I grew up with practical grandparents. A grandmother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen before they had a name for it.
A grandfather who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones. I once sat on the back porch with him as he took a brand new pair of shoes out of a shoe-box, putting his old ones into the now emptied box. “Grandpa, how long does a pair of shoes last you?” a twelve year old me asked. “Oh, about ten years,” came back the answer. “Where did you find shoes exactly like the ones you have worn for so long?” was the next question. “Oh … I bought these two pair at the same time,” he said.
Yup. A brand new pair of shoes sat in his closet for ten years before he pulled them out to enjoy, all the while replacing the shoe soles at least once and the heels twice on a worn out pair of shoes he just couldn’t throw away.
Their marriage was as solid as anything this earth ever produced. Their dreams were focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away.
I can see them now, grandpa in dress brown trousers, plaid shirt and a hat that coordinated in color with his trousers. And grandma in a house dress printed in happy blues and yellows, an apron that covered her entire dress, and a dish-towel in hand.
They seldom threw things away. There was always a need, a time, and a way to fix things. A curtain rod that needed straightening, the kitchen radio with a suddenly blown and replaced tube, the screen door that needed a new screen, the hem in a dress, a darned sock. Things were kept.
It was their way of life, and sometimes it made me a little crazy. All that fixing and re-fixing, canning the same menu of vegetables and jams every season, that little savings bank book containing numbers, notes, and check marks. I can’t think of a time when I witnessed them being wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.
But then my grandmother died. The last time I saw her was holding her hand in a hospital room in Toledo, Ohio. “You can come back from this grandma. You have so many times,” an eighteen year old me said in an effort to inspire her to rally. “Not this time honey,” came back the reply. And she was gone.
And on that clear summer’s night, in the warmth of a hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there just isn’t any more. No more fixing. The unfixable item is encountered.
Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away … never to return. So while we have it, it’s best we love it. While we have it, it’s best we care for it … And fix it when it’s broken … And heal it when it is sick.
This is true. For old cars. For dogs with bad hips. For children with bad report cards. For marriages that seem to have broken. And aging parents and grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it—everyone.
Because we are worth it. And we have been them with a bad report or we will be them, aged and able to count the summers left to us on a single hand.
Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away, or a classmate we grew up with.
There are just some things that can’t be replaced. Some things that make life important, like people we know who are special. And so, we need to keep them close!
If you are reading this it is because to me you are a “Keeper”.
That is why I have posted this for all my Keepers to see and read (on Facebook where I call my Keepers — Friends). Maybe there is someone in your life that needs to know they are a “Keeper.” So now it’s your turn to send this, or a similar message, to those people that are Keepers in your life.
Someone once said, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrived, and it is only by that meeting that a whole new world was born.”
Now that’s the definition of a Keeper!
Just a thought …