Friday, July 23, 2010

Coronach for a Cowboy

"Death ends a life, not a relationship."
Robert Benchley

There exists in everything a duality. It must be so; there can be no hot without cold, no day without night, and no life without death. I'm sitting here with a glass of wine, pondering the polarity of love and loss, redemption and resurrection, humor and heartbreak.

What began as a humor blog has become an outlet for grief and thoughts and outpourings of melancholy. As always, my despondency drives me to the written word, and forces me to face the twofold nature of things. Even while I mourn, I celebrate.

It's interesting, duality. I just began a new job, and I am enjoying it in spite of the stress that a new job brings, and today was really a great day. Of course, that is, until I arrived home and received the dreadful news that my great, dear friend Brian Bulluck had passed away. And while I was numb on receiving the news, there was within me an ache so painful, so physical and real, that I could hardly breathe. The sad news was true....IS true, but I can not believe it.

Our family relocated to North Carolina four years ago, and before we had even left Florida, Brian reached out to me, introduced himself, and without even asking, claimed me as his friend. What we did not know about each other became known. It's safe to say that we ended up as not only good friends, but as some sort of perverse characters from the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Danny Devito movie Twins. Yes, you are correct in guessing which one I am. In keeping with the duality of all life, I must say that Brian was 6'6", majesterially slim, imperially dressed, and incredibly imposing (all the things that I am not.) But he was also down to earth, casual, and very kind. He towered over me and everyone else, but he never looked down on anyone unless he was helpng them up. He was a man of the people, but he had the ability to tell you to go to Hell and make you glad to be on your way.

Brian and his family came to our home for the first time on a weekend in 2007. There was a small fire in their kitchen and during the repairs, we offered them a Sunday brunch at our house. Brian and Dana were looking to buy a house and since Brian was the only other Dallas Cowboy fan in North Carolina besides Jerry and me, we naturally wanted him to live closer to us. In fact, if he were sitting here now, watching me sob, he'd laugh and tell me to cry for the Dallas Cowboys since they didn't even make it to the Superbowl last year. I can laugh at that thought, but it's probably the only thing I will laugh about for the next several days. That Sunday brunch was also funny, because Jerry and I knew of a house for sale nearby and we wanted Brian to see it. We drove over and walked around outside, peeking in windows, which was okay since no one was living there. Naturally, I tried the backdoor and found it unlocked. I motioned for everyone to come inside, with no thought to the possible consequences. Jerry hesitated, but Brian said, "It's fine, besides, Cat's fingerprints are on the doorknob. You and I will be alright as long as we don't touch anything." For someone with as much integrity as Brian had, he was perfectly okay with Sunday afternoon breaking and entering. I admire that. I'm also glad we didn't get caught.

My friendship with Brian was a life lesson in duality. He was a gentle giant, a servant leader, enigmatic but transparent. When I heard that he had cancer, I was angry and scared, and yet his words and actions gave me hope. It makes sense now that in the midst of his unrelenting pain, he still gave strength to others. He was emotionally strong, even when he was physically weak, and stood tallest when his physical pain brought him to his knees. For those of us who knew and loved him, at least for me, his loss is breathtaking. In the interest of allowing me to put some of my grief into words, Jerry has taken Jenda to the movies tonight, so she won't have to witness my devastation. I think they're going to see 'Ramona and Beezus.' Maybe it's 'The Romans and Jesus.' I am so wracked with heartbreak I just can't be sure. But in that pain, duality comes back to me. Brian brought such wonderful light into my life, and my world is now darker because he is gone. I marvel that I had such a wonderful friend while I hate myself that I was not a better friend to him.

I don't know that I will ever make sense of it. He fought like hell for this life, but ultimately surrendered to the will of a Creator out of whom he was endlessly born, and in whom he had complete faith. He gave wise counsel but always sought to better himself. He was such a wonderful dichotomy and his friendship taught me so much about the dual nature of things. Even as he was dying, he had the courage to live.

