Story of a man and his life decission
| LIFE’S DECISSIONS
Funny isn’t it? How life throws you a curve ball just when you are expecting a fast ball low and away. Your ready, you’re dug in standing tall in the batter’s box, you’re the lead-off hitter and just a few minutes later you’re back sitting on the bench and there is one out. Well that’s the way I felt twenty four years ago. I had a great job, a nice house, a great wife, and two lovely children. The problem was we were living in a nightmare of a city. We needed a change, I needed a change. The whole world needed a change. It was a new year. Things would be different. Yet they were all the same. One thing lead to another and by the start of the fall season, we had sold the house left our jobs and were heading up north to start a new life all over again. That is what is so great about America. If you do not like the weather, you can move. IF you do not like one state well you have forty-nine still to try out. You can take your pick. We did just that, we picked North Carolina.
Thirty days to the day I was working at a job I loved making double what I earned down south. My wife had found employment helping us secure a nice home. Man I’m here to tell you that life is great. The girls loved this state, not too hot, not to cold in the winter. My wife loved the seasonal changes and our drives into the mountains. No more sunny beaches for us. We had all the salt water and sand we could stand. It was either drive north two hundred miles and sight see. Or two hundred miles west and see more sights. We never headed east even though the Atlantic was less than ninety miles away. Our neighbor Walter tells us almost every day “We love it here”. You know what? We do too.
My job was in sales. I called on everyone but the homeowner. I learned a valuable lesson early in my education, big or small, you call on them all. This is how I met Eddie a good friend of mine and you are going to learn a lot about my friend as long as you keep reading. Eddie was the proud manager of a small business about fifteen miles from the house. This business was located on the main road between two towns that I called on. The name of his company is GBH. It stands for gaskets, belts and hoses. I bet you thought it stood for the initials of the man that started the business. No? Well I did. It was raining real hard the first time I stopped in. The traffic in front of me was slowing down to a crawl. I looked over to my right just in time to see the shop. In front was an air compressor, just like the ones we sold at the company I worked for. We sold both new and used. I was curious, I had to stop. Maybe they needed parts, and I could help.
I exited my truck, and entered the shop as quick as I could. I still got too wet for my own good. The door had a bell hooked to it and as I opened it, it rang off. I looked around and saw no one. I was getting ready to voice my arrival when I heard a voice come from behind the counter out of my line of vision.
“Can I help you, young man.?” “I think you could use a towel, you look like a drowned rat.”
“Not sure if you have one handy I’ll take it. Otherwise I can use a paper towel.” I answered, “I was thinking I might be able to help you.”
“How’s that.” The old man replied back. “What are you selling?”
He tossed me a towel and did not miss a beat. You know he told me he shoots every tenth salesman that enters his store and the ninth just left ten minutes ago, before the rain started. He was going to give me a head start to turn and leave. I told him I’d rather stay and see if I could help him. I asked about the air compressor out front. Thirty minutes later, I was still in the tiny shop working on a parts order. The GBH Company could supply the gaskets needed to do the engine repair. The belts and the new hoses would be in stock. However I was going to supply the oil, air and fuel filters. I was also going to supply a new parts manual and two quarts of paint that Mr. Eddie was going to use to get this five year old piece of equipment looking like brand new.
I placed the order with the factory rep. We ordered all parts to arrive by next day UPS delivery. The factory rep advised me that he would take care of the shipping costs and I thanked him for that. When I advised Eddie, he just smiled. After we conducted our business I glanced outside, the rains had stopped and given way to sunshine and a higher humidity.
I was ready to bid my thanks and farewell when Eddie asked me to stay. He had a few questions to ask me. I stayed.
“You are not from around here, are you?” He asked
I replied sheepishly “No sir I’m not.” I really did not want anyone to know that but I forgot that there is a definite accent difference between a North Carolina dialect and South Florida. My talking gave me away.
“Where ya from?” I was asked
“Oh” I paused not sure how to answer. “South Florida” I said.
“I see, you’re from Miami eh?”
“How did you guess?” I must have looked puzzled.
“Where did you live in Miami?” Eddie asked.
”I lived in the biggest and best Mobil Home Park in Dade County.”
“Oh, so you lived in Bell Haven Mobil Home Park.”
