When we lose the ‘little people’ who play a big part in our lives

Peter Guthrie’s tax preparer has retired and he’s pretty bummed about it, he writes today on Cognoscenti.

Murray the tax guy had become a big part of his life over the last dozen years or so. They shared good times, and always laughed over the line on the tax forms that remind us to declare all of our ill-gotten income.

Guthrie knows what you’re thinking: A tax guy. Who cares, really?

But Murray’s exit reminds him of the people who play big parts in our lives whom we don’t often appreciate.

If the story of our lives is like a movie, it is clear who fills the central roles: parents, siblings, significant others, close friends, children. Yet everyone who loves the movies remembers a moment where a gifted character actor appears unexpectedly for a few minutes and steals the scene.

As with movies, so, too, in life. There are people who may seem like minor characters in our stories: the dry cleaner, the barista, the librarian, the bank teller and the auto mechanic, to name a few. Yet as we interact with these people regularly over months, years and even decades, they gradually become part of the fabric of our lives, adding color and warmth and connection. And when these supporting players disappear, as they inevitably do, the loss is no less real.

Is it possible to feel bereft at the loss of one’s tax preparer? That may seem like an odd notion, but I suspect that getting my taxes done this year will once again feel like a mundane task of the unpleasant sort — like getting a tooth filled. Without Murray’s smile and that old glint in his eye to greet me, the office where he once worked — and my world — will seem like colder, emptier places.

Go ahead. Read the comments.

Just recently in a grocery store, I passed the same young family with my shopping cart in 3 different aisles. It was just coincidence. The first pass, I noticed they had a young toddler son maybe 13 months old who was toddling along, with his big baby belly, wobbly steps and eagerness to explore the world. I decided to speak to him in a friendly, smiley voice and ask him if he was helping daddy shop. He gave me the most wonderful smile and a wave of his hand .
Then the next two times I saw the family with the toddler, he gave me a smile and a wave of his hand (that quick ‘hi/bye wave). It really can be the smaller things in life that connect us and give us joy.

  • For me, that character is my barber. He’s been cutting my hair since I was in high school and I’ve followed him to probably four different shops over the years. He has no plans to retire anytime soon, but it’s going to come some day and it’ll be a really sad deal.

    • Barton

      My dad is still bereft over the loss of his barber. The man retired and sold his shop nearly 20 years ago now, and dad still hasn’t found a replacement for both the hair and the camaraderie.

    • Bridget L.

      An older co-worker brings up his old barber when ever I notice his haircut. Theirs was a 29-year relationship.

      • If I’m remembering correctly, I was 15 the first time I saw my barber, so it’s 30 years now for me.

  • Gary F

    People buy from people.