Twenty years ago I met a guy at work. It could have been a little awkward as I was seemingly being brought in, an arrogant know-it-all kid, over this seasoned bookman. He knew everything about the book business and I knew next to nothing.
Oh, I knew how to sell. But so did he.
In theory I was going to be more of a manager to his team and he would be mostly independent of me. He was not an organizational managerial whiz. Course neither was I.
So it could have been awkward at best and hostile at worst. Only it wasn’t.
This same guy has kindly spent the last twenty years teaching me everything he knows. And it quickly became not just about the books. He is a political junkie whose politics are neatly tied to his values. He believes in God and family and right and wrong and by golly he always holds the line. The man is steadfast. Stead. Fast. Confused about how you felt about bombing Syria before the solutions came? Call him. He will remind you, with a heaping dose of rational, peace-loving, humanitarian sense, just what it is you think.
When I bought my first company he was the person I most wanted to hire. And when I published my first book he was at my first appearance in a city far from his home. Our careers have been tightly twined all these years and along the way he has become way more than just a colleague or work friend. He is my real and true friend. He knows some of my worst stuff and I may know a little of his ( not that there is much to know) Once when everything in my life was upside down he took me out for coffee. I dreaded the “talk” that must have surely been headed my way. He would disapprove of the unfortunate way I had been acting. Instead he told me about the new baby elephant at the zoo. That was all. We talked about a baby elephant. It was a loving lesson in the importance of calming down, gentle faithful presence, and taking the long view.
Now this guy runs into the doctor for a check-up last week, and, whatdoyaknow? He has a little heart trouble. The docs all wondered how he was still walking around. They got him a bed in the hospital quicker than you could say bypass and began planning a quintuple for my skinny, healthy, non-smoking, fit friend. Then as they were scanning and preparing for surgery someone noticed a spot on his lung. ( He always was real showoffy)
Next there were delays while they scanned so that in case it was a dreadful sort of spot they could have a little second surgery while they were in there working on his heart. Apparently you cannot, after all, have cancer treatments and surgery very easily while you recover from quintuple bypass. (This guy is the single most frugal person I have ever met so I’m sure the notion of a surgical twofer appealed to his thrifty little soul)
Meanwhile I have been feeling a little off my game…unsettled with perhaps a dash of unstable into the soup. Because here, once again — for those in the back row who were not paying attention the last time– is the lesson yet again. Everyone always has a litany. Bored at your job? Disappointed by your spouse? Kid acting like a complete rat? Book not selling fast enough? Tired of the travel? Feeling broke? Irritated? Insulted? Pissed off? Lonely? Fat?
We just don’t have that kind of time. We all know this but, ready or not, here came another round of reminding anyway.
Good news came this afternoon. It wasn’t cancer. As another friend said we are all ridiculously happy that we are back to just catastophic heart failure. And our pal in the hospital wondered if they do this to everyone so they will be cheerier about the bypass. It really is all about perspective.