A co-worker got married a few weeks ago. He married the woman with whom he had been living for about thirty years.
I've known the man for over twenty years. Should I call him a friend? It's hard to say. You spend so much time at work. You spend more time with coworkers than family. I know many of mine better than I know my own brother. But we only see each other at work. We don't go out for drinks or movies. We don;t invite each over to our houses, or to join in our celebrations. We know each other because we have to know each other. We see each other only because we have to.
And yet, this guy is a little different. For years, one of the few things, possibly the only thing I looked forward to when coming to work on a Monday was to hear this guy's crazy stories of what he did on the weekend. Stories like this one. I hate this place but sometimes I could laugh here, and that was mainly due to him.
He hasn't been here for over a year now. Doctors found a benign tumour on his kidney about two years ago. It weighed about fourteen pounds. The kidney and tumour was removed, and he recovered fairly quickly, all things considered. He returned to work. Then they found tumours in his lungs. While treating them, they found one in his brain. They put him on some radical experimental treatment, and he was gone from work.
The last I saw of him was last February. I briefly visited the funeral home where his mother lay. He was surrounded by family, so I could not speak to him as I hoped. I paid my respects to the dead and left. He chased me down and met me in the hallway. The news was good, he said. He was clear of tumours again. He should be back to work in March. He wasn't. They found new tumours, now on his spine and elsewhere. He went back onto the treatment. That was the last we heard of him until he announced his marriage.
With the out of the blue announcement of his marriage he sent along a photograph. He is seated and his wife stands beside him. They are both smiling and happy in a a garden. He actually looks pretty good. The women who worked here with him took this as a good sign, a sign that he is recovering and looking forward to the future. They want to believe in love and happy endings. I looked at the photograph and saw that she was wearing a dress that she had probably bought a few years ago. It was more of the kind of dress that she would wear to someone else's wedding rather than her own. He was wearing a suit that looked as though he had bought it forty pounds ago. The chair he is sitting in is the kind you see at hospitals and the garden is the kind of garden they plant at hospitals. They didn't wait until he was well enough to leave the hospital to marry, and I can only conclude that it is because he is not leaving it.
With the announcement of his marriage he has lapsed again into silence. His e-mail account is dormant. They have not told us what hospital he is at. Visitors may not be something they want, as chemo compromises the immune system badly. We can't go and see him, to congratulate him, or wish him well, or say good-bye.
I don't know why he suddenly agreed to marriage. Perhaps he wanted to make her happy and give her something she had wanted. Perhaps he wanted to make his will and his death benefits as airtight as possible. Perhaps both. Probably a bit of both, plus other matters of which I know nothing. I am happy that he finally did marry her, and I am happy for both of them. He is a good man, better than me in many ways. He was a caring son to his parents, even though they were not always caring parents to him. He has no children of his own, but was always a doting and loving uncle, and they will tell stories of their larger than life and sometimes insane uncle to their own children.
My friend is dying.