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.