Mr. Friend and I had a little bit of a September – December romance going on. He was up in his 90’s and I was… less old.
I admired his independent attitude. Back when it was my privilege to give him rides home from work I quickly learned not to dawdle or he’d just get bored and leave -whatever the weather.
Once it was raining, the wind was going sideways and the temperature had plummeted below humane levels. When I was finally done with my job and could take him home I couldn’t find him. Something told me to look outside and there he was, way off down the road. I jumped in my car to go ‘save him’ but I always got the impression that Mr. Friend didn’t need saving. He was just fine on his own; he just liked the company.
I haven’t seen him since I left the country. Our last meeting was a farewell party at the Coach & Four with our mutual friend Helen, but the photos we took that day still make me smile with the best memories… Like the time I took him on a drive to Destin ‘for fun’ that wound up being a 3 hour traffic jam with all my kids in the van.
We all ended up pulling into Cap’n D’s with bursting bladders. I had invited Mr. Friend to lunch, but when it came time to pay he said he was getting it because I drove. I tried to argue and he yelled loudly, “Oh you shut up and sit down. I told you I’m getting it.” I looked up to see the cashier, a fresh face boy who seemed all of thirteen, looking terrified. You didn’t argue with Mr. Friend. It was his way… or his way. At his age I figured that was his entitlement.
He used to tease me all the time for picking him up for work still in my pajamas… (“Mr. Friend, I don’t have to be at work for two and a half hours, so you get to see my jammies every morning.”) We started each day with the same conversation about Chuck and whether or not Mike had opened the dumpsters up. He never did get my name right, and always called me “Ann”, but I learned to answer to it just the same.
Mr. Friend was a great guy and one of the people I was looking forward to seeing when I returned to the States was him. We were planing to go back to the Coach & Four to celebrate. I found out this morning that Mr. Friend passed away yesterday, so when I go back to the Coach & Four it will be a bittersweet reunion without him. I’m lucky to have gotten to know this tough old guy as much as I did. The privilege is all mine.
I’ve been missing you Pops, and I hope Heaven is ready for you and your “tricycle”. I doubt they know what they’re in for.