Tuesday, March 24, 2009

See ya, Monday.

My friend died, Sunday night. He was a co-worker of mine, since 1986. He's been a teacher, mentor, employee, but mostly a friend. He wasn't that easy to get to know; there is still a lot that I will never know about him. We've been to each other's homes, met each other's families. He's loaned me tools. He's given me rides to and from work; I stuck around and drove him home the day his truck got stolen. He read the paper, and we often talked about yesterday's news. We ate lunch and took our breaks together. It was an everyday thing, part of the ritual of the hourly worker. We reminded each other about stuff that needed to be done. He wouldn't like my use of the word, but it was an intimacy borne of time spent together. We griped. We talked about our kids, our wives, the DMV, the War (past and present), cars, work - of course.
We knew some things about each other that maybe no one else will - in those moments of frustration, talking through the day. There were days when we didn't talk much about anything; didn't need to.
His mother died in mid-December. He took time off, then got sick. He never came back, but about a month ago was admitted to the hospital. Our hospital. Upstairs. Those first few days, they had to put a sign up on the door asking you to check in with the front desk - he was inundated by visitors. He got steadily worse. The visitors dropped off. Our conversations became difficult - there's not a lot to talk about when you've been in the same bed for 3 weeks. I'd miss some days because he'd be out getting another procedure done. The last few days, he'd say hi, grumble a bit, then drop off. I'd sit there for a rew more minutes, then wander back to work. Friday, they moved him to the ICU. I went up there, and there were a couple of people working on him. He was talking back and gesturing; I didn't go in. See ya, Monday.
I know I wasn't his only friend. He was a friend to many, and he was a good Dad. He loved his girls. I know his life didn't turn out the way he wanted it to. He did good work, and he trained many. Like so many of us, his job changed drastically from what he was hired to do; he made the best of it. He did what needed to be done. As his boss, I knew that he knew more than I did about what needed to be done, even so, he did what I asked him to do when I proved it. Boss, or no boss, he treated me the same; it was easier for me not to be.

He was a good guy. He took care of his parents, and was taking care of his father when all of this hit him. He was the guy I could borrow five bucks from for lunch when the ATM was down.

He listened.
I miss you, Steve.