He calls me "Grace" with a tinge of sarcasm and I call him whenever i want to go out back for a good laugh and a smoke or whenever I needed to have someone rein me in from my over reaction to the latest bizarre happening in the world of work. He has always been my second sober thought tied in with being my comrade in arms when it came to grasping onto the absurdity and hilarity of the living script which unfolds everyday in the frontlines. My God, we have laughed out back together with a couple of other folks who knew how to see it from our angle. ....until the tears came.....until we had to drag ourselves back inside for another go at it. But, with a lighter bounce to our steps.
For years, he would leave articles he'd purposefully photocopied for me to read on my desk. I'd often stand there with my coat still on glancing it over wondering just exactly why he had chosen a particular article, especially the New Yorker pieces slathered in dark humour like it was a puzzle piece of the portrait of how he perceived me. But then it finally dawned on me that it was because he enjoyed both the literary talent and the message and knew I would to. A compliment......an affirmation of respecting my need for food for hungry brain. He knew.
He also knew before I did that I was searching for something more meaningful to anchor me. Before I had picked up a pen again, before I started this blog.......before I was even cognizant of my own desire to be open to seeking God in my life again, he would leave me articles written by his dear friend he endearingly calls "the Pope." He knew. And from there, I began a winding path back to writing again, but this time with a purpose of trying to understand where my faith roots are and what meaning do they have. Since then, our conversations are spiced not only with politics, world events, music, literature, sports and jokes.....religion is on the table again too.
Have you ever met someone from the Miramichi? Luckily for me, I know a few of these unique folks and every single one of them is a big bold expressive character. I don't know what is in the water up there, or what it is that has made them so lyrically eccentric....I think it may be a combination of irish lunacy and growing up surrounded by the realities of hard work survival, with a whole lot of musical and literary influences. You just never know where the conversation will take you....
There are more unique "sayings" which spill out of the mouths of a Miramicher than from any other region in this country. Most are not ones you'd hear yourself saying in church. But, my God, they make you laugh. My friend has this market cornered and I shake my head wondering how he has managed to get away with some of the things he says. People expect it, and yet he still manages to shock and titilate even the crustiest non smilers. They LAUGH and shake their heads in wonder! And when he's managed to ZING someone, I often was the one to hear the full story regalia from the Zinger himself...laughing at his own bravado!
There is a serious side of this man too.....one which blooms from his big heart and sense of justice. We have shared many a story of someone in need, be it a mutual friend or a family in crisis. I've seen his compassion, his generosity, his quiet way of touching someone to let them know they matter. He gives of himself in ways that touch deeply.......a dozen cookies baked the night before....a book he knows you will love....flowers for a friend....a phone call. Quietly. No fanfare. That's how he conducts his life. That's how he likes it. And for fuck's sake, don't be gushing about it or you'll piss him off!
Today he retires. I knew it would happen one day. We've talked about it. But, sweet Jesus! It happened overnight and I can't believe he won't be sauntering into my office next week. TOO quick for me! Too quick for many.....but just right for him and that's what matters. I'm not allowed to make a fuss. No one is. There will be no fanfare. No fuss. That's what he wants. That's how he likes it. After more years than we have fingers and toes, he will pack up his stuff and thats it. In fact, I may have just ended up on his shitlist for blogging this. Oh well, I'll take it like a woman and stand up to his fury!
He calls me "Grace" with a tinge of sarcasm, and what do I call him? My dear friend. I love you and will miss you more than you know, my friend....but I look forward to our gut busting laughing chatty coffee chats post Saturday market jaunts on your front porch. Just next time, will you please put some clothes on when you answer the door? You can't expect an innocent lady like me not to look away now can you? And for God's sake, quit asking about cabbage patches!
Go n-éirí an bóthar leat, my friend.....may the road rise with you....and may red wine always, always, always gladden your heart.