I will always be heartbroken because he is gone. I will always be grateful because he was here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Better Sterile than Feral?

'The trouble with cats is that they've got no tact.' P.G.Wodehouse

Since I have a young child, I have to be very careful about what we watch on TV. I have started reading the news online since I don’t want Jenda watching anything more scary than Nicktoons or HGTV. And let’s face it. Some of the ‘before houses’ on HGTV can be rather frightening. Our TV set is like some kind of kiddie Outer Limits. Anyway, I happened across an article about an elderly woman in Idaho and her black and white house cat. Well this sweet little old lady had one of those nosy-ass Mrs. Kravitz type neighbors who had to be her own neighborhood watch committee. Mrs. Kravitz noticed a black and white cat wandering around outside her neighbor’s house and figured her elderly neighbor’s beloved pet had escaped. Being one of those nosy-ass good-Samaritan types, she grabbed the cat and took it to her neighbor. Sounds really sweet, until all Hell broke loose. It was like Picasso’s “Guernica” when that dear sweet old lady answered the door.

Little old Mildred (that’s what I call her) answered holding her cat (Chuckie), who had not escaped. Chuckie saw Mrs. Kravitz and this other cat, and he went apeshit! Unfortunately, he attacked his owner, not the dorky neighbor who deserved to be mauled, and bit his owner into swiss cheese!!! She had to be taken to the hospital. Okay, it gets worse.

A lot worse.

The paramedics rushed to the scene to treat poor, bleeding Mildred and one was quoted as saying, “The owner said she was going to take Chuckie to the shelter because that’s not the first time she’s been attacked.”


There sure as hell wouldn’t be a second time. Chuckie would damn sure be pushing up daisies. Attack me? Hmph! I love animals as much as the next person (not in that over-the-top PETA kinda way!) But Chuckie would have to go. I mean, when he first attacked Mildred, he musta clawed a big-ass hole in her head where her brains fell out. Mildred may be retired and lonely, but damn, go be a Walmart greeter! It’s better than “The Human Scratching Post!” Sideshows are a dying breed (like Chuckie would be if he lived in my house) but Walmart’s always hiring!

It reminded me of when Jerry and I lived in Lauderhill, or as we called it, LauderHELL. I was getting in the car to go to work (linen suit, pantyhose, and sensible low heeled pumps, in the 105 degree heat, like an idiot!) I spied this precious kitten wandering pitifully through the parking lot. I felt sorry for it, so I decided to catch it so it wouldn’t get hit by a car. This was one of the dumber things I’ve done in my life. I couldn’t have caught that kitten with a jet engine strapped to my ass!! I was worn out, late for work and sweating like Heather Mills at a Stella McCartney fashion show. I poured some milk into a saucer and set it in the back porch. There was a big hole in the screen so I knew he would get in and find it. Then, off to work.

I got home that night and Jerry was mad as hell at me.

Jerry came home after a long day and stepped out into the patio to enjoy a cigarette and a beer. It wasn’t the kitten that bothered him so much, but the fact that the whole feline Manson family was now in our patio. We couldn’t go into our patio because the crazy mama cat would have killed us. Hell, if we so much as walked near the sliding glass door, she hissed and pissed and freaked and shrieked… like me when I get outbid at the last minute on ebay.

I told Jerry that I would handle it. I called my best friend Eileen, who is an animal lover and cat owner. I mean, this wasn’t something I could handle on my own, and Eileen came through like a champ with two heavy-duty zip-top cat carriers and directions to the no-kill animal shelter. For once though, she didn’t offer to come over and help. Something about remodeling her basement. Funny, I didn’t even know she HAD a basement. So, Jerry and I agreed that come the weekend, the cats were going. Everything was great until Jerry messed things up.

I woke next morning to the sounds of Jerry shrieking and hissing. I ran to the living room and there was Jerry with another cat! This one was babies daddy. He was good-natured and a lout in a feline sort of way. The cat, not Jerry.

