Thursday, June 18 thru Monday, June 22, 2015
I think I said good-bye to my friend Joe yesterday. I think I told him “I love you” for the last time. He was admitted to a nursing home early last week and was not expected to make it to the weekend. He has always marched to his own drummer, so it wasn’t surprising that he was still around on Sunday…on Father’s Day. He’s probably not going to make it to many more weekends, and unless there’s a miracle involved, I’m pretty sure he won’t be here for the next Father’s Day.
I met Joe in February of 2003. I’d seen him around for a couple of months but we weren’t formally introduced until Valentine’s Day, 2003. I had been attending some meetings since Christmas Eve, 2002 and had seen Joe and some friends of his playing dominoes before and after the meetings. Since I’ve always gravitated toward men first and women last, I wanted to be a part of their little group, so I sat down to watch a game one night. I was newly separated from my husband, but I wasn’t looking for anything besides an excuse to not go home and be alone on Valentine’s Day.
From that day forward, Joe accepted me, warts and all. He listened to me yammer on and on about all topics, large and small. He helped me move furniture. He soothed my broken heart on more than one occasion. He encouraged me. He lectured me with love. He made me laugh, and he never laughed when I cried. He never failed to say “I love you, Les,” and I never failed to believe it was a genuine statement.
The thing about Joe is that I’m not the only person, male or female, who could make those types of statements. If you were able to see past Joe’s sometimes gruff exterior (think “Duck Dynasty”), you would find a man who cares deeply about other people. Lots of people claim to be Joe’s friend, and some even say he’s their best friend, and every one of them would be right.
Joe’s not a saint though. Like us all, he could judge folks at times, and he definitely has strong opinions about some things. But, Joe has a gift that everyone is capable of receiving but many do not accept…the ability to admit when he’s been wrong. Joe would take time to reflect on his actions and words, and if he felt he needed to apologize, it would come. In Joe’s time, but it would come.
I can’t say for certain if my life would have been drastically different had I not met Joe and immediately been one of the lucky ones to call him my friend. But, I’m sticking to my story that my life certainly would not be the same. I wouldn’t have the knowledge he gave me, the love he gave me, nor the other friends he helped me make along the way.
Joe, I will miss you. I’ll miss you butchering my married name, which you loved to call me by even though you knew I no longer used it after the divorce. I’ll miss laughing with our friends while we watched you eat an ice cream cone with a smile on your face. I’ll miss making you another Sno-ball themed birthday treat. I’ll miss being part of another cookout with you and friends. I’ll miss the Sunday gatherings we had for awhile, before we all scattered to do other things. I’ll miss sitting on the tailgate of your truck ’til long after the sun has set and discussing each of our own problems, even if we never quite solved them all.
Thankfully, Joe is still here today. He’s probably going to aggravate someone, to some degree, when he wants to go outside and puff on his e-cig. He will most likely make someone smile. He will drink as much coffee as he can, thanks to a friend who has vowed to keep his Thermos full. But, because death takes us all before we’re ready, I’m not spoiling the ending when I say that Joe won’t be here much longer. Yet, even when he is no longer here I can hold onto the knowledge that there was one man on this planet who accepted me and loved me unconditionally. I hope he knew I felt the same way about him. I hope he knew I never took it for granted, even when we didn’t speak or see each other for too-long periods of time.
And, for anyone who might be reading this, I hope you’ve had at least one Joe in your life because then you’ll know how truly blessed I have been.