I worked with this guy - a kid, really - named, I swear to God, Evan Fink. I liked Evan; he let me mistreat him cruelly in exchange for dropping the occassional pearl of wisdom into his yet-to-be-completely-fused skull. An example: I called him, and he answered gladly to, "Shitston." He left me a voice-mail once in which he referred to himself as Shitston - I kept it until the day I left that job.
What kind of wisdom? Anything, really. He used his whiteboard for a word of the day, 60% of which I provided. This taught him many things -- that "invective" is a noun and not, as it looks to be, an adjective. That "insipient" and "incipient" are two entirely different words - but that something that's coming up soon, that is going to be incredibly stupid, is both insipient and incipient.
I taught him that there was a show called "Hogan's Heroes" that had nothing to do with wrestling, for another example.
What else? How can you quantify something like that? I was 40, he was 20. There was a lot of downhill knowledge transfer without either one of us really knowing it. He seemed to enjoy my little didactic asides, beneficial or no. And, truth be told, I enjoyed it too.
Anyway, some two years into our acquaintance, Evan ended his co-op assigment and went back to school, a period during which my father passed away, the scars about which you, my readers, are more than sick of reading.
Fast-forward this tale, then, until Evan gets a second co-op assigment with my company, relocates to his old digs in the cube right outside my office door, and again assumes the role of my chief patsy in exchange for the odd serious conversation. And, seeing as my general mise-en-scene was infused with a lot more melancholy than some months previous, there was no shortage of serious conversations to be had.
During one of them I made mention of the fact that my father, my Dad, had passed away recently.
"Dude, that's a real bummer," said the now 21-year-old Evan Fink. "I lost mine a few years back. It realllllly sucked."
I'm sorry, what the fuck did you just say?
"Yeah, it was really sudden. His heart. Real bad for me and my sister. My mom too."
Over the next few months, our talk would from time to time wander to the raw nerve of lost dads, but you know the god-damndest thing happened: the more we talked about it the more I realized that this kid, this 20-year-old whose 20-year-old observations and experiences I mocked with regularity, was teaching me, not the other way around.
What did he teach me? How to handle a crushing, awful loss the only way there is to do: Just pick your sorry ass off the ground and keep walking. Sometimes you won't really see the way -- sometimes road-dirt gets in your eyes a little bit -- but you just keep walking, or the world is going to pass you by as sure as morning follows night.
Sometimes it is difficult to follow my own advice. But, even if sometimes I cannot do what I need to do, at least I know what to do, and that's something.
I tell you that story to tell you this one: I have a friend whose father passed on two years ago right about now, who is a regular reader of this blog. Pat would be upset if I gave any personal details, so I won't - that's not even his real name. But he would want to know, I think, that I'm thinking about his entire family right about now, and my heart goes out to all of them.
And Pat, listen bud, I know you like to handle your business yourself, and that's perfectly Kool-and-the-Gang; but remember I'm a phone call away.
Just keep walking, and everything is going to be fine.