What gives?

“I saw this one wandering around outside and one of those kittens looks like him so I decided to reintroduce him to the family, but it didn’t work!”

Lemme tell you why. There’s a reason the babies are with Mama and she’s crazy as hell. Daddy here is hooked on catnip, he’s behind on the child support and he pissed away the last of the milk and Little Friskies on some little frisky, so Mama ain’t gonna welcome him home with open paws! Sigh. We needed to go look at a house we wanted to buy, so we locked baby daddy in the bathroom until we got back. Then, we would take him to the shelter.

We went to look at a house and signed a contract on a townhouse (without having listed our condo yet), then we came home to feline downsize. I put Daddy cat in a vinyl tote-bag, zipped him up with his head sticking out, and put him in the floor of the front passenger’s seat. Then Jerry drove us all to the no-kill shelter. That’s when the fun began.

We got into midday traffic in Ft. Lauderdale, which is surreal at best. We were on Oakland Park Boulevard, surrounded by more cars than crap in a laxative factory. I felt sorry for the cat, since only his head was sticking out and it was a really hot day. I leaned down to unzip the bag a little so he could get some air.

I regret that move to this day.

I heard a hissing sound. The cat seemed happy enough, then, the smell hit me in the face. Hard.

I couldn’t breathe, scream or move to get the window rolled down. I gaped at Jerry, who gave me that disgusted “you farted!” look. Then, it hit him, too.

“Holy shit, roll the windows down, do something!” I was frozen, paralyzed in cat-piss horror. The smell spread like nuclear fallout through the car. Jerry took matters into his own hands, which meant he took his hands off the wheel.

We careened down Oakland Park at roughly 90 mph, me choking, Jerry scrambling to roll down his window, and other drivers honking and giving us the finger as we bounced off their fenders like Ray Charles driving bumper cars. If you have never done this, you don’t know how to live. We finally made it to the no-kill shelter, reeking, cursing, and stinking to high heaven. It’s good practice for raising small children.

We went in and the people quietly waiting their turn parted like the Red Sea and announced loudly that “those two stinky-ass people are next!” Of course, there was some pompous ass who declared, “well, someone has a male cat, and he just sprayed!”

Y’all know me…

“SOMEONE is a rocket scientist who is going to need a proctologist to get my foot out of his fat ass!” Naturally, Jerry made me go get back in the car. Wuss!

We dropped off Daddy cat, and just to be generous, we donated the bag that we brought him in. When we mentioned that he had a family waiting in the wings, they told us that they would have to go to another no-kill shelter that they worked with as a partner site.

In Afghanistan.

We went home and both got fully dressed into the shower, using Clorox as shower gel. Then we burned the clothes we were wearing and I went to work knowing tomorrow was it. The rest of the Manson Family had to go. Jerry had a plan.

We woke up early. “Take this piece of plywood and go stand outside the patio (he did say outside) and hold it over the hole in the screen. When I go out to round up the Mansons, I mean cats, they won’t be able to escape. I’ll put them into Eileen’s cat carriers and we’ll cart them off to the shelter.”

I laughed my ass right off. Jerry was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of shorts. Mama Cat would turn him into shredded cheese in about 10 seconds. Look, I said, go back in, put on jeans and a sweatshirt, and get your work gloves. If not, well, even I might have a hard time identifying your body!

I took my plywood and got into position outside, blocking the escape hole (as I was told to do). Jerry, padded like the Michelin Man, slowly opened the sliding door and brought the cat carriers out. Mama Cat knew something was up so she put down her crack pipe and motioned the kittens to huddle close. Then, the fun began.

I was standing there trying to keep all these cats contained in the patio. Mama Cat flipped out with Jerry chasing her until he finally caught her. She climbed up the screen. Jerry grabbed her around the middle. All four of her legs were splayed out spread-eagle and as Jerry was holding her trying to get a better grip, she pissed right through the screen smack in the middle of my chest! I stood in shock for several seconds, then became aware that Jerry was laughing hysterically! I thought, ‘you sonofabitch!’

