Fantastic

When I worked a corporate job, I became good friends with one of my co-workers. We worked in the same organization.  I honestly don’t recall what he did exactly.  He never really asked me about my job and I did not ask him about his. I am surprised now, that I just realized that. Our offices were across from one another, so we saw each other come and go during the day.

We had eight hours together within the same space of the corporate building and found moments to talk when we took our minds off our work. We spoke of enjoyable things, our family and children, what was for lunch in the company cafeteria and then we found out something that would change our days and our co-worker lives, forever.

We both had an interest in chess and when we stumbled onto this fact, we decided to play chess during lunch. I brought the board and pieces in and he was eager to set them up. He was very good and much better than I.  Come noon, the board would come out, and the games would begin.

We played and I lost. We played and I lost. I learned a few things and I lost. We had fun and the camaraderie was fantastic, as he would say.  He loved the word fantastic and used it quite often to express enjoyment of this or that. He would smile large after he said it and so would I. His love of life was contagious.

After some time, I decided to get some books and read up on strategies. I slowly started to challenge him. He would pause when he saw he was in a bind. He’d look up at me, to make sure I was the same opponent. I read and studied and soon, I would win. He was challenged. We played more and more. I would win and he would loose. I would loose and he would win. He finally said that I had gotten better, and then I confessed.

“I had to read three books to catch up with your skill level.”

He looked at me, paused and then broke out laughing in his great jovial voice. We both laughed and after a few moments, he set up the pieces, looked over and said, “Now I know who I’m dealing with.”

We played for weeks, months and years, until the corporate world started to fold, and folks were let go.  He had been with the company for a very long time and got what some would call, the golden parachute. This set him up well and he moved on, retired and planned for happily ever after.

He had a lady friend and they moved in together, into a very large house that he had built. He had an open bird aviary in his living room. It went from floor to ceiling in front of a very large wall of windows. He chose to not have doors on any of the rooms. The house was open and inviting. He enjoyed cooking and would shop daily for ingredients while his wife, a little younger than him still worked.

I visited him a couple times and we all had dinner together. His life was good. I lost touch with him as my children took my attention away from friends. I saw him a couple decades later and he was alone now.  His relationship withered and he was on his own again. He had sons who remained in his life, and he had stayed busy, traveling a bit and always interested in something, in life and smiling.

I’m back in his neck of the woods and called him today. He is in an assisted living home. I have not seen him in a long time and he is in his 90’s. He answered the phone in his jovial voice.  I said my name and he did not remember me. His mind has drifted. I mentioned our chess games and he paused, but still nothing. I said I would visit him. He thought I was asking him to visit me.  I said no, I will come to your place.

“Oh that would be great. Fantastic!”

I smiled and told him I loved when he used that word and although we were on the phone, I could see his eyes squint, and his smile beam. We said our goodbyes and I look forward to seeing him.

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