I had the greatest co-worker.
He came with an interesting backstory. He was born in Cyprus, abandoned with two siblings in an empty lot next to the US embassy there, in the 100 plus degree heat. A couple who worked at the State Department adopted all three of them, and eventually brought them to the U.S where, through a series of events, they placed him gently into our care. He had a European passport and frankly, a bit of an accent at first. We had to pronounce his name the Greek way, to get him to pay attention to us. We Americanized him over time, though.
Every morning after the family left for the day, when it was time to hit the paycheck treadmill, I’d say, “Let’s go to work.” The enthusiasm my co-worker showed when it was time to start our workday – jumping to his feet, spinning in a couple of circles, taking the staircase down toward the home office so fast that it was not uncommon for him to simply leap the last six steps and almost crash into the couch – was breathtaking, and inspirational. I love writing, but his job – watching me write – HE LOVED THAT FREAKING JOB.
To a point. And that point was 11 a.m. Thereafter, he needed both of us to be outside hiking, regardless of weather. Particularly in the first five years we worked together, when his energy level was “Lunatic Asylum Escapee.”
It settled down a bit, eventually, but still. By 11 am, he felt we both needed a good dose of nature. He would stare, whine, and finally just sit down next to me like a total creeper until I couldn’t work anyway and agreed to come with him. I benefited from his resolve and the daily dose of fresh air.
He was also, for this humor writer, an unending source of inspiration. Whether it was encounters with wild turkeys, his insistence that I translate for him, or his utter disgust when we instituted new eating rules for him, this guy made sure I always had fresh material to share with you.
He was definitely not perfect. His repeated attempts to steal my food when I had lunch at my desk bordered on workplace harassment. And his penchant for loud chewing, especially when I was on a conference call, was discourteous to say the least. I told him so. We reached a fragile detente on the subject.
But unlike most co-workers, he was the kind of guy you wanted to hang with even in your off hours. He was almost promiscuous in his friendliness, so all my friends were happy when they saw him tagging along. Dogs seemed to like him especially.
But no one, I mean no one, loved him more than my family. They couldn’t wait to see my co-worker every day, greeting him with hugs and affection when they came in the door. Even my husband, who had reason to be standoffish given his wife’s deep affection for the co-worker, was sweet to him.
Yesterday, we lost my co-worker. It was probably the brain tumor that they suspected started his seizures back in April. We were so, so, so lucky because the medicine they gave him back then allowed him to live symptom-free for five extra months. We used that time to be extra present around him and to not take him for granted. When he passed away yesterday, surrounded by his family and on the same bed where he’s worked across from me for for lo these eight years, we took comfort in knowing that he never doubted we loved him. The outpouring of affection, sympathy, and support we are receiving in the wake of his death helps immeasurably and reminds us that he had more love overflowing from him than one family could absorb.
But today, I feel so lost, staring at his empty bed across the office. I don’t want to move it even if it’s breaking my heart. I don’t feel funny. I guess it will come back, but not today. I thought instead I’d share some of his greatest hits from time we worked together, and a song that gets played at the St. Francis Day Blessing of the Beasts service at my church every year.
And now I’m going to take a long hike in the hills. Because my co-worker taught me that it always makes me feel better.
- Dog Walking and the Mobius Strip
- Developing Dog Fluency
- Perfect Dog Training
- Canine Agents of Embarrassment
- How To Maximize the Drama Inherent in a Wild Turkey Encounter
- Slo-Bowl For Sadness
- Our New Normal
RIP Achilles Kho
June 2005 – September 2015