05. November 2006 · Comments Off on Friends Helping Friends · Categories: Ain't That America?, Eat, Drink and be Merry, Home Front, Pajama Game

I learned a couple of months ago that a close colleague had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that apparently is somewhat advanced. He has been undergoing chemo and radiation therapy in the hopes of reducing the tumor to an operable size. He is a fairly young man in his thirties, and recently married to a wonderful woman with two children. She was previously married and involved, respectively, with two men not particularly stable spousal material.

In order to help with the expenses and reduced disability income, several people at work organized a benefit that RHG, Real wife and I attended last night. The festivities began with a Midwestern hog roast. Loyal Readers may recall that I am a great fan of New England clambakes, but a hog roast comes close (a real Texas barbecue is on my list of things to do). How can you beat a locally slaughtered whole hog cooked over an open fire served with homemade potato salad and baked beans? We then had about an hours worth of live music by a local band composed of forty and fifty something year old rockers. Other musicians of local notoriety shared the stage throughout the night – all very good. Yours truly demurred (all I can really play well is the opening riff of Over the Hills and Far Away). The band then took a break for a couple of hours and hundreds of donated items were auctioned. Loyal Readers may also recall that I am a sucker for auctions, having furnished much of my home at local antique sales. A silent auction was held throughout the evening for numerous other items. Then the band played on until about one a.m.

The person for whom the benefit was held, in cahoots with another colleague, started Hawaiian Shirt Friday a couple of years ago. I think that the original reason was to give our then-clueless management something to be paranoid about, although I cannot confirm that to have been the motivation. In any case, a dedicated group of us wear the most outrageously hideous Hawaiian shirts every Friday, winter included. I have a nice supply of Havana Jack silk shirts purchased at a Kohl’s clearance sale, although many of the guys have found that ebay offers the ugliest. In any case, Hawaiian shirts and leis were the attire of choice for the evening.

Attendance was, in a word, unbelievable. Fire department occupancy regulations were broken. Former colleagues came from as far as San Diego and North Carolina. Real Wife and I were fortunate in finding a table early with another couple, and there were plenty of other early and pre-teens for RHG to hang out with (thereby precluding the agony of hanging out with Mom and Dad). Real Wife was a little stressed about not being able to have a cigarette given the presence of her students, until I pointed out that the parking lot was a side door away. Given the upcoming auction, we limited our intake to two bottles each of Old Milwaukee Light (the beer of the gods); RHG had sufficient ID to drink Shirley Temples. As is usually the case, the auction brought some outrageous bidding, with a strawberry pie and can of Cool-Whip going for $500. The buyer, a former irreverent (I mean Monty Python irreverent) engineer now working in San Diego, then auctioned it again – offering his face as a target for said pie. Two hundred dollars later the offer was accepted and consummated. For my part, I bought a beautiful set of red-oak mission style end tables crafted by one of our more woodworking-gifted engineers. My friend who has cancer comes from a family of Midwestern dirt track racers (You may be familiar with the Outlaw genre – open cockpit with huge V-8s and lots of wing), so the organizers requested auction items from various NASCAR teams. Almost without exception they responded with t-shirts and hats which, in these parts, are considered uniform of the day. The number 8 is huge in these parts, and it brought the biggest money.

My friend was having a good day as far as the effects of the various therapies, and was therefore able to attend. You will never find a more self-effacing, kind, and true-hearted individual. His wife, when recently asked how she was holding up, replied that he saved her life, and now it was her duty to save his. Before I left, I caught a glimpse of him standing alone, worn and tired, but yet watching lovingly at the hundreds of people who had gathered to help him and his family. It was a moment of indescribable sadness for me, knowing that the odds do not favor him. Nonetheless, I admired him for the fact that he has led his life in such a manner that so many people would come from all over the country to support him. How many of us can lay claim to that?

What have I learned from my friend? Drink milk, be an optimist, listen to what others have to say, be anxious to learn what others would teach you, and finally, be an optimist.

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