The Horseshoe

I’m a fortunate man. Things seem to fall in my lap sometimes. S0 often in fact, that I began to believe an idiom that I used to scoff at,”Everything happens for a reason.” I was always a shit is random kind of guy. But so many things, series of events, and happenings have occurred for it to be random. Tonight’s tale is the latest.

I clean cars for people in town. It has become an illustrious little enterprise for me and, in three years, has netted some much-needed disposable income and also some great relationships. One such relationship is Ellen, a Nurse who lives in a Condo development in town. I dropped off her car early this summer and she waiting with a check and a cash tip. As I pulled into my driveway I noticed that she had given me two 20’s. I called her and asked if she meant to. She hadn’t, the bills were stuck together. I brought her the money back. She was very impressed with my honesty and told me that in turn, she would spread the word about my services in her development. I thanked her of course, but that wasn’t why I did it.

Last month I got a call from a woman in that development, referred by Ellen. I gladly cleaned her car for her and when I dropped it off she was quite talkative. She had heard through the grapevine the story of Bill’s health journey and she wanted to know if I was ready to go back to work. I told her about my Insurance license and the position I had committed to. She told me that her company was hiring. She is a therapist at a Drug/Alcohol Recovery center. Undeterred by the fact that I told her I was about to be employed, she continued. I was intrigued and told her that if the Ins gig didn’t work out, I would reach out. I drove home excited, working with people in recovery is something I have mentioned many times as a career choice. But I was committed so I put it out of my mind.

Then the Insurance thing didn’t work out. I immediately called her. She gave me a contact to call. I told my mother and she immediately recognized that I had expressed interest in that field before but I had moved on because I didn’t have a Social Work License. As it turns out, the available Case Manager position doesn’t require one. I made the call and it was requested that I fill out an online application. I did it that evening. The next day I got a call and ten minutes later I had an interview for the following day.

The interview went great. I was prepared and dressed to the nines. Interview equals suit to me, my dad would roll over in his grave if I showed up to an interview without it. I made the right call. The interview was great. I wish I had the confidence I have now in what I bring to the table twenty years ago. I explained my reasons for wanting to work with people in recovery. Wanting to help people is paramount of course and that was the central theme. I came across as humble, genuine, caring, and compassionate. It wasn’t an act, I don’t state those qualities, I exemplify them. I knew the role of Case Manager in and out and made sure they knew that. They repeatedly emphasized how hard the job is. I wasn’t phased. They even admitted that they try to talk people out of it to see if they are intimidated. It didn’t work. I like to work hard.
I left excited and I knew that they had seen the real me.
That was Thursday.
I got the call today. I was offered the position.

I did a job. I went the extra mile to the point where someone felt the need to help me. That effort resulted in meeting a person who had access to something that I have always wanted to do. At a time when I most needed it. That is not a coincidence. I have a lucky horseshoe lodged in my ass and I will leave it there.

It is definitely bringing me luck.

Like it was yesterday

It’s been 3 years already. I can’t believe how recent if feels.

3 years ago this morning my phone vibrated for what seemed like the one-hundredth time that morning. I was stuck in another endless meeting and I knew that checking my phone was taboo. In order to see if it was an important message or an FB notification required me to dig my phone out, it was a gamble because my megalomaniac boss had a “thing” about cell phones during meetings. I gambled, unlike most in my office, my job required of me a lot of access by our customers so it wasn’t uncommon for me to take a call. It was a company phone after all. I put the phone in front of me while feigning interest in the monotony going on around me and glanced at the toolbar. It was an FB message from my mountain biking buddy Barbara.

Did you hear about Rick?

No, what?

He died last night

***shock sets in***

I’ll call you as soon as I can

That indelible moment when you realize you just lost a good friend.