Then Jerry screamed, “you sonofabitch!”

I thought it was one of those magic marriage moments when you can read each others thoughts…. Then the uncontrollable laughter hit me!

Jerry grabbed Mama too hard and she pooped in a straight line directly onto his chest! Talk about a magic moment! He managed to wrestle Mama off the screen and he was able to get her into the cat carrier, but then realized he couldn’t ZIP the thing without letting go of her. “Come help me” he said.


“Get in here and help me!”

Hell no.

“You’re my wife, remember? For better, for worse?”

That’s right, and it’s better for me out here and worse in there.

After much puffing and cursing, Jerry got the cat into the bag, hahaha, and after that, the two kittens were no problem. Off we went again, to the second shelter, the one in Afghanistan. Anyway, this cute little gal came out to assist.

“Ooh, look at the cute kitties!”

I wouldn’t do that if I were you….but one hiss from Mama and Jerry’s screams convinced her to back up quick. The shelter then went into a lockdown mode as we were ushered into the back to the maximum security area. Since it was a no-kill shelter, I can’t say it was death row, more like some kind of super intensive rehab for wayward cats. We took the cats in, and Jerry made the mistake of telling the people how Mama Cat beat his ass, I mean, uh, showed very little class. We could’ve gotten out sooner if Jerry hadn’t had to fill out a bite report and tell all the people there what a horrible wife I am for not helping him.

Needless to say, I have learned my lesson. I don’t bring home strays. I still have a soft spot in my heart for animals, but I would never be attacked by some ingrate animal and then be dumb enough to let it happen again, and I don’t pick up strays to bring home anymore. Now I’m older and wiser, and in North Carolina. I set a dish of food across the street at someone else’s house. Then I just sit outside with my chardonnay and watch my neighbors do battle. It’s much safer and more fun that way.

Better for me, worse for someone else.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Age is Only a Number...of Pills and Potions!

Funny, but I have heard forever that life begins at 40. I have also been told that old age is always 15 years older than you presently are. I realize now that both of these adages are crap. Life begins to get really crazy at 40, and the fact is, if you are 40 or older, well dammit you're pretty old and if you make it another 15 years, you are damn near ancient. That makes more sense, at least to me.

I have been lucky that my health has always held me in pretty good stead. I have managed to keep myself in one piece and so far have been able to avoid invitations to spend the summer at any state mental institutions. Still, once I turned 40, things haven't been the same. Anymore when I get out of bed in the morning, you'd swear I was having group sex with those damn Rice Krispies midgets. All of my joints are screaming snap, crackle, and pop! I have various mild aches and pains where I never knew I had body parts. And where I used to consider myself a feminist, I now laugh at anyone who burns their bra. You're going to need those things one day, you fools!

At any rate, I have reached a point in life where I have to take calcium supplements, vitamins, omega threes and even extra fiber! Fiber! For all of the times in my 40 years that I have been told I am full of shit, there is no way I should ever need to take a fiber supplement. But here I am. It shouldn't come as a surprise. Having worked as a supervisor in a call center and having spoken to some of my fellow crabby-over-40 Americans, I know good and well that many, MANY people need more fiber...and anti-depressants.

I think I know when it started for me. Everything was moving along fine my whole life, and then one night, Jerry, Jenda and I went out to dinner at a diner-type restaurant that I will call Lenny's. Since I wasn't terribly hungry, I ordered a cheese steak sandwich with only meat and cheese. Jerry, on the other hand, not only ordered a bacon double cheeseburger the size of a gopher, he also asked the waitress to bring the onions, peppers, and mushrooms that would have been on my sandwich. Now, I took a bite of my blandwich, consisting of bread, meat, and cheese that I can only describe as funny in taste and consistency. Not funny-haha, this was bad funny, like cheese left over from the Reagan administration. After my second bite, I began to feel rather ill.