You could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that name. Eddie asked me how long I lived there and from when to when. I asked why and that is when I found out that he too lived in Bell Haven. My family moved there in the summer of 1963. Eddie moved away from there in the spring of 1964. We lived less than a block away and later in the conversation I learned that he knew my mother and father. He was truly saddened when I told him that both parents had passed away. Before you knew it I had spent two hours in this tiny shop. I bid farewell to my new and old friend. I told him that I was going to return the next day. I was told I did not have to. However I knew I had to for business sake.
I went back to the shop the next day to follow up on the sale just to make sure all was satisfactory. When I arrived the air compressor was running like new. Parts of the body of the compressor were masked off. I knew Eddie or someone was getting ready to apply the paint. I was surprised to find out that Eddie was doing the entire job. He did it all, and no one was more surprised than me, when I saw the finished job two days later. I was not at the GBH Company but on a job site that the air compressor was busy working at. The contractor was more than pleased with the workmanship and I played dumb as if I did not know anything about the equipment. Other than I told the worker that I thought that the air compressor was one of the best on the market. I found out that the repairs were done faster than expected and the repair shop did not even charge the guy with a delivery charge for the parts even though they came from out of state via next day shipping. When I asked if the guy was happy and also asked the company name I was handed one of the company’s business cards. I accepted it with pleasure as I had not even seen a business card display at the old shop. I glanced at the card no- where on the card was Eddie’s name on it. I was puzzled.
I had to find out why. When I got to the shop it was four-thirty and I found the shop closed for the day. I was going to knock on the door because I saw a light on inside, however I just turned around and headed back to my truck. The following week I stopped in for a short visit. I was in and out in five minutes but learned more about the company and Eddie than I did the first time we met. In subsequent meetings between Eddie and myself I got to learn and appreciate more of his friendship. He let me in on a few things he remembered about my youth living in the MHP than I wished he had ever known. There were about fifteen boys living there at the time and I’m sometimes not always proud to tell anyone that I was one of the three ring leaders because of my age. I was always the practical joker of the group and did anything I could just to make the others have a good laugh, even at my expense.
Years went by fast. I changed jobs a few times. Twice I thought I was making the right move only to find out that I had fallen for someone’s word to be his bond and found out that it was just idle words. Both times I had put my family in jeopardy financially thinking that I was making the right move only to find out that I had moved myself in reverse. I had ventured into a new work force that took me away from selling and in doing so I had lost all contact with the GBH Company, as well as a bunch of others that meant so much to me just a few short years ago.
Now I have found myself unemployed and looking for work. I have contacted the three major employment agencies in our area that hire on a temp base. Not to wait for their calls I decided to make a few calls on my own. This brought me to make a call on a glass and mirror company that I had dealings with during my years in the construction equipment business.
I made a visit to their shop and low and behold as God is my witness, I was hired on as a temp worker. I was there for six months. In the beginning I never knew glass was that heavy. Or how much balance means when you are carrying around a sheet of glass or a window pane of glass. Mirrors are even trickier. They can shatter at the least amount of pressure and clean up can be a long a tedious undertaking. On the occasion that a job was to mount store glass window that were too heavy for an inexperienced person such as myself I stayed in the shop and cleaned the floors and removed the trash. I was given notice the week before that my last days would be at the end of the month. To my surprise one of the service calls we made was to a little repair and parts shop by the name of GBH Company. When I saw the work order I let on to no one that I knew this company. The work order called for a store front window replacement. I wondered if Eddie was still there. I had no doubt in my mind that if he was he would remember me. How could he forget me?
When we pulled up in front of the store it looked like it always had. When we stepped inside the front door, it looked like I had never left the store. Everything was the same. Even the smell was the same. A musty smell of damp and dust greeted you as you walk through the threshold. There was something wrong. The bell on the door was gone. From the rear of the shop came a shadow of a figure. I was about to say Eddie’s name. I stopped when the man appeared and it was not the man I expected.
“Here to fix the window guy’s?” his voice was deep and rusty.
“Yes sir we are. My name is Josh and this man here is Jackson he is my helper.”
“I have some work to do in the rear of the building, just let me know when you are through.”
We did our work and in less than an hour we were ready to leave and start heading to the next job on our list. While there I looked around for any clues that would lead me to Eddie. I found none.
The phone never rang and no one came into the shop while we were there. When we took a one minute break before applying chalk and vinyl trim I went to the counter and rested my arm. I turned around to look at the desk. It was absent of paperwork. I never saw the desk look so clean. I did however see something that I remembered. Over in the corner was the old wooden barrel. On top of it were the checkerboard and the pieces. Eddie and I had hours of pleasure trying to outdo each other while playing a game or two. You see I failed to tell you until now that I would sometimes visit Eddie at lunch time just to spend some time with an old friend. How disappointing it was to find the game of checkers here and Eddie not here behind the counter.
