Has it really been five years?

We’ve all got ’em.  Those friends who serve as the concrete pillars in our spiritual foundation.  Sometimes they are entirely transient – showing up for a brief period in our life, moving on, and dropping out of touch.  Perhaps a Christmas card, joke via e-mail…

Or they are woven into the fabric of our souls.  And are always there, even when we’re distracted by life and the associated shrapnel.  Something happens – signal from the Dog Planet or something – and we’re suddenly picking at that particular thread.  Acutely aware of the history, the connection… wondering…. having imaginary conversations… distractedly looking for a phone number online, or trying to find an old e-mail address…

JK and i first crossed paths almost 20 years ago on a project at work.  He was known for being a stickler for details – a “by the book” project engineer, diligent and highly competent.  He was a tough customer.  Me? A young*, extroverted** and high-energy geek with a lot of passion for technology, and a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-skirt” style. 

Needless to say, those who knew us were bracing for the impending train wreck. 

We certainly collided.  Him?  Speechless, turning red and choking Flustered by my brash, fearless “it’s good enough – let’s roll!” approach to the task at hand!  Me?  Frequently ready to strangle him frustrated because he’s gotten lost in the minutiae of the moment.  Crossing t’s and dotting i’s and pissing me the fuck off…

But we made a great team… him doing the actual work beating through details, and me garnering praise and glory working advocacy and customer connections.  And along the way?  Long conversations over beer… literature***, music, philosophy, theology, and art… discovered that this crispy, “tough customer” was pretty comfortable at an easel, with a messy stash of oils in front of him… 

Who would have guessed that inside that impenetrable exoskeleton of competency and functionality was a soft, squishy artist?

We’d work through project planning – and life – during our lunch hours, or on business trips.  He routinely kicked my ass sailing, or on roller blades.  Forcing me out of my physical comfort zone as well as my intellectual parking lot.

Imagine my delight when i got an e-mail from him two weeks ago?  And my further delight yesterday to stumble into our ‘usual’ lunching place , and have a chance to once again smother him with a big ol’ extrovert hug?   After 90 minutes of catching up – and we had LOTS of turf to cover since it had been 5 years since he retired – he noted that we’d perhaps covered 5%**** of the turf we need to cover…

i’m not letting another five years sneak past… It’s a good rule of thumb to hold tightly to these foundational people in your life…

_____

* i was mid-30’s, going through my “Barbie” phase – had starved myself down to a size 8, wore mini-skirts and stiletto heels to the office.  in an uptight engineering shop?  just a bit disruptive… but BIG DAMN FUN from my side of the desk!  just crossing my legs during a meeting could make the presenter stutter, if not choke…

** also a bit of an anomaly in my world.  There’s an old joke – Q: How do you spot the extroverted engineer?  A: He looks at your shoes when he’s talking, rather than his own…

*** he forced encouraged me to read Joseph Campbell, Thoreau and other good stuff while i shoved pulp crap in his hands and forced encouraged him to lighten the fuck up…. And other than his momentary lapse by handing me The Bridges of Madison County (i believe it was an accident), he didn’t lead me astray.

**** i’m sure he did the mental calculation as we lunched.  it was probably 5% , +/- 0.5% margin of error…