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One of the Good Guys

I mentioned him in my last post.

Tom Dhoore was his name. I sat in the desk next to him for two-and-a-half years in my office in Seattle. He was my supervisor, my friend and my confidant.

Whenever I had a writing success, Tom was right there to pat me on the back and drive me forward. Whenever I was upset at work, Tom was right there beside me to help me get through my irrational anger or to resolve the stupidity that gave me stress.

He went through hell the last year I was in Seattle. His son was a National Guard reservist and spend eighteen months in Iraq flying helicopters. Every time a news flash came through about another downed helicopter, Tom held his breath until he found out that it was another unit, or another branch of the service, or not his son. When his son finally came back from the war and married a waiting sweetheart, a burden lifted from Tom's shoulders and I thought he could finally be happy. Tom got to see his son married and his grandchild born.

When the Seattle office branch closed, I cried on my way out the door. I knew I wouldn't get to take smoke breaks with him anymore. I knew that I'd probably never even get to see him again. But at least I knew that now he could go and enjoy his retirement from the thankless profession that had caused him so much stress over the course of his life.

Tom loved blackjack. He was also terrible at it. I can't count the number of times I sat with him explaining basic strategy and card counting. He'd nod his head and drill me over and over on the principles. Then he'd go to Vegas, start winning, then throw strategy to the wind. "I like the rush," he'd say with a shrug as I chastised him for blowing it once again. We'd both share a laugh, and even though I knew he'd do the same thing next time, I still started again with the lessons a few weeks before his next excursion.

Two months after the Seattle branch closed, Tom was diagnosed with liver cancer. The doctors gave him six to eight months. Two months later, they revised the estimate down to six to eight weeks. He'd been a drinker all of his life and no matter what anyone said to him, he wouldn't give up his wine in the evenings.

Monday night, Tom passed away in his sleep at the age of sixty-three. He was surrounded by family and was not in pain. He'd been sleeping most of the week, heavily medicated.

Tom was one of the good guys.

He always had a smile to share, or a story to tell, or an arm to put around your shoulder.

He didn't get to enjoy his retirement. For that, I'm more angry than my meager ability with words will allow me to express. For the fact that he wasn't in pain, I'm eternally grateful.

Goodbye, buddy. I'll miss you every day.

Don't forget to split the eights.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.

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