One month later I found myself back out hitting the pavement looking for another job. I was heading south of that old familiar road when I realized I was getting close to the GBH Company I slowed down. I wanted to stop, I needed to stop, and I hesitated then figured out why not. So I did stop. I exited my truck and walked to the door. Then I stopped and went to the window we had replaced. It looked great Josh and I did some good work together. I was proud of our work. I took three steps towards the door and grabbed the door handle. It was locked. I looked into the store through the window and saw a light on and some movement in the back. I knocked on the door. A man looked up and waved me to wait. Another man appeared one that I recognized as the one who was there when Josh and I replaced the window. This man came to the door and opened it.
“So you have come back to take the window back I assume.”
“Excuse me?” I said. I was not laughing however the other two men were. I continued talking.
“No sir, I have come here to check in on an old friend of mine.”
The unidentified man spoke. “Oh” he paused “I guess you do not know.” There was another pause. “Your dear friend and mine also passed away two years ago.” He continued, “This place has not been the same since.”
I told the two men of my relationship with Eddie and why I was making this visit today. The two men looked at each other. I found out in our conversation that they were brothers and that the older one is the one who started the business. He and Eddie went to school together. It was during this conversation that I learned why Eddie had moved to Miami Florida from North Carolina and why after his stay there he returned here to Eastern North Carolina. I never knew the reason, I never asked and Eddie never told me. His first wife was ill, they moved south for her health. When she died, he returned.
It was after that piece of knowledge that the light went on in my memory and I really remembered Eddie and his wife Edna. It was as if I was thirteen all over again.
“Hey, you alright?” I was asked.
“Yes I’m ok just a little startled.”
By the way my name is Harold and my brother’s name is Hank The younger brother then asked me if I was the salesman that helped Eddie a few times in getting some parts and at other times referred other companies to call on Eddie. He had heard Eddie tell stories to other customers and friends that stopped in from time to time. I told the two brothers yes I was.
“That settles it then.” Said Harold, “I have a new idea. How would you like to run this shop for the two of us.”
“It is going to be difficult.” Said Hank, “I know I have tried since Eddie left us and I just cannot do what he did.”
I told the two men that I doubted that anyone could. Although I would love to have an opportunity to at least give it a try. I accepted the job. I would work 40 hours a week making ten dollars an hour. If there were any sales I would get a bonus of one percent of that sale. If I choose to do any labor like Eddie did I would also receive a commission from that also. This was perfect. I was starting over. I almost cried twice on my way home to tell my wife that I had a job.
The next day my first day, was almost my last. I was told that the two brothers had again talked it over and had placed a 120 day contract on the table. The extra pay figure was taken out till after the 120 days were up. If after the 120 days the business had picked up and showed signs of increasing I would be signed to a one year contract with the bonus attached. I agreed, why not, I had nothing to lose. However I was bound and determined not to fail.
On the third day of business the two brothers Harold and Hank failed to show up but were kind enough to call and advise me that I was on my own. They would no longer be involved in the company except to make any purchases that I deemed worthy of making. I was given contact numbers and told that they may drop in at any time. I welcomed them in here anytime they wanted. On the fourth day I had my first customer. After spending almost an hour trying to find the right belts for his lawn mower I decided that I had to re-invent the parts department to my standards and methods.
Two weeks later my wife announced to me that she was going to spend some time with one of our daughters. She would be gone for two or three weeks. I allowed her to go by herself. I was still on a mission, and could not afford a three week set back. She and my daughter understood.
In those three weeks I decided it would be better for me just to stay at work. While cleaning up the shop I found an old roll-away bed. I figured I could sleep on it. I also brought along with me our aero air mattress just in case. I was glad I did. The roll away was unfurled and placed in a corner of the room. I sat on it as I let it air out. The mattress was soft in some places and as hard as a rock in others. I flipped the mattress but it made no difference to the outcome. I slept on the air mattress. I brought enough sheets for both beds just in case I needed them. We had experienced an air pressure loss while sleeping on a concrete base before and even though I had placed a tarp between the floor and the air mattress I wanted to be sure I had a backup.
For the first three nights I slept soundly without any disturbance. I attributed it to putting in over sixteen hours of work cleaning and getting things in order. The forth night was a Wednesday. I stopped work at 6:30 and vowed not to lift anything till 7 in the morning. I listened to the radio for a while. I read some chapters of the new book I was reading. Then my eyes transfixed on the barrel with the checkers game on it.
