightly inaccurate. She had won me in the divorce, so I was theoretically in her care. But she felt that she had more important things to do than look after a kid. She was gone most of the time, which left me on my own. If I hadn’t beaten Roe v. Wade to the finish line, I probably wouldn’t have been there at all.
In her defense, at least abstractly, she might indeed have had some important things to do. As an off-the-charts genius (no joke), she did a lot of good for a lot of people — just not for anyone in her family. But kids don’t really understand those kinds of abstractions. It took me a while to get there. As Oscar Wilde said:
“Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older, they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.”
People are what they are. Their ability to change is limited. That applies to parents, too. We can either like it or not like it: it will still be true.
But a kid has to eat. I got a lot of my food from Esther and Joe’s little grocery store. They let me buy the food “on account,” so I didn’t have to pay for it. The assumption was that my mother would pay the monthly bill. I don’t know if she did. But I knew Esther and Joe. Looking back, it wouldn’t surprise me if they never got paid for any of it.
Anyway, here’s where it gets weird. I’m going to tell you about a dream I had last night. Feel free to tune out if that kind of stuff bores you.
In the dream, I was living in a hotel. I wanted something to eat, but the restaurant was closed. So from the lobby, I went down a back staircase to the basement, where I found a short staircase leading back up, with a door at the top. I went up the staircase, opened the door, and there was Esther and Joe’s old store. They were standing behind the counter.
They hadn’t changed, and neither had their store. But I was my current, adult self. I thanked them for taking care of me when I was a kid, and I apologized for not appreciating it properly at the time. They said not to worry about it. And then they had questions.
Esther wanted to know if I’d married “a nice Jewish girl.” I said that I had, and that she was a fine person but that it had ended. Joe wanted to know if I’d bought a Toyota, and seemed thrilled when I said that I had.
In the dream, I didn’t remember that two nights earlier in real life, I’d had another dream — strangely realistic, quite torrid, and involving the aforesaid “nice Jewish girl.” Maybe she was dreaming about me, too.
At any rate, it was good to see Esther and Joe again, and finally to thank them for their kindness. Even if it was only in a dream.
A great reminder of all of the people I wish I could go back and thank for the good things they did for me.
We’ve all got them. It’s also encouraging to remember that we’re not all alone in this world. No matter how bad things look, there have been and will be people who help us. We should try to pay it forward.