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The Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve Repentances In Life, Because You Should
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Powell's Books Powell's Books

Because, sometimes fact is indeed stranger than fiction and why we shouldn’t put off the should've, could've and would've repentances of life.

I met Richard decades ago.  He owned an old military surplus shop located in an eclectic part of my city: a melting pot full of artists, professionals and clinging-to-the era-forever-hippies.  Richard’s military business thrived in between a Dolly Parton, Alan Jackson dream-themed leather goods store and a Sushi fishbowled diner.

Richard was a Vietnam vet, and fought his own post-war demons with a fisted bottle of alcohol, I suspected.  Somewhat shy--simple, which I tapped into immediately.  But over the years Richard opened up, became comfortable with my brief visits and talked.

And talked.

Half the time, I admit, my mind didn’t follow and I would be looking for an escape -- an excuse a quarter of the way into the conversation.  But it was the simplicity and shyness which would always tug at my heart.  I’d find myself picking up my pace to hurry past and to sometimes avoid Richard’s always open-door place of business.  And then there’d come the tug.  I’d sigh, stop, then turn around and poke my head into his shop for a brief chat.

Though the years had taken their toll, Richard still held on to some of his boyish charm, claimed to have a girlfriend in another state (although I didn’t quite buy this one) and was crazy in love with his roommate: an overweight, cantankerous tomcat.

His beloved cat.

Richard survived a war, cancer and whatever else life threw at him, but he couldn’t survive his cat.

This past Christmas, Richard tripped over his cat; crashed through his two-story plate glass window and plummeted to a premature death.

Richard, what I didn’t tell you, should’ve, could've told you and wished I had.

Richard, you had a sweet smile, I see it now, but didn’t appreciate it then.

I’m sorry.

Richard, stepping into your store was like stepping into Eden’s rotted apple field, but it held a lot of interesting historic artifacts. Historic artifacts starting with you.  And I could have learned a lot about history if only I'd been a better student.

I’m sorry.

Richard, the minute I’d walk into your shop, I would always keep one hand on the door, instead of dragging a stool across concrete, and up to the counter, even though I knew you were lonely and just needed a friend.

I’m sorry.

Richard, when you’d pull the picture(s) out of your wallet, proudly hand one over to me, my heart would sink.  I expected it to be a newfound love, instead of your cat.  I simply couldn't, didn’t appreciate or approve.   

I’m sorry.

Richard, I never remembered your cat’s name, no matter how many times over the years you told me.

I’m sorry.

Richard, although I’m a professed cat lover, I always hated your damn cat.

I’m not sorry.