I could see Mel Schutts approaching before I heard his shuffle down the senior center hall. My office, surrounded by windows, usually gave me a heads up on upcoming visitors. A regular, Mel reminded me of Colonel Sanders with the white goatee, hair, and twinkle in his eyes. He usually wore a plaid golf cap with a suit jacket, tee shirt, worn Wranglers and Converse sneakers. Mel was eccentric and his wife visually impaired so everyone at the center was used to his fashion style. This was Mel’s first visit without Martha. I attended her funeral six weeks before.
“Hey there missy, got something for ya.” Mel stuck his six foot frame inside my office without knocking. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was Martha’s sewing kit. He placed the clear plastic tote on top of my budget reports.
“I know this kit meant everything to Martha, especially as she lost her sight.” Mel nodded, opening the snaps to reveal a cornucopia of sewing products.
“You know young lady, I feel like I’m handin’ you a million dollars. This was special to my Marty. You know, I started to speak to the Lord again last week and He told me I had to give this up. I know you’ll do right by this.” He presented the open box to me. I observed three packages of zippers for seventy-five cents from Woolworths.
“She wasn’t a fan of zippers but she wanted them on hand.” Mel explained. I nodded, my mind flying with ideas. The center boasted over one hundred volunteers who did various things around the community. Phyllis Yates could use the zippers. She created jackets for local preschoolers.
“Mel I’ll put these to great use.”
“I’ve one stipulation. I mean, this is hard to do.” His voice thickened and he focused on the faded tomato shaped pin cushion. I reached out for his calloused hand.
“Name it Mel. I’ll do my best.”
“Give the items away. Don’t charge folks. Martha would want it that way. I bet half this stuff could go to her friends, you know?” I smiled, entertaining a plan as I ruffled through about fifty small spools of thread.
“You know Mel, I could use some help with this.” Mel picked up a pewter thimble. He looked out the office windows and saw two of his buddies heading to the billiard room. He rolled the thimble in between his thumb and index finger.
“I don’t know anything about sewing stuff.” Mel confessed.
“No, but you come here for lunch every day. The volunteers who sew come here. It would help me if I gave you a list of who needed what and the item so that you could deliver it. I mean this yarn? Gladys Becker could use that to make lap robes for the nursing home. I could even use help once the lap robes are completed. I’m real short on volunteer drivers.” Mel looked me square in the eye.
“That so? Now listen, don’t be getting any ideas about marrying me off. I just got back on terms with God. It took me a near week to get the gumption up to come and see you. I can help out as a volunteer, think it’d be good for me I suspect. But I’m a grieving widower. Don’t be matching me up with some spunky gal here.” I resisted the smile begging to burst forth and shook his hand.
“Deal. When do you want to start? I’d probably need a good three hours to go through the kit and inventory it. Want to start next Tuesday? Clyde Walker comes in the morning to play pool and I know he could bring some buttons to Ginny. Sound good?” Mel returned the thimble to the box and nodded.
“Guess if I’m comin’in Tuesday to see Clyde I best get workin’ on my pool game. I see Chet and Hank playing in there now. Say thanks missy, letting go of this kit was the right thing to do. I’m much obliged.” Mel gave me a tip of his plaid cap and started out the door.
I heard the men heartily welcome Mel back to the game complete with their regular sports insults and outfit jokes. Mel responded with his own joke and soft laugh. I closed the box feeling a sense of accomplishment. I returned to my budget report, the clunk of billiard balls and laughter echoing throughout the hall.
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