Bob was the first person I met when I reported for my new job assignment in October of 2001. I got there early in the morning for a little lookaround before everyone else got to work, and Bob saw me heading down the hall, but he didn't know that I was there as the new head man, the way he asked if he could help me find something. I found out later he treated everyone in the same kind, respectful way, whether they were in charge or about to be charged with something.
You don't meet a lot of people like Bob anymore. He so revered his wife that he worked one full time job and one part time job - a total of 12 hours per day, 5 days per week, for who knows how many years. Mrs Bob kept their house, and Bob was the happiest guy you ever saw when they had a few extra bucks to go to dinner at a diner. And the one New Year's Eve - I still think about how happy he was; he came into my office and told me about the package deal he found for them to go to a party at a Holiday Inn, and then spend the night and have a breakfast buffet in the morning before going home. He could not have been happier if he had just booked a private jet to Monte Carlo for the two of them for the holidays! Every day, he would have something to say about his wife and son, and express his gratitude for the joys that life had brought him.
Bob transferred out before I did, but I still would run into him now and again. I had not seen him, though, for a few years until last Saturday, when I saw him at the supermarket. He had retired, but, in the manner of a guy who has worked hard for decades, he still wanted to keep active, so he is the cart guy at another grocery store for a few hours every day. We caught up on this one and that one, and who was where, and so forth...
And then he looked at me with a sadness that I would hate to see mar anyone's joyous countenance. "You know, Mark, my wife died a couple of years ago. Two years. I am so lonely. I miss her every day."
It just tore me up that Bob, a man who had given so much to life and asked for little more than an occasional dinner at a diner with salad and dessert, had to bear such sadness. We talked about how much in love they had been, and Bob looked at me, almost in tears, and said, " You know, Mark, I am so lonesome; I would love to find someone just to talk to, to have a lady to keep me company." He didn't say he wanted to get married or anything, and he didn't seem to want to find any deep romantic relationship. He went on to say that his family had given him the Sunday Plan of season tickets for the Orioles, and he was looking to attending 13 ballgames with his grown son. I told him that maybe there was a lady whose husband had gone too soon, and maybe he would meet her at the ballpark. He said he hoped so.
Thirty-six years they were married, and for every minute of those years, they were hopelessly devoted to each other. Now Bob's new reality is that he is alone, and when he leaves the empty house for his shift at work, he knows he is coming back to a house just as bleak.
It shook me then, and still does, to think of being in those same shoes. I would not handle it with the dignity that Bob brings. I had only encouragement and hope to offer, no solid ideas about how to find a friendly companion.
It tears me all to heck, to think that we live in a world with so much love, and yet, sometimes, there's still not enough to go around.