This afternoon I went for a bit of a walk to get lunch (tongue is good y'all - especially in a burrito). On my way back I ran across one of the guys who has worked at my school for... bordering on forever really. He's usually with another guy, let's call him Joe, since he's the point of my post and it would be hard to not talk about him without a name. They are both carpenter types and when I need something done, like painting my shelves or putting holes, anchors and screws in my office walls so I can decorate them, they come and help. They are such great guys. Generally really happy and sweet, even when it's a completely stupid little request. Joe always carries pictures of his grandkids with him and is full of news about his family. When the kids bought him a corvette a while back for him to race he showed me a picture of it. He's a Vietnam Vet who did a lot of jumping out of planes. He's raised a couple of his grandkids because his daughter, their mom, hasn't been in any sort of shape to raise them. He's about the nicest person I've met here, and I work with some really nice folks. Joe makes me think of the everyday hero type of guy who is working hard and has lived hard and is doing the best he can for his family. I'm always happy to see him and the inevitable smile and bad flannel jacket.
But this summer, when I had my pictures hung, it wasn't my friend Joe who showed up. It was some kid. I mean, it was some kid who works for the grounds crew who knows what he's doing but he's no Joe. In the mornings as I walk through the building towards my office, I've glimpsed, through an open door into the broom closet, a sad flannel jacket that just hung on a hook. It reminded me of Joe. Summer is a busy time for the grounds folk and so I initially put off the voice in my head wondering about Joe to the business of the season. But lately, every morning I've been reminded that I hadn't seen him and tell myself that I needed to call the folks in his department to get the story.
Because one of the things that Joe has shared with me over the past year is that his heart is causing him some problems. He's had a pacemaker for a while but there have been ongoing complications. He's been going to a doctor at the VA so the healthcare he's received hasn't been the best. Or the recommendations from his doctor hadn't been approved by the insurance. That sort of thing. I know he had put off these operations. I've been worried.
So when I saw my friend today I asked him about Joe. They're great pals so I figured he would know the scoop. Joe has been out for several months. His pacemaker "exploded" and he got a bad infection. He had to have it taken out and it wasn't replaced. He's been recovering since then.
I'm pissed at myself for not asking anyone earlier. I'm pissed at this institution because only when it's the president or some such person does it become widely known that someone had a heart attack. But not when you're just one of the folks on the grounds crew. Grr...
So everyone think good thoughts for my friend Joe. He's recovering and might be back at work in three or so weeks (because if you're on disability for too long they fire you around here - how's that for a Christian attitude?).