When Chester and I first met, I was working an entry-level clerk job at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Base, in California. He was in the preliminary stages of treatment for his PTSD and awaiting a hearing on his disability rating. He was receiving retirement, but he was unable to work due to his treatment status. I was making minimum wage. I lived in a one bedroom apartment with Megan that was near my work and her school. When I think back to those days, we were happy, Megan was thriving, we were thinking of getting married at the end of summer, and thinking about relocating to North Carolina.
A good friend of Chester’s called and asked him to pick him up at Naval Air Station North Island. Back in those days, before 9/11, military personnel could fly on “hoppers” from one base to the next, pretty much on a first come, first serve basis. Chester went and picked up “Chico” and he spent the day with us and the night with Chester at his condo, then Chester took him back to catch the next flight out. He gave Chester some money and told him to take me out to dinner.
When Chester told me about this, I told him, knowing how tight the budget was, “Naw…lets just go home and have a spam sandwich”. He never forgot that story and he tells people about it when financial struggles come up. He reminds me of it when I drink out of my Mikasa stemware and he drinks out of a Ball canning jar glass. When we get caught up in “wants” versus “needs” we forgot that it wasn’t the newest technology gadget, or the designer shoes, nor the five star restaurant dinner, that we have the fondest memories of. It was sitting at the wrought iron patio table my mom gave me to use for a dinner table in that tiny one bedroom apartment, that had a view of the landscaped eucalyptus trees on the property, watching the Lakers, having a spam sandwich.