I remember the first day I met him, only because it was my first day in the office and I didn’t know what was expected of me. The day I met him however, is very different from the day I noticed him. The day I noticed him came later. He had just come from Hurricane Ridge where he had been preparing the slopes for the weekend skiers. He wore a red plaid mackinaw wool coat and his prematurely silver hair was still damp from the mountain’s exposure.
He stood at the reception desk just outside my office so it was easy for me to scrutinize him without his knowledge. He wiped the moisture from his glasses before the receptionist sent him in. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to work up on the mountain all alone isolated from everyone else.
I grew up in a warmer climate and I never learned to ski. Knowing that he often spent hours up there grooming slopes and maintaining equipment made him seem a bit mysterious to me. I could tell that he loved the job, even if he never admitted it. He was so faithful to it. It wasn’t unusual for him to slip into the office late in the afternoon, to pick up payroll or payroll reports, just before we locked the door. I’d quickly instruct him about deadlines for mailing whatever report was due and he would be on his way–at least in the beginning.
I’m not sure when I realized there was something important happening between us. I should have been aware sooner than I was. He’s a very observant sort of guy. One day he came in to the office and I had my hands wrapped around my coffee cup to keep them warm. That year at Christmas he gave me gloves. I’m guess I am a little dense, because it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that was really a very personal gift. Even the first bottle of perfume didn’t send up my sensors.
Had I noticed him? You bet I had, but he was nice to everyone. I figured I was just another bookkeeper to him. And there’s a bit of an age difference so I didn’t expect him to pay any attention to me.
Then one day he took me out to lunch. Of course he was wearing that red plaid coat. I, in my isolated little world, thought of it as a business lunch. And it wasn’t until several lunches later that I realized –oh, this is more than just a business lunch.
I hadn’t planned to ever marry again. And for a long time, although I was attracted to him, I saw him more as an escort than anything else. My job included membership in a number of professional organizations. That meant there were often social functions to attend. Social functions can feel pretty awkward if you always have to go alone. At those times he traded the red wool coat for a sports jacket and he became a great escort. Not only is he interesting and charming, but in the early days, nearly everyone in town either knew him from his work on the ski lifts or from his construction business. He often knew more of the people at the event than I did. He is such a social person that I never had to wonder if he was having a good time. He could and still can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere.
I can’t pinpoint when I realized I wanted more than an escort. But I have to admit there is nothing like new love. I will always cherish those early days. Days when he would show up at the office at noon or at closing time with a couple of sandwiches from a deli or fast food restaurant and we would drive out to Ediz Hook and watch the waves bounce off of the rocks or watch the sea gulls fight for crumbs. During the colder months he always wore that red plaid coat as we walked along the beach and talked.
There was a time when, in the mornings before work, we would meet for coffee at Birney’s. In the winter it always made me smile when he came in wearing his red plaid coat. We’d hold hands across the table while we read the newspaper and the time to go to work always came too soon.
For years winter months brought out that red plaid coat. Our lives together have grown, but when he retired it was as if that coat retired too. It seldom comes off the hanger now. Every time I clean out the coat closet, I think, it takes up a lot of room, but it makes me smile. And I can’t imagine not seeing it there when I open that closet door.
Three word Wednesday: Faithful, isolate, scrutinize.