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Monday, December 12, 2016

Somebody's Bucket List

I started working in the lighting industry in 1974 and believe it or not, I’m still in it 42 years later. Over all that time I have been extremely fortunate to develop a lot of customers who have become close friends. Unfortunately, they sometimes move on to other companies or retire, soI lose track of them. But last week I saw a friend I hadn’t seen in a really long time.

I first met Dave when I was only 20 years old. He was working for a large firm in Irvine as a Maintenance Supervisor and I was a skinny long-haired kid who was trying to sell light bulbs. I remember being intimidated by Dave at first because he had an important position with a very prestigious company. However, my boss told me that Dave’s company represented huge potential for us as a customer, soI better not be scared and I better not blow it. (I must say my boss at that time had an interesting style of motivating his employees.)

When I first med Dave, he appeared to me to be this big tough Hispanic guy, with a gruff exterior. He would often speak to his staff in Spanish and then turn around and speak to me so fast that I had trouble understanding him. But despite my youth, my inexperience and the fact that I kept saying, “Huh?” every time he spoke, he gave me multiples chances to bid on his projects. Over time I earned Dave’s trust and began to do a lot of business with him, while developing a close friendship as well. Early on I discovered that although Dave might be gruff on the outside, he had a heart of gold on the inside. He often spoke lovingly about his wife and two adopted daughters, so when I ended up adopting a Hispanic child of my own in 1983, I named him “David” and told Dave I named my son after him. He knew that wasn’t true, but I think he still enjoyed it every time I mentioned something about my boy named David.

I hadn’t seen Dave in over 25 years, but last week a mutual friend called me. (Chris worked with Dave at the same company and is still a very good customer and very close friend of mine). Chris said he got a call from Dave who wanted get together for breakfast and reminisce about the good old days. I was surprised that Dave even remembered me, but quickly agreed and we met Monday morning at RJ’s in Dana Point Harbor. It was so great to see Dave again but quite surprising that he would drive 82 miles each way just to have breakfast with me. When I asked Dave why he drove all that way to see me, his eyes watered and his expression softened and he simply said, “I’m 76 now, I have a disease that I can’t shake, and seeing you again was on my bucket list.”

Driving home that evening I couldn’t stop thinking about what Dave said. As a young man, I looked up to Dave and appreciated all that he taught me as a young struggling salesman…and I truly enjoyed our time together immensely. But I had no idea how important I was to him. I do now… and it makes me realize that for every friend that disappoints us, there are plenty of others who just might have us on their “Bucket List”. 
The most I can do for my friend, is to simply be his friend.
~ Henry David Thoreau

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