OK Eddie I again challenge you to a game of “Jump Jump” as Eddie called it. I spoke to the walls informing them that I was taking the color red this time and would move first. Just as I finished talking out loud a container that was sitting on a shelf undisturbed for longer that I knew fell to the floor. It was pushed there by a little mouse. This mouse than made a fatal move to its right and a loud snap was heard signifying that a trap had captured its prey. I knew of no mice before this moment and certainly did not know that there were traps set out among the shelves. I advised myself not to work in the dark anymore and I would not work past the hour of nine anymore.
The first month went by too quickly. I was making daily calls to every contactor and company I could think of that would use my services. I had some inquiries but not at the frequency that I desired. The second week I decided to call my prior work companies and inform them that if they were making a service call in the area I would really appreciate them to think of me first.
Harold had stopped by twice and Hank only once. Hank in the most confidential voice told me that the shop gave him the heebie-jeebies’. For this reason alone he was glad that I walked into the shop and decided that I could do the job. Harold was pleased with my progress. He also told me that the building had been in the family for over one hundred and fifty years the family business started out as tinkers, and horsemen to make a living. Shoeing and boarding horses right out of this same building. I was advised it got larger and went from wood to concrete in the 1950’s in the mid 50’s is when Eddie came to work. He’d put in his time with the military and was looking for work just like I was. Harold told me that his dad had hired Eddie almost the same way that he had hired me. I was pleased. I spoke very little and only answered the questions asked of me.
The fifth week things started to pick up. The phone rang more than twice and the door opened to customers five times. At the close of business on that Monday I had placed into the antique cash register over one hundred dollars. I was overjoyed, I called Harold, he had to place an order for some fractional horsepower belts that I needed. The next day the parts arrived and I received more than I had recommended that we purchase. At the end of the second month on the last Friday of the month both Harold and Hank appeared at the shop precisely at 9 AM. Harold held a briefcase in his right hand. Hank did not smile. I was fearful that this was going to be my last day. Instead to my pleasure and honor I received a new contract, a pay increase and my first of many bonuses I would receive.
I have the distinct honor to inform you that I have now worked for GBH Company for six years. What a real pleasure it is. I now deal with new and old customers on a daily contact. Sales are forever increasing. I’m busy at times and able to relax at others. When called for I will spend the night doing whatever it takes to get the job done. I have done away with the roll-away bed and have built a set of bunk beds that stand in the same corner of the shop that they first did. I found out from Hank that Eddie had spent more than a few nights here by himself also. So I constructed the double stack beds in his honor. He can have the top bunk if ever he should return. I also uncovered an old photograph of him here at work. It was in an old file cabinet that I brought back to life when I needed a place to store my mounds of paperwork that I have created. Eddie had a unique way of learning his parts. He wrote things down on little sniplets of paper. When I came across one of these I documented it down I keep a paperwork trail as well as one on the computer. You cannot be too safe when it comes to paperwork. I work real hard to make sure I dot every “I” and cross every “T”. My wife thinks I’m anal in this part of business. I just want things done right. Harold and Hank do not care one way or the other. The business that the brothers were going to give up for dead is alive and doing well thanks in part to them for hiring me and my hard work and determination not to fail.
Please do not get me wrong. I still put in 45 to sometimes 55 hours a week. I work on the occasional Saturday when needed. I have made myself accessible 24/7. I told you that I work hard and smart. I have always had the desire to be a success at everything that I set out to accomplish. Then
One day I guess it was bound to happen. The store failed to open. A note was placed on the front door explaining to everyone that read it what had happen. The local newspapers of both neighboring towns displayed the obituary. In an abbreviated form I will tell you that the manager of GBH Company passed away in his sleep. Family and friends gathered to celebrate his passing. It was not to be a sad meeting of friends but a time to rejoice in the memory of a true loyal friend, husband and father and grandfather.
The number of cars that were parked in the church parking lot and the nearby field showed every passerby that the man who was being honored inside the church was indeed a friend to everyone.
I found out one thing in my friends passing. You are given a choice weather you wish to remain in Heaven or you can return to your favorite spot on earth. This would explain why so many people feel an extra presence when they are somewhere special. I felt it at several places. Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, an old house and all throughout Washington City. I would love to return to Bell Haven MHP. The place where I not only became a young lad but also became the man I am today. I know that is impossible for the MHP is no longer. It is just an open field 400 acres of land just turning into dust. Long gone are the trailers, the trees, the flowers, and pool. Some of the roads can be seen if you look hard enough for this reason alone this place is unobtainable. Now where can I go? I must go somewhere.
