My friend Steve passed away suddenly almost ten years ago. This was his favorite thing to say. He said it abruptly, right at the point when people had rounded the sympathy turn, already sure they had it, cruising on toward the next bend in the road. Hearing it always felt like that jarring feeling when there’s one more step on the down staircase than you expect.
“I have a terrible temper,” I might shake my head saying, excusing my lack of intention to do anything at all about it and pre-empting someone else commenting on my short fuse. He’d raise an eyebrow and fire right back, never missing a beat and certainly never taking the bait of my false confession. I was left gulping like a goldfish and, most of the time, moderately irritated at his unwillingness to play along with the feedback game.
Man, I miss that. What a gift to have someone in your life who doesn’t pull punches, who speaks up about the naked emperor, who tells you when the toilet paper is stuck to your heel. People like that make us better. They don’t demand that we be better, they just don’t let us sit in our complacencies when we’re perfectly capable of taking a few more steps or doing a few more reps.
I make many fewer excuses than I might had I never known Steve. I wish I had known him longer so that I would make fewer than I do. Either way, I sometimes find myself carrying the torch now, raising an eyebrow, or a hackle, here or there. Just like him, I only ever say it to my friends. Or myself.
Cheers, Steve. Rest in peace.