After Jerry finished his dinner and the food that Jenda didn't finish, I insisted that we leave. I told Jerry that I felt funny and that I thought there was something wrong with the cheese.

"Maybe it was WIC cheese, or as they say in the South, Gub'ment cheese....bwahaha! Anyway, take an Alka-Seltzer when we get home. You'll be fine." Now those of you who know me know that Alka-Seltzer is my cure-all. I take it, holding my nose and gagging it down because it works. But in this particular case, it didn't work, and I knew I was in trouble.

Fast forward two weeks and that damn depression era cheese had blocked things up worse than the line for the Halal cart at 53rd and 6th. (My New Yorker friends know what I mean!) It was not pretty. Hell, I can't even say it was ugly. Nothing happened. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I finally reached the point where I had to call out sick to work to go to the doctor, and imagine my humiliation having to tell the triage nurse what was wrong. My stomach was SO bloated that the doctor insisted on doing a pregnancy test before the x-ray because he was convinced that I was about to give birth to ten pound triplets. And yes, there was thirty pounds of somethin' in there, but I knew he wouldn't want to be the one to deliver it!

When I came back from the x-ray, the doctor was amazed. He turned to my husband and said, "I can't believe how backed up she is. There seems to be some sort of intestinal blockage," to which Jerry replied, "Yeah, she's full of shit....hahaha!"

Fortunately, we were already at the doctor's office so they were able to treat his wounds immediately. While Jerry was having my foot removed from his ass, the doctor suggested that I take an over-the-counter fiber supplement to get things back to normal, and he assured me that I would be feeling better by the next day. It turns out he was talking shit.

After another 48 hours of agony, during which time I tried Castor oil, fiber-laden beverages, and pretty much anything else out there, I sent Jerry back to the drug store and told him to empty Jenda's college fund and buy everything he could get. Strangely, he came home with a single bottle of something. What is this, I asked?

"I went to the pharmacist. I told him your symptoms, then I told him your name and showed him your picture. We had a good laugh and he told me that you should drink this stuff. It's called magnesium citrate."

Suffice it to say that they give this liquid nastiness to proctology patients because it cleans things out. Unfortunately, it also makes Alka-Seltzer taste like a glass of Dom Perignon. Nonetheless, I drank it down and hoped for the best. Be careful what you pray for....

About an hour or so later, with no warning, I knew that Judgment Day was at hand. I barely made it to the bathroom. Fortunately, I did make it, but unfortunately, I didn't have a seat belt to hold me down, because I almost took off like that guy in the movie 'The Rocketeer.' Talk about being cleaned out...Martha Stewart could perform my first colonoscopy. But it's all good, I feel much better, I finally read 'War and Peace' cover to cover, and Jerry finally repainted the downstairs bathroom.

Per the doctor's orders, I take my various vitamins and peculiar potions and eat a fiber fortified diet. I try to get in some exercise (somedays, I try harder than others) and I eat a diet rich in whole grains and fiber. Of course, I still haven't given up my Kendall Jackson on occasion.

I have enough crap to deal with!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor, Real or Imagined

It occurred to me recently that my family and I have been in North Carolina for just under four years and I think I am finally adjusting to life in my small town. Sitting in traffic the other day, I marveled at all of the other cars on the road, until I remembered that this amount of traffic in Ft. Lauderdale would have made me wonder where the Hell all the people were!

The adjustment process has not always been easy for me. For example, in Florida, all of the ground is sand. It's a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water so it stands to reason. And I could grow ANYTHING in sand; tropical plants and palms, African Bush daisies and Cuban buttercups. When we sold our townhouse and moved to NC, our real estate remarked that our house looked like all of the others but no one else had our curb appeal. And she was right. I assumed that it was because I was a SOUTHERNER, thus a natural born gardener, but it turns out I was wrong. I'm not good at gardening OR being Southern.

