Today hasn’t been a very good day. It started out ok, though in the past few days there have been some celebrity passings, like Tommy Smothers, Tom Wilkinson and Shecky Green. It’s the end of the year, and there always seem to be prominent people dying around that. Never did I expect someone I worked with would join that retinue.
Bob was the manager of the department I work in before I started working there. I remembered seeing him when I first started working in the store. He had a routine. He’d come in early, do his job and then leave, usually without saying much to anyone. At some point I started referring to him as Mr. (His last name) and he’d sometimes say hello, sometimes he wouldn’t. At the time I was working in a different department and I never believed I’d actually be working with him at any particular point.
Until I posted for a job elsewhere and fate happened to intervene. Here’s a riddle. What happens when you have the better interview, you have more experience in a certain job and you have better references than the other person that’s interviewing for a particular positon? Exactly. That other person gets the job because of who they know, and you can relegated to a department that you have zero experience in. It’s not what you know, it’s (fill in the blank).
So, I was introduced as the new cannon fodder for a department I knew nothing about. Certainly I felt like a fifth wheel for the first year. But Bob was one of those people that gave you a chance, and if you were worthless, he made the best of a bad situation. If you had potential, you could learn, he gave you the rope you needed. Either to hang yourself or get the hang of the job. It wasn’t an easy process, but eventually we became friends.
We commiserated on more than a few levels. We both liked trivia, we both liked baseball, and on more than one occasion he’d come to me with computer problems, that I’d solve for him. Or at least try. He liked to show me his baseball card collection. He had a pretty nice one too that he’d collected over the years, and when he was younger, a friend of his had given him a lot of cards that more than likely would be worth big $$ if someone appraised them. But to him, they were something to look at, not an investment.
I met his daughter in passing one day. Then his parents when they came in shopping. Very nice people. Our routine became one where we’d tell one another about our days off, and there would be kidding one another about something that had happened in the store, sort of ‘one upping’ one another with knowledge that the other one didn’t have. It was a game of sorts, but it was our game. It was a special rapport that I didn’t take for granted. But I knew it wasn’t going to go on forever, as Bob was getting on up in years.
And he had more than his share of medical issues. He’s always had a bad heart. When I first started, my predecessor in the department took me aside and told me about his pacemaker. Informed me of possible symptoms to look for, and what to do if I spotted any of the things she mentioned. Several years later he had a car accident where his pacemaker fired and he lost control of his car and hit a tree. He was out for about 6 months, and then when he returned, he had a defibrillator in addition to the pacemaker. In the last year or so, he began to have issues with his gallbladder, but for several reasons wasn’t able to have the surgery to remove it.
And then came this morning. His car wasn’t in the lot, and that was a huge red flag. The most unusual part of his routine was his habit of coming in to work at least an hour before the beginning of his shift. Winter, summer, didn’t matter, he was always early. There wasn’t a note from the night crew saying that he’d called in either. I called his apartment, and there wasn’t an answer. Called his cell (he inherited his wife’s old iPhone when she passed back in March) but got voicemail. I informed management and about an hour later we were informed that he’d died overnight. Most likely in his sleep. At least I hope so.
Back in March, when his wife died of a brain aneurysm, he was (rightfully) devastated. When he came back to work, it was a while before he was himself. He told me soon after that he chose not to have a service for her, there wasn’t an obituary or death notice published, he didn’t want to ‘bother’ people with it all, and didn’t wish to have a lot of sympathetic people in his face, as he so bluntly put it. So the funeral home was informed not to say anything if someone called, it was to be kept in the family. I have to presume the same thing is going to happen for him. We’re all going to have to grieve in our own way, but there won’t be any big ‘send-0ff’ for him. I know the cemetery where his wife is buried, so I’ll be able to get there to have a chat with him when I’m in the area.
I’m going to miss Bob. He was a good friend, and a great guy. Thanks for everything.