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The hardware store guy asked, "What are you looking for?” 

“My vanished youth,” I said. Technically, I was looking for those little things you put under furniture so you don't wreck the floor, but if there’d been some youth in stock, I would have paid a premium for that as well. 

He said, “It went that way.” He pointed north, but I'm pretty sure he meant to point south.  

Way far south. 

A few years ago, our basement flooded during the spring snow melt, for the first and, hopefully, only time. Not a huge deal, except that the floor in our bedroom was wood laminate, which, oddly enough, doesn’t react well to being soaked in glacier melt water. After we had the flooding dealt with, I spent an ugly couple of hours tearing up the sodden wooden floor. Since we're the only ones who see the bedroom and then only in the dark, replacing the floor wasn't a huge priority. Bare concrete isn't the best look, but one was looking. 

Being low on the to do list isn’t the same as not even making the list, so a week ago we bought 500 square feet of tile and started moving furniture out of the way. It wasn't a huge job – about one big day spread out over parts of three days. But it took a lot out of me, especially the last day when I was putting on the trim. It meant measuring, cutting, and installing twenty-six pieces of quarter round, which translated into getting down on the floor and back up again around 3,000 times. 

Upping and downing has never been the strongest part of my game and that was before the artificial knee. It made me a little sad, and that was before the hardware store guy showed me where to go. 

It reminded me of an experience I had a few weeks ago. I attended a county commissioner conference in the Twin Cities. Those are always hard on me, because I have to wear nice clothes and be polite to people. The last few years have been even worse because people who work in the Capitol are starting to look like they're about nine years old. I limp along the corridors trying not to get lost and I'm surrounded by these nicely dressed young people striding purposefully along, clearly going places and getting things done. When you come from where I come from, and look the way I look, it can feel like an impossible task to get the important people to pay attention. It's even harder when you feel like everyone's grampa. At one point, one of these stylishly dressed young people said, “Oh, I love your vintage briefcase.” 

I said, “This briefcase was brand new when I became a county commissioner.” 

The conversation tapered off after that. 

Here's the takeaway, though.  

One, the bedroom looks a lot better.  

Two, I didn't have anything wrong with me that a couple of Tylenol wouldn't fix. 

Three, I'm not old. 

I'm vintage. 

Copyright 2024 Brent Olson 


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