Three or four years back, I kept running into this older gentleman (he would call this reference to him a very low blow) at daily mass. Without knowing each other we would say hello cordially until we both reached that familiarity that strangers often acquire from seeing some one in the same setting regularly. After a while, I noticed we frequented several of the same places, kind of like when you buy a Harley and all of a sudden you start seeing Harley’s everywhere, that type of detection. We would get into several group conversations where it would be many people his age and far less people my age or younger, I was always curious, watching him operate the crowd. The point is, that while all his peers would be serious and proper and so were mine (insert eyes rolling back emoji) he was behaving like a 7 year old kid teasing us all and hoping not to get caught by the grownups in the room, someone forgot to tell him, he was the grownups in the room. Whenever he was outnumbered and surrounded by kids or young adults he became one of us, even among his children, naturally detaching himself of the authoritative role. Unless it was to share some words of advice he felt someone could benefit from, without any pomposity to it. His behavior never really interrupted the flow of anything and much less was it improper or disrespectful to anyone, he just brought joy.
I would often see his friends envious of his behavior and would laugh along & attentive to whatever he was doing, but for some reason they seemed incapable of following suit. Even though he would always call them out for being boring and tease them constantly, nobody minded, he had that gift. There was one other person I knew that had that kind of a gift, she was constantly busting on all her friends and strangers just the same, nobody cared, it was part of the joys in life watching her live and care for everyone around her, maybe that predisposed my appreciation to this gentle man. So this stranger that was now my friend kept giving all these lessons without any traditionality to him, he was just being himself. Every time we hung out there was this authenticity that surrounded his behavior, unaware himself I’m sure of how incredibly scarce his way of being was. Selfishly I wanted to think that our click was unique, that he saw potential in me and wanted to take me under his wing so I could somehow emulate this free form behavior. He didn’t, even though he’d probably give me a special nod to make me think he did, to mess with my head but also to validate my thought just a little. I had no yellow star at the end of the day, he just brought joy.
On my last conversation with my friend he jokingly told me that he was my cross and I would have to deal with him for a long time because I wasn’t getting rid of him that easily. Little did we know then that this was far more literal than we could have ever imagined at that moment. Even though he’s no longer with us, he was still right, in a short time, this well mannered stranger managed to leave an indelible mark and will not be gotten rid of that easily. Thank you for reassuring me through example that being authentic, considerate and bringing a smile to people are far more important qualities than we often give them proper credit to being. Thank you for being my friend and bringing us joy!
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