We moved here and settled on life in a small town in what is known as 'The Heart of the Triad.' We had no sooner moved in than our neighbors showed up in droves with food and baked goods, invitations to their homes and solicitations to their various churches. We were a bit surprised but absolutely charmed, and very grateful for their kindness. We still are. Of course these thoughtful gestures made me realize to my horro that I am not really a true Southerner. Not even relocating from the southernmost part of the United States allowed me to join their midst, because we had to move north to live in 'The South.' For example, we heard that one of the houses in our neighborhood had recentlsold, so we would be getting some new neighbors. Naturally, I wanted to get all neighborly and take them some yummy baked goods. I mentioned my intentions to hubby Jerry and he was in agreement, which is a blessing since he is a wonderful cook and I, well, it's just not a talent I possess. Imagine my horror when Jerry showed up from the store, ready to meet the new neighbors with a store-bought lemon bundt cake from the day-old bin at Food Lion!!

Please tell me that you have something better to offer our new neighbors. This here is the SOUTH, Jerry. Day old bundt cake ain't gonna cut it!

"No. It's still soft. It'll cut fine. It'll be fine. Really."

It'll be fine IF the new neighbors relocated here from New Jersey, but if they are from anywhere near the Mason-Dixon line, we're going to be the laughingstock of North Carolina. Assuming we're not already, which I think we are.

That notwithstanding, we marched over to the new place, like some perverse General Sherman (redundant!) burning a swath to the coast. Of course the new neighbors were from Georgia or Tennessee so they took one look at our stale-ass bundt cake and immediately pegged us for freaks. Yankee Freaks!!! Okay. I guess they were smarter than I thought.

So I spent all of our money on every Paula Deen cookbook in existence and used all of our food for casseroles. I made casseroles for births, deaths, and everything in between. I made dishes with hot peppers and peppy dishes for hot flashes. I almost felt sorry for Jerry when he came home one night and said "Ummmm....something smells wonderful! What's for dinner?"

Ramen noodles.

"What?! Something smells heavenly!"

Yes, and if you touch it, I'll send you to Heaven. I am prepared for anything; pregnancy, childbirth, death, graduation, divorces, and menopause. And whatever our neighbors come up with, I have a casserole for it. So don't touch anything in the freezer. I don't have anything prepared for killing your own spouse!

Anyway, I felt that I had gotten a handle on the whole greet-your-neighbors-with-a-dish thing, until I met someone who I just couldn't get a handle on. Strangely, all of my neighbors knew him. In fact, everyone in town knew him except me, and I vowed to find my way into his inner sanctum.

His name was Mamanem.

He was a very popular sort. I assumed he was the mayor or something because his name to everyone in town, in fact, in the entire state. I first became familiar with him by talking to the people I met....

"We're busy tonight. Gonna go see Mamanem."

Okay. Cool.

And then, " We all gone go to church this Sunday with Mamanem. We'll see you later."

It hit me that Mamanem was a non-denominationalChristianBaptistMethodistMoravianLutheranHolyroller. In fact, he attended every church in town except for the little Episcopal church around the corner that Jerry and I attend. I know he didn't go to our church because I excitedly asked one of our fellow parishioners, Is Mamanem here today?

"No, Mamanem's at the the Baptist church, but thanks for askin'!"

Uh, sure. Give Mamanem my best regards.

Enlightenment came in the form of a rather glaring miscommunication, well, no, just a giant gaffe. I was talking to one of my neighbors one day and after she mentioned Mamanem, I indicated that I would surely love to meet the amazing and wildly popular Mamanem. She looked puzzled.

"Y'all met Mamanem at little Lucy Rae's birthday party. 'Member?"

Jerry flashed me a warning look. You know, the one that means 'shut up' and the one that I rarely heed? Anyway, this time, I obeyed. Oh yes, I 'member now. Ha ha....

Jerry leaned over and whispered, "He isn't a HE. It's MAMA AND THEM, spoken in deep Southern.

