GUEST COLUMN: Old shoes and a rose provide comfort during changes

GUEST COLUMN: Old shoes and a rose provide comfort during changes


Change.

It’s a simple concept that often becomes extremely confusing.

Unlike tomorrow, it’s always coming AND always arrives.

Change hit me the other day when driving back from the store in my hometown of seven months.

We moved to Mukwonago, Wisconsin from our comfortable home in Oswego. It was a town that we really loved, having been there for over 30 years. We built a new home there 23 years earlier.

Our home was a vault of amazing memories. Our children grew up there, behaving and misbehaving, along the way. We had a rollicking Basset named Grady. In 2011, my dad moved in with us after my mom died. We had close family and great friends nearby.

We had a cool basement bar, known as the “5-2 D”, in honor of my dear friend Jeff, who passed away. The 5-2 D was my favorite place in the house. It was party to many parties. New Year’s Eves, post-football and baseball games, holidays and many times just for the fun of it. Laughing, singing, even dancing. If there was a way to move it with us, I would have done it.

We had a big backyard where my boys and their friends played everything kids can play.

So, why leave?

Because change.

Our three sons moved to Wisconsin and it didn’t look like they would ever be moving back home. My oldest son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first child, our first grandchild.

First grandchild.

Change diapers.

We gave this a lot of thought. In the end, the decision was both very easy and very difficult.

Change address.

We packed the house and that was really tough. Not because of the labor of heavy boxes, but because of leaving behind so many things we cherished. Saying goodbye was not fun.

But the destination lightened the load, literally and figuratively.

This brings me to the ride home from the store.

I bought a flower for my beautiful, newborn granddaughter, Isabelle. A helpful woman there checked me out. She smiled when I walked up with a long-stemmed rose. Her thoughts were obvious; that rose was going to someone special. It was perfect when she didn’t ask who it was for.

Shortly afterwards, I glanced at the rose on the passenger seat and it got me thinking.

If we still lived in Oswego, I would have bought that rose at Schaefer’s Greenhouse.  

But then I would have to wait, maybe for a few weeks, to give it to her. There would have been no cause to buy a rose that day. Therefore, it wouldn’t have been there.

Now we have an easy drive to see all our kids. Regularly. Nothing in our life is better than that.

Sell the house. Buy the rose.

An unusual cause and effect of change.

The ride continued.

Being a creature of habit, I started to take notice other things in the same way.

My old, worn gym shoes. They’re grass, dirt and paint stained, tattered in several places and the rubber support around both toes is peeling off. These shoes now remind me of the cheap ones my mom would buy at Angel’s variety store in South Chicago when I was a kid, that would inevitably end up in the same condition. But, they’re still really comfortable.

No need to change them. Yet.

Not to be outdone, my baseball T-shirt from 2012 was under a Carhartt hoodie, purchase date not remembered. Not in bad condition, but I have such wonderful memories of those teams and the great guys I coached with that there is no reason to pitch it. There is also one from 2011 in my drawer. It’s not going anywhere either.

Perhaps this ends any chances of being on the cover of GQ? That’s OK. These seemingly unimportant items seemed to take on new meaning. Their familiarity brought comfort in a time of change.

We have a much smaller house now. Many of our pictures, wall hangings and other items from the old place are still boxed in the basement. They may remain there. I have gone downstairs several times just to check in and let them know they aren’t forgotten.

They will always be a part of our lives. That won’t change.

So, there may be less square footage, but we have lots of room for new memories.

Realistically, we would never get to see little Isabelle, and the rest of our family, as much as we can now, once the quarantine era ends, had we not left what we knew best.

Thinking this through, we left our house. We didn’t leave our home. Home to us, is being with family.

The 5-2 D Bar was always intended to be a place to make memories, not just a place to drink beer. We will do that in our new home. In our new town. So, we did bring it with us. Jeff would be good with that.

And that kind of change is as comfortable as an old pair of gym shoes.

Mike Bertok is the former general manager of The Times, and now resides in Wisconsin





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