Friday, May 13, 2011

This is a reprise of an earlier post.  My husband thought it was too personal so I pulled it, but I decided that it is just too indicative of my friendship with Tom to take away, so here it is, back again, with a few edits.  Thank you all for your kind comments when it was posted the first time.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
You cannot change the direction of the wind...only adjust your sails...

A dear friend said this to me some time back.  I am at a point where I cannot decide whether to furl my sails, hang on, and ride out the storm, or to put them all out and run away before the wind.
I lost another friend today.  In January of 1978, I got a job at Montgomery Ward in Elkhart, Indiana, where I worked in the paint department. My department manager there was a man named Tom.  We worked together there until July, 1979, when I left to take maternity leave for the birth of my son.  Here is the story of a friendship born amongst the paint cans and brushes.

Tom and I were the very best of friends from our first moments working together.  We had so many good times, it's hard for me to choose just a few to share here.  He visited me in the hospital when my son was born, and brought me an issue of Playgirl as a joke, as if that was anything I wanted to see while recovering from childbirth!  He and my husband became close, too, and our son thought of him as a family member.

We drank gallons and gallons of coffee over the years, smoked many cartons of cigarettes a matter of fact, it was not until Tom moved away that I was able to quit. I could avoid smoking around anyone but him, as it was an integral part of our friendship.
We finished each other's sentences and read each other's thoughts.  I remember one workday conversation with Tom. He asked, "Did you watch Johnny Carson last night?"
"No, I went to bed early. Who was on?"
" know... the guy with the mouth?"
"Don Rickles?"
"YEAH!" he replied, "THAT'S the one!"
There was another conversation where I guessed who "That guy who sings" was. = )

We called one another first, whenever there was good or bad news to be shared.  I told Tom that my pregnancy was confirmed before I told my husband.  Many times over the years I would find that he was weighing heavily on my mind or making appearances in my dreams, and would call him to find that he was in the midst of a health or personal crisis, and he did the same with me.

Tom was a hard-working man, and hated to take breaks for lunch...there really was no need, as in those days we could smoke on the sales floor at Ward's, so why bother taking a break? :D  At one point, I began insisting that he take a few minutes and go to lunch with me each day, so that he would not go hungry.  As we were walking to lunch one afternoon, he said, "You know I'm getting FAT, and it's all YOUR fault!"
I replied, "Ok, but if you're going to blame getting fat on me, I'm going to blame my getting fat on YOU!"
I was pregnant.
I told my husband about the conversation and we both laughed.  A few weeks later, we were having dinner with my parents, something was said about the baby, and my husband said, "It doesn't matter, it's Tom's, anyway..."
My mother was somewhat nonplussed, to say the least, and called later to make sure that I was not having another man's baby!

Tom was married for seventeen years to a wonderful woman. They had two sons and adopted a third, and divorced when we'd known him for two or three years..  Then, one evening, he sat down with us and told us that he was gay.  It was a difficult thing for him to do, and a difficult thing for us to hear.  He was a teenager during the 1950s, and that was not the best time to be gay, to say the least.   My heart aches for all the pain he had to endure before finally coming 'out'.
A short time later, he met Kenny, and the two of them have been together ever since, through heart attacks and cancer, hepatitis and jaundice, diabetes and giardia, and of course through many, many good times.  They moved to Florida a few years ago, leaving a terrible void in my life, but Tom always hated snow and cold, and Florida was perfect for him.  They are the very best example I can think of for life-partnership. Kenny will have a terrible time going on alone and I wish he was close enough for me to hug him.
Tom and his ex-wife stayed very close, and my heart goes out to her and their sons and grandchildren, as I know they are devastated today at this news.

I could not knit when talking to Tom.  He would get completely lost watching the movements of my hands, and would just trail off in the middle of a sentence, transfixed.  I soon learned to put my knitting away when he was with me, or to hide it beneath the table so that he could speak.
We rate movies by whether Tom could get through them without crying...he always wept unabashedly during movies.
He was fiercely opposed to wearing a seat belt, and I gave him no end of grief about that.  It worried me.
He had a hate-hate relationship with law enforcement officers and people in authority.  He once got stopped for having an unrestrained child riding in his car...the 'child' was his dog, Dougal.
He once was refused a job because of his apparent alcoholism...he wasn't an alcoholic, and rarely consumed any alcohol at all, he just had one of 'those' faces.
He and Kenny once lived in an apartment that was in a very bad neighborhood and they were robbed frequently.  He said he was just going to put a sign out that said, "Come in and take whatever you want, but please stop breaking down my back door!"
Tom once went to the grocery store for dog food, shampoo, and a pack of cigarettes.  He picked up the cigarettes as he entered the store, then picked up the shampoo, and when he came to the dog food, found he had no free hands so put the cigarettes in his shirt pocket.  Unfortunately, he forgot they were there, and left the store without paying for them.  He spent the night in jail for that one.  When the prosecuting attorney came in the next morning and heard what had happened, he was furious,  dismissed all charges, and sent Tom home.
Tom and I both loved MGs. He had an MGB and I had an MG Midget.  He loved our motorcycles, and always enjoyed seeing Rich and me ride.

There are so many stories...

Tom hated shopping, and holidays, and buying gifts, not because of any lack of generosity, but simply because he never thought he'd found the perfect gift, and it bothered him.  In no particular order, he loved art and nature and dogs and cats, technology, his kids, his ex-wife, his grandkids, Kenny, and everything the world had to offer. He loved me, too.  I am immeasurably better for his presence in my life.  I will miss him dreadfully.

June 18, 1939 - May 3, 2011  Rest well, my dear, dear friend.

No comments: