Holding Down the Fort
I’ve had a uniquely special relationship with a certain coworker in my small office for the past 11-and-a-half years. In addition to the “normal” Monday through Friday, 8-to-5 business hours, he and I have worked closely together late into the night on too many occasions to count. We’ve been a team through many working weekends and even on holidays when it was the only possible way to meet impossible deadlines. Though I would never bring it up, he more often than not has fallen sound asleep while I tap away at the keyboard or stare blankly at the ceiling fan overhead in search of a solution or idea – his barely audible snoring not helping in any way with the work at hand.
And yet, although I have logged many long, late night office hours over the years, my coworker has been here even longer, holding down the fort. I have often had the opportunity to leave for a meeting with clients, or to go out for dinner with my wife and kids, or leave the office to simply do something other than work. My coworker, however, almost always has stayed behind and waited patiently for my return – acting as the ever-vigilant office security guard or simply busying himself with all sorts of miscellaneous activities, one of which typically included napping. As I mentioned, I never spoke to him about his tendency to drift off to sleep during working hours, but he knew that I knew he took advantage of my permissiveness. There were no secrets between us.
You could say that my coworker was also the goodwill ambassador for my business, always greeting visitors or delivery people with his overly friendly manner and welcoming ways. Guests relaxed visibly in his presence and in subsequent conversations would often ask me to give him their kindest regards.
During any given week, I would all too often vent to him about particularly frustrating clients – or about not having enough work or having too much work or not enough time to do the work or having to once again go out and look for more work. No matter how much I ranted, however, I could always count on him to quickly calm me down and remind me in a way all his own that work is only work. It’s the relationships in life that are most important.
To say that this coworker was like one of my family would be misleading. He was family in almost every possible way except one – he wasn’t human. He was a goofy, tail-wagging, shoe-stealing, sleep-seeking, clothes-hamper-raiding, big, loving dope of a dog; my near constant companion, friend and coworker.
And now, he’s gone.
Last Saturday, after weeks of expensive treatments and loving care for his failing kidneys, oceans of shed tears and not nearly enough emotional preparation for the inevitable outcome, we said goodbye to “Darby,” our family’s beloved yellow lab and the last of our dogs. (You might remember that I wrote about losing our beautiful golden retriever girl, “Sierra,” 14 months ago. Yes, it’s been a tough year-and-a-half.)
They say that writing is the loneliest of professions, to which I agree. Working solo is a necessary part of the job. And yet, until now, I’ve never really been alone thanks to loving, faithful companions and ‘coworkers’ like Darby and Sierra.
This week, my office is lonelier than ever before. I find myself looking for the big, furry dope every time I get up from my desk. I’ll start to say something about this or that project before I remember that he isn’t there to hear me. He and Sierra are off in some heavenly meadow chasing after bright green tennis balls and snuggling together for well-deserved naps.
I know we’ll be reunited someday, but until then, it’s my turn to hold down the fort. Goodbye, dear friend.
I’ll see you ’round town.