Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hello, Void.

I had to say goodbye today. That's not something I enjoy doing at the best of times, as I'm sure is the case for most people. And this wasn't the best of times.

Everyone in your life ends up at some level of a hierarchy, whether you admit it or not, whether you think about it consciously or not. You've got acquaintances, friends, good friends, great friends, and then you've got those people around you that you simply can't imagine not having around. Those people that, without them, would leave a massive, gaping void in your life where their presence used to be.

It was one of those friends that I had to say goodbye to today.

She's been around at just about every job I've had in the last fifteen years -- spending a few months with me at the Cariboo Advocate many, many years ago, a few years with me during my tenure at the Tribune, and most recently the last four and a half years at the Advisor.

She left for Kamloops today. Hello and new and terrifying void in my life. I imagine you and I will be getting fairly well acquainted over the next few months.

When you work beside someone that long -- and it's someone who is that dear a friend to you -- they are in your life constantly. Daily. She was around to laugh with during the good times, and around to sympathize with in the bad. And I'd be remiss if I didn't say that, through some of those bad times, it was her more than anyone else who kept me going.

She's not dead, I tell myself. She's just in Kamloops. It's not that far away. And technology these days is great -- she's got e-mail, she's got a cell phone, youc an keep in touch. What's the big deal?

What *is* the big deal?

The big deal, I think, is that keeping in touch, while nice, is nowhere near the same as being able to just randomly bump into someone in the hallway and share a quick laugh with them, or stop by their office on your way out the door and see if they want to go for a drink. These sort of casual connections you can make with someone that close to you, who is that firmly planted in your life, are among the things that people -- myself included -- take for granted, never considering that the day would one day come when it's no longer possible to just bump into them in the hallway, or stop by their office on your way out the door.

This has been weighing on me for three days now, and today it broke, with the hug, with tears, with the real, raw realization that this era we had shared together that had spanned more than a decade was over. With all of that, and with the good-bye.

I have a column still to write tonight, and an e-mail to compose after that, but I'm not looking forward to either. My head is thick and foggy and I just can't think straight. I want to be in bed or staring at the television or reading a book or doing anything other than thinking, because just about every thought right now brings me back to this situation, this loss, and this void. This void that is so fresh and new that I don't even feel it yet. I just know that it's there. And that I'll start to notice it more and more each and every day.

One of our former employees in 100 Mile House used to call the two of us "The Bickersons," joking that when we argued work-related stuff we often sounded like an old married couple. The two of us would occasionally joke that we'd stick together until our dying days, aging into cantankerous old farts who sat on the porch and yelled obscenities at the damn-fool kids who strayed too far onto our lawn.

It was a nice thought, as absurd and unrealistic as it was. Time intervenes. Life intervenes. And no matter how much time was spent being that intensely glued together, it simply wasn't going to last. Something eventually pulls one or the other away, into something new, into something different, into something better. And eventually the other finds that he or she simply can not follow along this time.

Still, it's fun to dream while the dreaming's good.

See you around, dear friend. God willing, may we be lucky enough to one day share a hallway again, where we can share a quick, random laugh. Until then, I will miss those, and the countless thousands of other moments that we've shared. Because I'm pretty sure that this void isn't going to be anywhere near as entertaining.

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