Thursday, January 5, 2012

Comings and Goings

The boxes are everywhere throughout the suite. Outside the entrance to my office, they are stacked in 2 columns, each standing as tall as I do. In the conference room, one corner is filled. My room has smaller piles, scattered all over. Each box has specific information as to its contents. There is an unmistakable message here. After nearly a quarter of a century, I am moving out.

This is not a story about where I am going, but where I have been and with whom I have shared this time. I am leaving with sadness, and with a small knot in the pit of my stomach.  And with a deep sense of gratitude to my suite-mate who took me in so many years ago, and made life here so easy and pleasant .

Bob had long ago been in partnership with another attorney who had the good sense to abandon the practice of law and open up a bar and restaurant at the Jersey shore. The space formerly occupied by the restauranteur was vacant when I placed my call.

Bob and I  had several mutual acquaintances, not the least of whom was my uncle, a tennis player who shared one of those 6 or 8 to a group time slots with Bob. Soon after my call I was occupying the larger office, with all the furniture left behind during what I perceived was a hasty exit by prior counsel from the clients and the headaches.

I came with my own set of eccentricities, and ,oh-by-the-way, my wife.For almost the entire time since I started my solo practice in 1984,  Jo has been compelled to deal with me on virtually a 24 hour per day basis. I can only imagine that it was with some trepidation that Bob greeted a married couple working together.And sometimes, though rarely, Jo and I have acted more like spouses then we should in this setting. Yet, Bob never once  made us feel that maybe we had stepped over some boundary.

Shortly after we arrived, Jo and I came to work one morning to find several arrangements of flowers. When I asked Bob what it was all about, he said he was getting married in this suite later in the day. Jo had sweat-clothes on but it mattered not. And sure enough, that afternoon, a judge appeared and performed the wedding ceremony.  And then, I am quite certain,  the next morning Bob went back to work.

Our interaction, outside the confines of these walls has been limited. He has gone out to lunch with his crowd through the years (although I have always been invited to join them) while Jo and I have done our own, often much more truncated version of a mid-day break.  We have spent several weekends together either at the beach or in the Berkshires. On one particularly memorable occasion, poor Bob and his bad knees were forced into a Nussbaum marathon of exercise from which I am certain he took weeks to recover. But our friendship was never forced or contrived to conform to any notion of what should be.

If you asked Bob, I am sure the most unfortunate aspect of our relationship has occurred in the last several years. During that time, I have perceived myself as an undiscovered writer and have alienated almost all my friends, and certainly my family, with my constant and unrelenting need to share my writing with them, and to elicit their unqualified praise. One by one, they have managed to shake free from my grasp. But not Bob.  Upon his arrival in the morning, if I have created what I perceive to be my latest masterpiece, and I always believe that to be so, Bob is instantaneously accosted. Often, his coat is not even hung up and I am directing him to read, or even worse, to listen to what I have set forth. With no hint of disdain, nor ever a questionable comment, he has read and listened. And even to this day, when I know that he would dearly like to ask me to find another victim, he soldiers on.

He is, in one word, a gentleman. In over 23 years,  neither Jo nor I have had even one disagreement with him. No arguments, no raised voices, no hints of trouble. I have not once heard him in heated discussions with anyone in his office, or on the phone. Unfortunately, he would not be able to say the same for me. He is as relentlessly nice as a person could be. And he has made this office a comfortable home for me and Joanne.

So, when the last box is removed and the key handed back, it will be hard for me. Hard to say goodbye to everything that happened within these walls. Hard to believe I will ever be able to duplicate the quiet and calm that permeated the office next to me. Hard to find someone else who is willing to put up with everything that is me, with such grace and dignity.  And impossible to believe I will give proper thanks to  the man who remains behind.

1 comment:

Robert said...

I must comment on my own post. I was unintentionally ambiguous as to the hows and whys of my move. As a result, many of my friends have contacted me directly, concerned as to what I was not saying.

I am merely moving to other quarters, as Bob is threatening to enter the next phase of his life, retirement, in the immediate future.

The benefit of my being imprecise was that I got a chance to catch up with friends as far away as Florida and California.

Thanks to all for caring, and also for bothering to read what I have to say, almost 700 posts into this exercise.