He folded the box so carefully, and taped it perfectly.
It was 3 o’clock in the morning on night shift in a factory in rural Minnesota. Louis and I work at the same table together. We clocked out together, so I could visit with him when he took smoke breaks. Sometimes we said nothing. Sometimes he just puffed in pensive gaze at the starry night. Occasionally, he would open up about his life — the painful and the beautiful. As a young man, with more stars in his eyes than the sky he lost himself in, he was drafted into war.
So he went.
He saw things he never should have seen.
And had to do things he never should have had to do.
He returned home heartbroken. Unrecognizable to himself.
Tears rolled down his weathered, wrinkled cheeks that had once been rosy with youth, as he let me see into his fractured soul.
Years of hitting the bottle to drown his nightmares landed him homeless and on the streets.
He had to beg for food and curl up in fetal position to endure the harsh outdoor elements in every unforgivable season.
Least forgiving of all was how his brothers and sisters back at home regarded him, a hero.
Instead of warmth and love, he was abandoned in his vulnerability.
Now in his 70’s, he was getting his life back — what was left of it.
With his flannel shirt sleeves rolled up to reveal many faded green tattoos, he toiled into the night — both daily and of his life.
Louis, Sir, I bow in reverence to you, my beloved brother and friend. And most of all, with all my heart, I am sorry and thank you.