Rick, Barbara, and I mountain biked together frequently. Barbara and I were part of a larger group but we paired up a lot because we were the same skill level, had similar schedules and were close friends. Rick was a Fire Chief by day who was a friend of a friend of Barbara’s who had recently joined us on some rides. Rick and I became fast friends and it wasn’t long before he and I would squeeze in an extra ride on nights when others weren’t available. The night before was one of those rides and I had the bloody shin and bruised ego to show for it.
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Rick had gladly assumed the role of making me a better rider. He wasn’t much to look at but he was very athletic for his age and body type and surprisingly coordinated. He had been making me try increasingly difficult terrain and I was doing well. That night we went somewhere new, a State Forest notorious for its technical (difficult) terrain. 30 minutes and 2 miles in, I followed him across a makeshift bridge of 2X4’s over a muddy ravine. I panicked, helplessly watched as my front tire wobbled and I went in, face first.

It was horrible. There was only black, putrid mud. I went in elbows deep, my torso from my chest down was drenched. I stood up, in disbelief, starting scraping the shit off of me and there is Rick, laughing his ass off.

“I’m sorry to laugh, I should ask if you’re ok first.” He wasn’t sorry, he was having a blast. I must have been a sight!

I was a little bloody, but my ego was bruised worse than my leg. And my bike was broken, the front brakes were damaged. The wheel wouldn’t move. I was looking at a 2-mile hike carrying a bike. Then Rick somehow fixed it enough that I could ride it out. He just happened to have the tools.

In the parking lot, he looked at me and we both started laughing. I was a mess, covered in mosquito bites (the little bastards loved the smell of that mud) and I was stained black.

“Want a picture for memories sake?” Rick asked.

Defeated, I agreed.

11168586_10204295581850763_4690493084404223631_n

I’m so thankful for this picture now, after all, how would I know that I would never see him again?

He died. At home. Of a heart attack about 4 hours after that picture was taken.

I stepped outside and called Barbara. She was an emotional wreck. She had found his body. She had gone to his house after he didn’t answer her calls. It would be then that I learned that she and Rick had been dating. She surmised that I may have been the last person to see him alive.

Rick was estranged from his wife, I knew that. He never mentioned her name, but told me that she was a “cheater and a liar” during our many conversations while pounding through the woods. She had betrayed him so he left her. I never interrupted as he talked of her, but if I did I could have told him a similar story. Mine was over 20 years ago but so similar.

Barbara asked if I would go to his wake with her. I gladly agreed.
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Have you ever been to a Firefighter’s wake? Or a Chief’s for that matter? There were thousands of people, police details, Firefighters in full dress, friends, family and respectful citizens patiently waiting in a line that would wind through the old Victorian Funeral Home for 2 hours. Barbara and I and a few other Mountain Biking friends waited patiently together. Finally, as we reached the point where we could see into the viewing room, I saw a pair of legs that looked hauntingly familiar. The first thought that came to mind I immediately tried to chase out of my head.

No! The widow, AKA the cheater and liar is Deb?!?! I waited impatiently now, to get a better view. As I got closer I realized it was true. The widow was my first serious girlfriend out of High School. Not the one that got away, I let this one get away. She lied to me and cheated on me too. I, 20 years before Rick met her, parted ways with her for the same reasons.

She was the story I wanted to tell Rick about. What are the odds?

I got to the receiving line, Deb and I made very awkward small talk and I got the hell out of there. Outside, Barbara asked me why I looked so messed up. I told her. Her answer…

“Only you, dude. Only you could go to a funeral and have this happen.”

Barb and I would ride together for another year before I got sick again. We found a tree on our favorite trail and carved his initials in it. Every ride we would stop, take our helmets off and reflect, say a prayer by the side of the pond and then move on.

Rick was a very nice man. He walked the earth with zero pretense and true love for his fellow man. Our friendship was only beginning but I know we would have grown to be great friends had he lived. The world was a better place with him in it, that I know for sure.

As it turns out we shared a lot more than he would ever realize. I almost wish I could tell him about our common connection. I’m pretty sure that he would laugh his ass off. In fact, I know he would.

I bro-hugged Rick, mud and all, that night. I had every reason to believe that I would see him again but it felt right to let him know how I felt about him. That is the only real consolation I have. If you care about someone, tell them. You might not have another chance.

