I’m going to tell a story about a couple that I know through my job. A story that I’m only able to know through patience and listening. My job has frustrating times like any job but one of my favorite parts is the chance I get to connect with people. Unfortunately that can also be one of the worst parts of the job too. But I really cherish the times I can meet someone and help them towards a kitchen of their dreams. Even better is when the guests I’m helping are interesting and kind, I enjoy getting the chance to listen to bits of their story. The more I learn, the more I’m aware of how little I know. So I’m grateful for other perspectives on life.Toni and Dick Chambers honestly seemed like a bitter married couple at first. The kind of couple that would make for a tough afternoon while helping them. They came in three years ago looking to redo a kitchen on a house they’d recently acquired and were already in disagreement on how things should go before they had started the design process with me. Dick is an intelligent guy and was very particular on a vision for the layout that I wasn’t able to see at first. Toni was frustrated with the process was simply ready to be through with it and be moved into the home. We sat down at the design computer that first day and I was unsure of how things were about to unfold.
The layout we were setting up was not your run of the mill cabinet array. While it wasn’t anything incredibly extravagant, the base cabinets were placed in a way that allowed space for a tunnel to be built behind them. Dick’s mood grew cheerful as he explained the plan he’d hatched for their cats to be able to move from a section of the house they roamed to the garage and back. His wife talked about her love for her feline friends before asking if I had any pets. She asked about my dog, her name and breed and habits. She showed interest in me and my life and showed her love for other living creatures. She asked about my marriage and my family. Dick talked about his time in the army and his love of showing off his wit. It took several times of them coming into to finalize the design so I got to know the couple pretty well. I looked forward to spending few minutes with them as they came in. But after a few months, as things go at my job, I saw very little of them.
Two months ago, I saw Dick come into the store alone. I asked if he was just in running an errand by himself that day. He fumbled with his words a bit before letting me know that Toni had passed on. They were an older couple but I still was not prepared for him to reveal that. I tried my best to let him know that I was sorry for his loss, whatever that was worth at the time. He went on his way and I said a quick prayer. They had been married for nearly their entire adult lives. It had to be incredibly tough. I can relate to the sharpness of that kind of pain, but not its depth. Still, this story isn’t the end of my learning about this couple.
About a week ago, Dick was back in the store and stopped by to say hello. He started talking about how he’d been brought out to Vegas with family to get out and about and get his mind off of loss for a bit. And it seemed like he had a good time. He talked to me about the ways to make the trip for next to nothing. But he really lit up when he talked about his first trip there many years ago. He and his wife had vacationed there not long after they were first married. He talked about bringing four hundred dollars into the casino he was in and watching the slots for tendencies. After several hours and exhausting his funds, he’d figured out how the machines worked. “They’re much different now. They’re digital,” he explained. So he came back the next morning and won big. Big enough that he and Toni were detained by security for several hours while the casino manager had his team send his photo to nearby casinos and check the machines for modification. In this tense situation, his young bride chose to to be angry or anxious. Dick chuckled as he talked about how hard she had laughed at the idea of being ‘arrested’ before finally being let go once the security team said the machines were clean. Instead of holding him responsible for an event that could’ve been frustrating and embarrassing she instead held on to a loving spirit for her husband and decided to have fun in the moment. He told me that was one of the best memories that they’d shared together in their many years of marriage. I was grateful to share in this special memory and get a glimpse into the love they shared. It reminded me once again about love’s ability to transform our outlook on things. How being kind and patient and bearing through things can lead to positive results in even rough situations.
I smiled as he left my department that day, not feeling sorry for his loss but with a bit of envy for the memory he would always have to hold on to. And remembering to lovingly redeem moments in my own life.