When you’ve been around longer than 2/3’s of the folks in the United States, everything begins to look a little skewed. My new periodontist, for example, makes the neighbor’s children look almost middle aged, and the fact that I have a periodontist allows me to finally understand the expression, “Long in the tooth.” This afternoon, the waitress that brought me my sandwich at the Diner seemed to be checking over her shoulder periodically to see if the truant officer was coming to take her back to the eighth grade. Oh, yeah, and the kid who checked my battery? Except for the tattoo on his neck and that pierced eyebrow, I thought the only batteries that he would be familiar with might have been removed from his Star Wars light saber.
Everyone tells me that age is relative and I completely agree with that, but this isn’t really about age; it’s about wisdom and experience. Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of folks get older and never seem to wise up. In fact, it seems to me that Fish Oil should be built into our cereal, milk and pancakes because lots of people today need to have something to give their brains a boost, any kind of a boost. It has been my experience , however, that those of us with enough battle scars seem to have had to either gain that knowledge or perish. What’s the expression, we all age, but not all of us grow?
Once, after being verbally attacked by a somewhat unstable man who, unfortunately, was one of my superiors at the time, a great silence fell across the room. He had yelled and screamed that I should be fired, but it was clear that, had the gun laws been just a little more lenient, his real desire would have been to eliminate me from the human race. Anyway, after his tirade, an outburst that only Judge Judy could have matched, a lone voice rose from the group of people in the room who had heard his accusations and demands.
The person who spoke up did so in a very deliberate manner and said the following, “When I was a kid, my father told me that I would be lucky in my life to end up with six friends. When I met Nick, I felt that friendship instantly, and he has proven to be one of my six.” (Or something like that?) Then he said to the ranter, “Maybe you should leave.” It’s not often that someone has the guts or the heart in a tense moment like that to stand up for a friend in the midst of a dozen or so very powerful people. As it turned out, he was supported in his request, and my life and job went on, but that moment will never be lost. (Thanks, Ron.)
Well, today, one of our sixth friends left us. When I got the E-mail, my heart sank, not just a little, but a lot. You see, today, the person who passed took a piece of me with him because, like my hero above, he had been a cheerleader, guardian, and supporter from the first minute that we met. He was one of those special people who, no matter how bad the lightning was flying from the storm overhead, would run out to support and protect you from the elements with his very personal umbrella.
I’m sure that his family knows how much he was loved, respected and will be missed, and I’m positive that mine does.
In the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing . . . And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”
We will miss you, Jake, and your presence will always be felt among those who loved you.