Oh Lord. Actually, no, OOOH LAWD! I could hardly call myself a true Southerner and not be acquainted with Mamanem. How could I have missed that?! Most of my ancestors come from the Deep South, but somehow I missed the boat. Lawd, bless my heart!

So here I am, desperate to get in touch with my Southern roots, and unfortunately, the ones in my hair don't count. My summer reading list now consists of everything ever written by Paula Deen, Ernest Matthew Mickler's 'White Trash Cookin' and the John Deere catalog. I have given up Chardonnay for Mint Juleps, and I am trying my hand at canning and cooking.

If I'm successful, y'all come on over for supper. Bring y'all's Mamanem!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

For Duck, a Simple Offering

Writing has been a creative outlet for me. I try to find humor in the crazy situations that life puts in my path, and I want my works to make people laugh, but that isn't always possible. Truth be told, I am not laughing very much this week. Losing a beloved colleague and dear friend just isn't that funny to me. I got the sad news that my friend Donald McNeill passed away last Friday. I guess it's just part of that strange duality of life and death; Donald could always make me laugh. His passing has brought me to tears.

I had the privilege of working with Donald for about three years, but such was his personality that I feel like I've known him my whole life. Donald was a very warm person and such a vital presence. He always had a kind word, and even if he was picking on you in his rather snide way, it was always in good fun, and he could take shit as good as he could give it. His nickname was Duck, and initially, I thought it was because his name was Donald, but I came to learn that it was because the teasing of his colleagues rolled off his back, and he was always ready with a snappy comeback. I worked with him in a call center and any time he would refer an irate caller to me, I would huff and say, "Donald, I know you did what you could to tell the customer what can be done, but they don't believe you because you're TOO DAMN NICE!" And he would agree and then say, "That's why I am referring them to you because you're SO DAMN MEAN!" Sadly, that is not a point I could ever argue. It's just one of my character flaws. Get over it.

At any rate, his acerbic with not withstanding, he always had something nice to say to me, and in fact, when I was in his presence, I felt like I was the wittiest, most beautiful woman alive. Of course as I got to know him better, I realized that neither point was necessarily true since he made EVERY woman feel that way. In short, he was an outrageous flirt. Looking back, I am not sure that outrageous is a strong enough word. But I digress.

Inasmuch as he was a terrible tease, he also recognized character traits that deserved acknowledgement in his friends. While I personally collect character flaws the way some people collect fine china, one of my habits is humming to myself. What can I say, some people bite their fingernails. I did for years until my father told me that all of my chewed up fingernails were being stored in my appendix, which would rupture any day. Of course this is the same man that told me that mayonnaise comes from those giant cockroaches when you step on them, so I should have just ignored him. And some people smoke cigarettes, or drink wine....oh, wait. Nevermind.

So Donald heard me humming a happy tune and at the outset of our friendship, he began calling me 'Hummingbird.' Chances are he probably forgot my real name, but Hummingbird became my moniker and I can honestly say that while I have been called many thing in my life, most of which do not bear repeating here, 'Hummingbird' was one of the nicest and kindest meant. Happily, I have a decent sense of pitch and Donald and I had the same taste in music, so for that I loved him all the more.

It was some time into our friendship before I knew that he was ill, and it is a testament to his wonderful spirit that he kept his smile in place, and kept batting his eyes at all of us crazy females. But he had a serious side. He loved his job, and he cared for his coworkers and leaders. He actually grasped the fact that life is precious and fleeting, and he really lived each day to the fullest. Whatever his flaws and foibles, his wry sense of humor and ability to have fun made you forgive him, and made you feel better about yourself.

I am blessed to have many friends, and I hope that the remainder of my life brings me many more dear friends. But the beauty and tragedy of this is that there will never be another Donald. I suppose that goes without saying. I miss my friend, moreover, I miss the way his humor and kindness made me feel. My grief is selfish, but my gratitude is boundless. The fact is, many people have called me a Dodo bird, and sometimes, I have to eat crow. And it will probably never happen again, but no one else ever called me a hummingbird.

Thanks, Duck.