Yesterday I learned of the death, over three years ago, of a former colleague.
The news saddened me but it certainly wasn’t surprising or shocking. He was much older than I, and it is a fact that the ranks are thinning in both our age groups.
Some years ago Ernest was the budget officer and I the head of the Accounting Branch in our Miami regional office. Ernest was the quiet type; even tempered, reserved and polite – a real gentleman. He was also very bright and competent in his job. His wife, Maggie, was his polar opposite in personality – a Latin bombshell, from one of the old Spanish families in Tampa, Florida. They were quite a combo. I’m sure that she added spice to his life, and he brought order to hers.
One day Ernest told me and our boss, the Financial Manager, that Maggie was pregnant. He was extremely embarrassed about it. They were each in their mid-forties and their youngest child was 14. Baby was certainly neither planned nor expected. He asked us to keep the news a secret. He was convinced that the ladies in the office would be kidding him unmercifully and he wanted no part of that. Although we thought he was being overly sensitive about the matter, we agreed.
Months later, shortly after arriving at the office one morning, Ernest got a call from Maggie announcing that baby’s arrival was imminent. So Ernest headed home to take Maggie to the hospital. It happened to be the day of our weekly staff meeting, and as we all gathered in the conference room at 10:00 AM Ernest’s chair was obviously empty.
One of my accountants, a lady in her late 50’s asked, “Where’s Ernest? I thought I saw him come in this morning.”
Without thinking, I blurted out, “Oh, he had to leave. Maggie called and said she was ready.”
The lady, with a shocked expression, eyes as big as saucers, exclaimed, “READY FOR WHAT?!”
Needless to say, the ladies in the office were well pissed at Ernest, as well as the two of us, for keeping the news from them for all those months. But the vision remained in all our minds of quiet, mild mannered Ernest rushing home at the call of his Latin sex kitten!