I didn’t think I’d ever find out what happened to the guy. We’d been close for years before I hit the road but then lost touch. That said, I never stopped asking about him, hoping for good news but knowing full and well it was unlikely.
He was a friend of another cook and had worked for my family for years at two different restaurants and was there the first day I started washing dishes and doing prep at the sports bar. He taught me how to properly mop the floor and hold a knife so that I wouldn’t cut off my fingers. He also made sure that I got on and off the bus to and from work safely.
Sadly, the guy had a lot of demons in regards to drinking and drugs and I saw both the good and the bad. The bad was ugly, it was scary and I didn’t know how to handle it or help him at the time.
Still, every year around this time I start thinking about him, where he’s at, what he’s doing. I didn’t want to think about the worst-case scenario but he’d been there and it was a likely possibility that I had to come to terms with year after year.
Last week I got my answer.
Maybe I’m crazy but something just started bugging me, I had to find out. I started searching and clicking false leads before I finally found it. His obituary dated nearly 6 years ago. It’s been over a decade since I’ve seen him but it still knocked me on my ass. I read and re-read it and looked at the photo. It was him, there was no doubt at all.
My first thought was that the dude deserved better but then, after a few minutes or trying to wrap my head around, I was given a sense of both relief and gratitude. In a perfect world he would be living the good life with his grandkids and I wish that was the case. At the same time, I’m grateful to know that he died with dignity, with his family by his side and that he was loved and not alone. I’m relieved to know he’s not suffering anymore.
Here’s the odd part.
When I read his obituary, one of the first things I noticed is that it was right before his birthday. It might be a coincidence but I can’t help but feel it was him trying to give me a sense of peace and resolution. While he didn’t teach me the secret to being a Chef, he was the guy who instilled a real work ethic in me from day one and this has served me well over the years. If you’ve got to mop the floor, don’t half-ass it, make it shine. Even the most redundant bullshit tasks can be done with a sense of pride and importance even when you’re having to clean 10 pounds of shrimp. I owe the guy more than I can put in words and am just lucky as hell to have known him when I did. He’s been gone but he will never be forgotten.