***segments of this post are borrowed from a previous post (of mine). Noone read it then so I added to and revised it on this 3rd anniversary of my dear friend’s passing*** 

 

When worlds collide

jjj-2018

https://lindaghill.com/2017/12/27/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2018-rules/

My phone vibrated for what seemed like the one-hundredth time that morning. I was stuck in another endless meeting and I knew that checking my phone was taboo. In order to see if it was an important message or an FB notification required me to dig my phone out, it was a gamble because my megalomaniac boss had a “thing” about cell phones during meetings. I gambled, unlike most in my office, my job required of me a lot of access by our customers so it wasn’t uncommon for me to take a call. It was a company phone after all. I put the phone in front of me while feigning interest in the monotony going on around me and glanced at the tool bar. It was an FB message from my mountain biking buddy Barbara.

did you hear about Rick?

No,what?

He died last night

call you as soon as I can

That indelible moment when you realize you just lost a good friend.

Rick, Barbara and I mountain biked together. Barbara and I were part of a larger group but we paired up a lot because we were the same skill level, had similar schedules and were close friends. Rick was a Fire Chief by day who was a friend of a friend of Barbara’s who had recently joined us on some rides. Rick and I became fast friends and it wasn’t long before he and I would squeeze in an extra ride on nights when others weren’t available. The night before was one of those rides and I had the bloody shin and bruised ego to show for it.

Rick had gladly assumed the role of making me a better rider. He wasn’t much to look at but he was very athletic for his age and body type and surprisingly coordinated. He had been making me try increasingly difficult terrain and I was doing well. That night we went somewhere new, a State Forest notorious for its technical (difficult) terrain. 30 minutes and 2 miles in, I followed him across a makeshift bridge of 2X4’s over a muddy ravine. I panicked, I helplessly watched as my front tire wobbled and I went in, face first.

It was horrible. There was only black, putrid mud. I went in elbows deep, my torso from my chest down was drenched. I stood up, in disbelief, starting scraping the shit off of me and there is Rick, laughing his ass off.

“I’m sorry to laugh, I should ask if you’re ok first.” He wasn’t sorry, he was having a blast. I must have been a sight!

I was a little bloody, but my ego was bruised worse than my leg. And my bike was broken, the front brakes were damaged. The wheel wouldn’t move. I was looking at a 2-mile hike carrying a bike. Then Rick somehow fixed it enough that I could ride it out. He just happened to have the tools.

In the parking lot, he looked at me and we both started laughing. I was a mess, covered in mosquito bites (the little bastards loved the smell of that mud) and I was stained black.

“Want a picture for memories sake?” Defeated, I agreed.

11168586_10204295581850763_4690493084404223631_n

I’m glad for this picture, after all how would I know that I would never see him again? He died at home, of a heart attack about 4 hours after that picture was taken.

I called Barbara, she was an emotional wreck. It turns out they were dating. He was estranged from his wife, I knew that she was a “cheater and a liar” from our many conversations while pounding through the woods. She had found him, she went to his house after he didn’t answer her calls. She asked if I would go to his wake, of course I agreed.

Have you ever been to a Firefighter’s wake? Or a Chief’s for that matter. There were thousands of people, police details, Firefighters in full dress, friends, family and respectful citizens patiently waiting in a line that would wind through the old Victorian Funeral Home for 2 hours. Barbara and I and a few other Mountain Biking friends waited together. Finally, as we reached the point where we could see into the viewing room, I saw a pair of legs that looked hauntingly familiar. The first thought that came to mind I immediately tried to chase out of my head.

No! The widow, AKA the cheater and liar is Deb?!?! I waited impatiently now, to get a better view. As I got closer I realized it was true. The widow was my first serious girlfriend out of High School. Not the one that got away, I let this one get away. She lied to me and cheated on me too. I, 20 years before Rick met her, parted ways with her for the same reasons.

I got to the receiving line, we made very awkward small talk and I got the hell out of there. Outside, Barbara asked me why I looked so messed up. I told her. Her answer…

“only you, dude. Only you could go to a funeral and have this happen.”

Rick was a very nice man. I know we would continue to be good friends had he lived. But it turns out we shared a lot more than he would ever realize. I know that he would laugh his ass off if he heard this story.