Mr. Krouse would swing open the door to the country club, oppressive Florida sunshine glaring down the hallway. Light would bounce off the highly glossed white paint on the walls and the framed portraits of past “Commodores”. Despite all the shine, there was always a musty smell emanating from the navy blue carpet. No amount of spit and polish can cover up the stories of a fifty year-old building.
“Hiya honey!” Krouse would call out, taking off his ballcap, slapping it against his leg, a genuine smile for me as he headed into my office.
He’d pull up a chair. We would brainstorm about a committee he was on. He would get me to do things I didn’t want to do, mostly because he had more initiative and drive than me, even though he was probably twice my age.
“Hey,” he once said. “My daughter wrote a book. I think you’d love it. If you don’t, I’ll give you your money back.”
It was a deal! I bought it, I loved it, I told him so.
“Told ya’, kiddo,” he said with a wink.
I worked closely with him for five years, knew him for about ten, and we had a love/frustration relationship. I know I drove him nuts, and that’s ok. He drove me nuts too, but I still liked him a whole hell of a lot.
About a year after I stopped working at the country club, I heard he had died. He was having health issues while I was there, but he was a fighter and would bounce back. He had lost his daughter about two years previous – I wonder if that had anything to do with it. His fight, I mean. His spirit. I worry about his wife.
I’m currently writing a book. Ish. A short book. To comfort myself, I went to my bookshelf to pull some of my favorite books and see how long they were.
The Egg and I – 287 pgs
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit – 176 pgs
Magical Thinking – 281 pgs
I was feeling better, then grabbed Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life, by Amy Krouse-Rosenthal. Mr. Krouse, my mind whispered. I flipped it open, read this page, and thought of Amy, of her Dad, of the COVID pandemic.
Perhaps you think I didn’t matter because I lived x years ago, and back then life wasn’t as lifelike as it is to you right now; that I didn’t truly, fully, with all my senses, experience life as you are presently experiencing it, or think about x as you do, with such intensity and frequency.
But I was here.
And I did things.”
His family and mine would probably be surprised to know I still think about him a lot, remember the little conversations we would have. I’m not sure, but I’m suspecting with the way the world has gone sideways, that the things that people can do – the smiles in the hallways, the helpful hand at the door, the push of “no, we can do more” – these things will be remembered, and missed.
But, really there are no answers for me today, just memories of a man I miss that’s gone who smelled of Florida sunshine.