Today, a writing prompt was emailed to me from WordPress that said “write about your oldest friend.” While I know the post is probably meant to be about the friend I have known the longest, I started giggling thinking about a few men that I consider friends who are all over 65 years old.
One of them was named Bob Jordan. I met him while living in Tampa in 2008/2009 when he would come to the restaurant I worked at every single Wednesday. Bob had had a stroke several years back and could barely walk. His wife, Betty Ann would help him get to a table and they would eat lunch together. For most of their lunch, I would talk to Betty and Bob about their history and lives. They were also very interested in me. He would ask about my family and relationships with my sisters. He wanted to know about my long-distance relationship and how we were making it work. He wanted to know why I loved dolphins, and why I had decided to stop working with them. He was sincerely interested.
Most of the staff at this pretentious would barely acknowledge Bob and Betty’s existence. They treated Bob like he was mentally retarded just because he had a hard time walking and had a slightly paralyzed face. Well, their loss was my gain because I spent hours laughing at Bob’s jokes, learning about his past profession, and enjoying their company. I felt like we had a special connection, the three of us, like I was their very own granddaughter! After moving away from Tampa, I would write Bob and Betty a letter about twice a month. They loved to hear what kinds of things I was getting into in NC.
About a year and a half ago, Bob passed away. When I heard the news, I immediately grabbed some stationary and wrote the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write to Betty Ann. They had been a couple since they were 14 years old. How do you handle a loss like that? I wrote a long letter expressing my condolences and sharing memories, and sobbed the whole time. Isaac, who had never met Bob or Betty Ann, sat beside me with his arm holding me tight, tears in his eyes too. It was a really hard thing to go through, but I feel so grateful to have known Bob.
Before I moved away from Tampa, Bob showed up to my work with a signed and sealed letter. He told me to save it forever and to give it to any job I was applying to; “they need to know how great you are” he said. In the letter he raved about my attitude, professionalism, and hard-working nature. He wrote his contact information and urged anyone to call him as a reference.
Bob may not be around anymore for me or future employers to contact, but I will treasure that letter forever. It is a reminder of so many things:
- You cannot judge a person by their looks. Just because someone may appear handicapped or “different”, they may change your life
- I need to always believe in myself. Someone as wise/old/professionally experienced as Bob Jordan saw my potential and believed in me
- You are never too old to make new friends. When Bob and I became friends, I was 21 and he was around 80. To this day, I still think of our relationship as one of the truest and most influential ones I’ve had
I still miss my old friend, but cannot wait to see him again someday!