My mind is made up I know where it is. This is my place of Zen. I shall return to a place I grew very fond of. It allowed me the opportunity to become reborn. To prove to one and all that at the age of sixty-seven, you can still accomplish a lot. That sheer determination and a good heart can carry you to new heights and freedoms. My how the place has changed. I wonder how long has it been. I recognize a few things. Some of the shelves are gone. The desk is gone. The radio is gone but I do not need it, I hear angels singing all the time now, and it is such sweet music. Hey look in the corner the beds are still there well I will be I just do not believe it. Hey it is as soft as I remember. Here is my pillow, my it smells the same.
“Hey don’t mean to startle you. It’s about time you came back”
Oh my stars it’s Eddie. “How long have you been here?”
“Long enough to know that you made me very proud.”
“Were you watching over me?”
“Like an eagle watches over it’s young,”
“I do not believe it, you know Hank told me he thought you were here.”
“I know he saw my writing in the dust on the desk one day. He won’t be the same since.”
“That’s good for a laugh. Hey wanna play some checkers?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
The walls look empty now. The calendar has been removed. Harold and Hank have applied for this building to become guarded under the historic register. I think there is a very good chance that will come about. The power to the building is still connected. Certain lights are on timers now placed there by our dear friend Hank. He even went as far as going to the human society and got us a rescue dog for company. He told Harold it was for security reasons however we know. We also know that he knows that Eddie has a friend with him now. That the two of us are doing just fine. The mirror in the rest room is where I did my handy work. I do not think Hank will ever use that restroom again though. Maybe I should have waited till he was finished using the commode. Well anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking by my every word. Eddie and I are wondering what will become of the old place. We just might hang around long enough to see the changes. We have expressed a desire to remain if it looks promising. Hey when the renovations are complete why don’t you stop by for a visit? I’ll tell you what, if you see a wooden barrel in the corner and on it is a checkerboard and the pieces please do not disturb it. If by chance they allow visiting beyond the counter and you see a set of bunk beds in the corner. Then you can be rest assured that I’m still on the bottom and that Eddie is on the top? He is after all just a little closer to God Than I am. Oh by the way if you enter the rest rooms be cautious of what you might read in the mirror if the hot water is left on running and it gets steamed up. Just thought you’d like to know ahead of time.
There is also the chance abet it is a long shot that after all the alterations are done to the building we do not approve of the new surroundings as it does not hold any resemblance to our beloved work place we have the option to ask for a relocation. I wonder how many of the living among you knew that to be an advantage of holding a stronger faith in God. Somewhere in the Bible I’m sure I have read that if you do good on earth, so shall it be in Heaven. Who really knows where heaven is. I can tell you by firsthand experience it is not just among the clouds. Angels come in all sizes and ages. Some walk within the human compounds and help and assist in the way only they can. Some Angels get to move around and visit all the places they visited while in the living state. There is no telling where Eddie and I might end up. He told me once that he took a three week vacation from the shop just to spend time with his family and his grandson and granddaughter. He came back refreshed knowing that the seeds of his family name were growing strong. He was also blessed to know that he was remembered. He noticed that his grandson had a photograph of him near his nightstand, and that he talked to that image under glass on an almost daily routine. No one knew he was there and Eddie liked it that way. As for me, if I leave this happy place I just might take a hike up to Colorado or Montana. I might even try my hand at getting really cold by visiting Alaska. Don’t get me wrong I also have plans in visiting with my family also. All of this will get done in due time. When you’re an Angel all you have left is time. It is an effortless task to travel, you just think of the place and you are there. Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” all you have to do is click your heels three times, name your destination, and off you go.
For now base camp will always be the old shop for me. I like it there. It is peaceful and tranquil. I have the fondest memories of my adult working life within those walls. It was hard work; long tedious hours spent trying to prove to one and all including myself that I could accomplish the task and become a success. I once knew a man who always had this saying. I adopted this group of words after I learned that he also passed away. “Keep your feet on the ground, your head in the clouds, and keep looking up.” I found no other short fifteen word statement that meant so much to me. So as I leave you may I also recommend that you find your own short statement of your meaning of life. Let those words become your catch phrase that you will carry with you for all time to come. I can only hope that this will be done. Thank you for visiting with me today. I had a wonderful time, hope you did the same.