RIP to the Friend I Barely Knew

Almost one year ago to the day, my Godmother died. She had been sick for a very long time with an invasive cancer that chewed through her body and her spirit and finally won. My parents were in New York for Christmas, visiting from Australia where my Godmother, my fathers’ elder sister, also lived. I wept at the time, mostly for my father who felt guilty being away when the inevitable happened.

Today, I wept again; steadily and perhaps irrationally.

I returned from a festive lunch with family friends at a local Italian joint and was told our doorman for the best part of this year had died suddenly and all too young. Curtis was not just the guy who signed for my parcels or buzzed me into the building; he was the one person I chatted to daily about the weather, the kids, whatever; he played soccer with my children and chased them around outside.

Curtis was a good guy who years ago gave up the rat race after he suffered a massive heart attack. But he kept smoking – a lot. He told me once that he wished his children wouldn’t smoke, but that he had been doing it so long, he couldn’t give up now.

I expected to see him this morning when I stepped out early with my yoga mat slung over my shoulder, but the super was at the door, wearing an awkward smile. Upon returning late this evening, he said Curtis has passed earlier in the day from heart problems.

I have wept uncontrollably since, for a man I scarcely knew. I can’t spell his last name; tell you his address or his birth date. Though I know he was barely past 50.

Is it selfish that I will miss his chatter each day when I head outside, or his weather forecast before I leave, or his kind words for my children? The last exchange we had was Thursday afternoon when the kids told him silly jokes and he laughed heartily. Curtis is survived by his two grown children, one of whom also works in our building. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.

Happenings like this make me embrace New York even more. We have had so many doormen and maintenance men through the years, many whom my children have become attached to. There was Angel who helped my son build a robot dragon; Robert who joked around with the kids and snuck them candy when they thought I wasn’t looking, and Anthony, who told my daughter she was beautiful and tickled my son until he giggled uncontrollably. They all left for one reason or another, probably immune to the impact their leavings had on us.

For big-city kids, and their parents, these men who earn minimum wage and work around the clock, are the equivalent of uncles or close family friends. They are often times a link to people and cultures we might not otherwise get to know.

Most importantly, they are friends. Rest in peace Curtis, we will miss you.

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