Monday, November 29, 2010

Absent Friends, Empty Lockers

A blog doesn’t write itself, but there are times I wish it would. This is one of them.

Several weeks ago, we lost a driver. His name was Don, and he'd been with us for a couple of years. He was brought into our employment by his wife, Audrey, who also drives. Previously the employees we'd had named "Don" had all been as dumb as a box of rocks. So much so that at one point we imposed a moratorium on hiring men named "Don", just because the quality of Dons we'd experienced had been so incredibly subpar.

This Don was the exception to that rule.

Don was a quiet man, quick with a funny quip, there to assist if you needed help, and always willing to pitch in where needed. He had a gentle hand with the horses, and took exceptional care with his favorite co-worker, Libby. We were shocked by his unexpected passing of a heart attack, and his absence has left a hole in our small tribe.

And we not only lost Don, but Audrey has decided to be taken off the schedule for the time being. We're patient people; we know she’ll be back when she feels the time is right. And we'll welcome her with open arms when she returns.

Every once in a while I find myself saying, "Damn it, Don."

It's a reaction to his not being there. He wasn't there when I needed a roll of electrical tape to wrap my shafts with. He was tall, and wasn't there to help those of us like myself who are vertically challenged and need stuff from high places. He wasn't there when we were trying to figure out the best person to send to South Gate to place our traffic cones prior to the mayhem we knew Black Friday would be. He wasn't there when I had to change the time on my very confusing watch from Daylight-Savings-Time to Not-Daylight-Savings-Time. His turquoise truck wasn't parked in its usual spot in front of the barn when I turned the corner yesterday.

But I'll tell you where he was; He was with us when we toasted him Friday night at Dees for breakfast. He was there when we discussed how he took care of our carriage batteries. He was there when we talked about the person who would be driving Libby, wanting to make sure she was paired with a co-worker that would love her like he did. He was at South Gate with us last night when we talked about his funeral service, the moving music that reduced the most stoic of our clan to tears, and his gravesite up next to the fence in the cemetery with a great view. And he's there every time we look at the sign-up calendar for December: He was looking forward to the Christmas carriage driving season, and his signature is on every single day from November 26 to December 31. Ro couldn’t bring herself to scratch it out, so when they make up the schedule, they just work around it. And it's appropriate, because he's still with us in spirit, hanging around the carriage barn, just like he did every week from Tuesday through Saturday. And his headstone sits in the office, custom designed by the last trainee he had, waiting for spring to be set on his grave. By the time they set it, it will have acquired that special "horsey" smell we all love.

The day after Don's funeral, I ran into one of his step daughters; She thanked me again for everything the carriage company had done. For the horse drawn hearse that took Don from the church to the cemetery. For the drivers that showed up in our finest carriage driving attire. For our support in this trying time.

I replied that we hadn't done anything special. Don was part of our family too.

And damn it, we miss him.


Anonymous said...

Awww I'm sorry Lis. :(. Wish I could have met him. He must have been a big softie to fall for sweet Libby :( I'm sad for her too. I remember how she took the loss of Justice :(

Anonymous said...

Such a moving and incredible tribute.

Dreaming said...

How sad. What a wonderful man he was. Thanks for telling me about him.

rssasrb said...

So sorry. Lovely tribute to him.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for saying so well what we all feel. He will be sorely missed.

Once Upon an Equine said...

I'm sorry. Don sounds like a wonderful man. That's a beautiful headstone.

Mikey said...

So very sad to lose such a special man. I'm so glad you keep him on the schedule during this season. Beautiful headstone. What a tragic loss for your crew.

Serena said...