A friend of mine passed away this week. There is a hole now, in the universe, where once he stood.
I never learned his first name. Seems strange, doesn't it? I called him Mr. D on occasion. But mostly I called him sir.
His daughter has been my friend since high school. I haven't seen Sir since her wedding. I've thought of him often, though. He has my books (with my signatures) so I like to think that he's thought of me, too. (I mentioned to his daughter recently that I didn't know her father's name. We both agreed it was fine to leave it that way.)
On the surface, Mr. D might have seemed like the stereotypical 70's father. In those days, fathers were somewhat distant. They worked. They grilled over charcoal. They mowed lawns and meted out discipline to kids who were generally well-behaved anyway.
But not this man. No, he had more depths than that. He was so very kind. The first time that I went to a sleepover with his daughter, I awakened early and stumbled out to the kitchen. He was drinking coffee and reading the paper. Silently, graciously, he poured me a cup and handed me the front page.
That became our little ritual whenever I visited. Even if my friend and I stayed up until 3 AM talking, I would blast myself out of bed early so that Mr. D and I could have our morning coffee together. It was a little thing, a small oasis of companionship between a "70s dad" and a teen girl who should've been outside his notice. But in those shared cups of coffee, I felt like I mattered. And I've never forgotten.
In today's world, that small oasis can never be repeated. We've become too jaded, too suspicious, too careful to permit such relationships. I understand the necessity to protect our kids. I also mourn all of the lost opportunities to matter.
Good-bye, sir, and thank you.