I recognized the number in the Caller ID as being one of the "Tall Building" law firms here in town. I figured it was probably one of lawyer buddies from the world of work. Probably wanted to get some lunch. I was wrong.
"I swear. You are the hardest son of a bitch to find in Little Rock," said the voice of an elderly man.
"Well, there's no longer any particular need for anybody to find me," I said. "To whom do I have the pleasure of talking to?"
Turns out that the voice on the other end belonged to a much beloved gentleman who is greatly prominent in banking and the legal community around here. I know him just a little. But he is the kind of guy that knows everybody. And how to find anybody.
"I read your essay in the paper about you retiring from the government. I thought I would try to get in touch with you. See how you're doing."
" Well, it's kind of surreal," I said. "I don't know what to make of it right now."
"And you can't. Not right now. How old are you?"
"See, that's young. I retired 3 times in my career. I'm proof you can have more than one career in your life if you keep your health. Anyway, they let me have a little office up here. But they don't let me stay very long during the day on account of I have a terminal illness."
"Oh my God. I am so sorry. I had no idea.?"
"Yeah. Old age. I'm 88. Anyway, 55 is nothing. You'll be OK. You'll find something to do. I don't want you to have a worried mind."
"I won't," I bravely replied. " I mean, I got a job offer just last week."
"Don't take it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said don't take it."
"Well, I only brought it up because it's an encouraging sign."
"Of course it is. But don't take it."
"Oh. Well, I didn't. Although I was quite flattered."
"You aren't married are you?"
"Didn't think so. There are 3 things you don't need to be doing right now while your trying to get your bearings. You don't need to get married. You don't need to buy real estate. And you don't want to take a job just yet. Not unless it's something that you really, really want to do. And I would think long and hard about it before I committed to it. But in general, this is not the time to make any big decisions."
"I don't plan on doing any of those things any time soon, Sir."
"I want you to call me next week. I want to buy you lunch and we'll have a good talk about your next step."
"I would like that very much. I will call you next week."
And with that we hung up.
As I have written, I don't know what the future holds. But I think it's going to be OK. All I know is that although I have stumbled here and there I have been supported and nudged along by the best friends a man can possibly have. I am truly blessed far beyond what I either expected or deserve.
I look forward to lunch next week with my crusty old friend. I am fortunate beyond measure to still have a wise elder with whom I can confer.
They say that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. It's going to be OK.
"Oh hell yes it is, Paul," my friend said. "Hell yes. It's going to be just fine."
The student is ready.