Wow. That hit me hard.
I hadn’t purchased anything in a big box hardware store in a long time. I needed two 4 x 8 sheets of plain wall panel. I’m not a big fan of the super jumbo mega-stores, but I didn’t really have a choice.
When I actually owned my own home, before the ‘big d,” I was there all the time- one of the stupid-big warehouse stores where unmanned cash registers are plentiful, but assistance is scarce. I would always have my son with me- my oldest. By the time he was two, he could spot a Home Depot half a mile away. He grew to love Nascar. Especially Tony Stewart and the Home Depot car. He had the clothes, the toy cars, the hats, posters in his room. If it said Home Depot, you name it, he had it.
Off we went. My little helper and I. He went everywhere with me. I mean everywhere. Literally, since he came home from the hospital. If I wasn’t at work, my son was by my side. I remember taking him to the grocery store when he was about three weeks old- his mother had some issues about being alone with him. I think he was about five years old at the point of the bridge building project. We picked out the wood- which is not an easy task. Most of it is of pretty poor quality at these stores. You have to go through ten to twenty pieces of lumber to find one good, straight one. It took quite a while and there were a lot of boards to buy. We finally got everything together. Wood, screws, spikes, bolts, and off we went. We navigated the clumsy blue cart (with at least one malfunctioning wheel) through the store and out to the parking lot, where I proceeded to fill the vehicle I would never in a million years be caught dead in, with our payload.
Back home, we unloaded together and off to work we went. I would let him help me measure, bang nails, drill holes and occasionally assist in cutting a board. It took a good solid week of sweaty hard work, but when we finished, we had a 24 foot long, pressure treated, bad-ass mother of a bridge that was pretty much bomb proof. He loved it. He helped build it and he loved it. He loved to play on it. He loved just sitting on it. But most of all, he loved to ride his bike over it…
Fast forward twelve years. I’m waiting on the only line that is open, even though there are thirteen cash registers, with my big sheets of paneling, when I feel a pair of eyes staring me down. You know that feeling. I look up to see a small boy, standing in a shopping cart with a ladder and some other items in it. He’s eying me up. He’s got a plaid shirt and a bass pro shop hat. I give him a wave and he starts talking to me about building stuff. He was so excited. He was going to help his dad do some work. His dad pays their bill, gives me a nod and off they go.
As I head out to wrestle with these two big 4×8 sheets of whatever the hell hardboard wood paneling is, a tear comes to my eye as I think of my son. He’ll be 17 in five days. I haven’t seen him in about eight months. The kid who wouldn’t leave my side. He doesn’t talk to me anymore. Divorce is an ugly, nasty, crazy animal that can suck the life right out of you. Everybody says ‘give it time, he’ll come around.’
I hope they’re right.
In the mean time, I can’t help but envy that dad who’s son thinks he’s the greatest man on the planet.
God, I miss those days.
Maybe someday there will be another bridge.