Today is my colleague’s last day of work. I have been working alongside her for the last seven and a half years. Wow. That, in my world is a long time. It might feel longer for her, having had to share an office wall with me and my many quirks over these years. I am, after all, an emotional man who has long ago embraced the need to embrace my emotional experiences. Sometimes that will show itself as my singing loudly to some crazy music I have playing while somewhat dancing in my office chair all the while thinking I am alone in the office.
I really am hard of hearing.
I gave her a copy of my book, “Autobiography of a Stranger”. I know – vain self-promotion but I appreciated the interwoven complexity of the gesture while remaining subtle in its delivery. A book about a stranger she will never know, but does know, sort of, and will come to know some more when she reads the book, which ultimately will lead her to a place where she discovers that she really doesn’t know me after all. I am chuckling to myself as I write that out and in the end if I am the only one who gets the joke I am okay with that.
Tonight the leadership will all meet at a restaurant and will share stories of their interactions with her over the years. We will all enjoy a meal on the company’s dime and then depart. Perhaps a card will be given, maybe even a gift (but if not how awkward), and the social formalities will have been concluded. Our boss, the Executive Director, who is not known for his communication skills, may or may not say something that although may be well-meaning will perhaps present itself as clunky, leaving at least some of us gasping and chuckling under our breath.
It is somewhat weird to me this sub-chapter within a chapter called life. These characters that we interact with in temporary ways. They are not family in that sense, which for good or bad stay with us – even if by association only – for our entire lives. We can’t shake them off and so their character remains constant, popping in and out of our life to provide heartache and comic relief as if on cue. But these temporary characters who only show up in a chapter or two are the ones who bring a richness and a depth to one’s existence and yet they are so temporal, like a foggy morning they envelope you and inform you and then dissipate by noon with no reminder of their existence.
She has a name that is not important to you but she has become a character in my book. She has a laugh that can stop traffic – loud, shrill and concise. Only one HA! to be precise. It is a spontaneous thing that requires so much body effort to produce yet she has honed that skill well for her entire life. There have only been a couple times over these last almost eight years that the moment was so intensely funny to her that she allowed herself more than one HA! The walls shook at the thunderous roar and I lost my footing in the moment.
When she is not around I blame her laugh on my increased hearing loss.
She is a card-carrying “gluten-free” member having been diagnosed with celiac disease. In the early days we would be out for our ‘executive lunch’ (my children like to refer to my job as a ‘professional lunch-eater’) and my colleague would order something off the menu and then flash her “get out of gluten-fee” card to the server. It was a whole big thing and we would tease her incessantly about it. Unfortunately there is nothing to tease as the disease is real and the pain she felt when having consumed something with hidden gluten in it was also far too real. This is probably my regret over the years – teasing her about this card of hers. I’ll get over it though.
Well friend. It has been a slice. Thanks for being a character in my life. Thanks for the listening ear. Thanks for the safe place to vent and thanks for the HA! We now venture out in completely different directions doing completely different things but I appreciated the journey from there to here.