I heard a funny story recently. Where I currently work, an elderly man used to work there before me. He had passed away of cancer just months before I was hired. He was the Site Superintendent, and he worked straight into his late 70’s, never retiring, simply because he loved his career in construction so much. I was told that he was a particular man, always well dressed, well groomed, well spoken. He walked around the site in a suit. And he was calm. Very calm. The building at the site could be falling down, and he would simply lift a hand, give a pleasant nod, and say, “We’ll fix it.”
I saw a glimpse of this man, his work, and the era he came from based off yellowing sheets of paper. Where, instead of an excel spreadsheet and the computer savviness of my current generation, his work was done with a ruler and pencil that marked off values and prices in even rows and neat numbers. They were reminiscent of a time where math, tidiness, and school book formatting were of utmost importance. I was in awe of him simply seeing a piece of paper like that passed into the room, where my colleagues continued to review his work for brief reference. It was like looking at the most professional handwritten homework that could have been submitted in a classroom, from an era before.
I really know nothing of him. But his name is brought up often, and with reverence, with respect.
Recently, another Superintendent that once worked with him told me the funny story which prompted this post. He said that before passing away, this elderly gentleman would- every single day, receive from his wife seven items before going to work. These items included his keys, his wallet, his grapes…
I wish I knew the other four items, but I don’t. But a piece of story like that makes me see the order in the life this man must have led with his wife. As well as the humour. To me, it is like a fairy tale where a repetitive number often signifies something vitally important in the story line. If this elderly man ever came to work and discovered he was missing any one of his seven items, he would call his wife and chide her, only to call her back afterwards and comfort her with gentle words.
When I hear stories like this of people who have passed away…they make me smile, and they make me sad. Everyone says I would have loved him. I think I would have liked him very much. And I do wish I could have met him. But I had just missed him.