Thoughts on Losing a Friend

I was stunned when I found out a former co-worker had died of cancer this past week. I didn’t know he was sick, but he was a private person so it’s not surprising that few knew what he was battling. Before I retired, I worked with him closely on a big project that lasted for a couple of years. It was a pleasant experience, but it wasn’t always that way.
When Bob first came, he struck me as rude and overbearing in his manners. I didn’t like him and no one else did either. My fellow writers and I knew that sooner or later, he’d need a report done, and we talked about who would “get” him. When the time came, I drew the short straw and was the writer who had to work closely with him to produce several reports for his project.
I dreaded it until one day it came out that he was from New Jersey. It was like a light bulb came on, and I understood where Bob was coming from. I’ve met folks from back east, and they are nothing like us Westerners. They’re boisterous, loud, and outspoken. Bob wasn’t being rude or crass; he was being a guy from New Jersey. After I understood that, I worked with him easily, and I even learned to appreciate how he managed the project. I might as well admit it, I liked the guy.
Bob gave me full rein to write the reports as I thought they should be done. He let me do my own research for the reports. I love doing research so this was a dream-come-true project. He was a hands-off manager too which I loved. Give me a job and I’ll do it without anyone standing behind me. Together Bob and I put out five or six reports that went out to the state and federal offices and the public. Bob never got to retire. He was older than me, but loved to work.
I’ll always remember Bob because he taught me to look beyond the crassness for a reason why a person may be that way. We have a lot of regionalism in this country. I’ve always lived out West so I’m used to western people and manners. People back east talk funny and have unusual ways. They have different manners and values than Westerners do. Neither of us is better than the other. We’re all Americans, and we have our own subcultures. In the 240 years since we declared our independence, we’ve learned to live together. I hope that string continues.

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