Steep

That’s the word on my favorite tea mug (from Starbucks, of course) – steep. Appropriate for the mug of a serious tea drinker, isn’t it? This week, though, it seems appropriate to more than tea leaves.

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A few days ago, I found out a friend of mine had been killed in a car accident. Yes, I think I’d call him a friend. He was the former owner of one of the businesses I work for – he and his wife hired me almost ten years ago to work for them, on a very part-time basis. George was known for being a little curmudgeonly in the shop, and most of the technicians had had run-ins with him at one time or another. But I never saw that George. I saw a kind, gentle, introspective man looking to find his way in the world. He seemed to be constantly searching for ways to make himself a better man – he was fully aware of his own shortcomings. He’d tell me stories about his life and his experiences, his first wife and kids. He told me how he met his second wife, and how she had helped him recover from a life-altering accident that had put him into early retirement from the railroad. He told me of his childhood in eastern Oregon, and how much he loved it over there. He always wanted to know how my boys were doing, laughing and commiserating about parenting woes with me.

He wasn’t perfect. He had demons, and he had a temper. He loved hot rods and restoring them, but he hated being in a situation where customers complained about the cost of a completely hand-made, one-of-a-kind car. He felt most people couldn’t see the big picture and didn’t appreciate what they were getting. It was that business aspect that led him to sell the company and truly retire, though he still loved fixing up the cars and making them shiny. I would often tell him to ‘find his happy place’ when a customer aggravated him, which always made him smile and relax.

I had only minimal contact with George over the last few years since he sold the business to one of his employees. I heard things through the grapevine, though, both good and not so good. But he was still a presence in the business, and still someone I respected and liked. His death this week seems senseless, and yet oddly fitting, as he was driving his beloved restored 1958 Chevy when he was in the accident. George would have turned 70 in December.

We’re all on a journey. Some of us get an easy path with few obstacles, some of us have to climb mountains just to see the next day.

George’s path was a steep one.

Peace to you, my friend. I hope you’re in your happy place.

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