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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Age Twenty-Six - Hi Ho The Dairy Oh!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the little trip back to "Hogwarts" in yesterday's blog entry.  I have to say that despite the bad weather, the Halloween party was the talk of the town in 2006.  I think everyone who attended the party had a great time, and I hope to be able to throw a party like this on my own one day.

After all, I always wanted to throw a murder mystery dinner theatre.

But now we go on with the retrospective, and this time around, we're at year twenty-six.  And twenty-six was a year in which I did a lot of chilling out.

Quite literally, might I add.

Sorry.  I have no snapshot of me taken in 2007 - which is probably a good thing since 2007 was a year in which I simply did not look good at all!  Things would eventually improve though.  The whole losing weight, gaining weight, losing weight, and gaining weight has been going on since...well...2007.  I'll eventually find a weight I'm comfortable with.  It just hasn't happened yet.

But I do have some pop culture tidbits to share.  Have a look at what was hot the week I turned 26.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/2007
"Makes Me Wonder" - MAROON 5

Okay, I'll admit it.  I really like this one.  Maroon 5 is one of those bands that people really, really love or really, really hate.  I guess you could say that I'm in the like camp, but only for their earlier stuff.

"Shrek The Third"

Okay.  The first movie was wonderfully splendid.  The second movie was a rarity in that it was better than the first one.  But what were they thinking with the third film?  Too many supporting characters, a lame villain, and Justin Timberlake as Artie?  What a mess.

"American Idol"

Again with American Idol!  Sheesh.  I don't understand the obsession - especially since it was recently announced that 2016 would be the show's last year.  Highlights include the topless photo scandal surrounding Antonella Barba, the astonishing rise of Sanjaya Malakar...and oh yeah.  Jordin Sparks won the competition.  

And as I turned twenty-six years old, I had something huge happen to me in my professional career.

Full-time status!

(Well, okay, it's not that big of a deal.  But considering how rare full-time jobs are in this world - thanks free trade agreements and outsourcing - I couldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.)

And even better?  The full-time job did not involve shopping carts, bathrooms, or loading giant things into cars!

No, in the summer of 2007, I was hired as a full-time dairy and frozen worker.  It really was the coolest job in the world - both figuratively and literally.  Every single day I would face temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius - even in the middle of July!  Though when the winter winds began to arrive in November, the job wasn't as much fun.

But there were a lot of perks to working full-time frozen and dairy.  I got to be the first one to discover all of the delicious new ice cream flavours.  And really, being privy to such information is always a good thing.

I also got the chance to work in relative obscurity.  Oh, sure, I had to go out on the sales floor to stock merchandise like cheese, yogurt, sour cream, frozen pizzas, and Swanson frozen dinners...but I had an entire walk-in cooler that I could hide in if things were going badly.

Not that I did this all the time, mind you.  It was just nice to have a space in the store where I could be alone with my thoughts.  Even if you did have to wear a jacket.

In all seriousness though, I loved my job in the dairy/frozen section.  I must have if I spent seven years in that department!  Nobody spends seven years in a department if they hate it, right?

And there were a couple of reasons why I loved the job so much.  Two very special people who made coming to work so much fun.

I'm talking about my former dairy companions and co-workers, Alex and Graham.

Now, as far as personalities went, Alex and Graham were quite different.  Alex was loud and boisterous at times and he was never afraid to make his opinion heard.  Graham, on the other hand, was more subdued and laid back.  Graham was soft spoken and thought about what he wanted to say, while it seemed as though every seventh word out of Alex's mouth was the F-bomb!  Graham was quite tall, and Alex challenged.

And yet somehow, these two men became two of the best friends that I ever had. 

I think part of it could have been the fact that Alex and Graham were older than I was.  Graham was a dozen years older than I was, while Alex was considerably older than Graham!  But they had so many wild stories to tell and life experiences that listening to both of them was never boring.

And not once did they ever make me feel like I wasn't worth anything.  There were times in which we did clash, but it was never anything out of maliciousness.  More like them bringing me back down to earth.  I admit that at 26, I was a little cocky about life, and I guess I needed Alex and Graham to keep me grounded a bit.  Whatever the case, it worked.

I think that part of the reason why Alex, Graham, and I got along so well is because we were friends both on and off the clock.  There weren't a whole lot of people that I could say that about, but Alex and Graham were those friends.  I still remember that Alex and Graham took me out to Boston Pizza with a group of other people from work, and Graham was doing everything in his power to try and get me drunk!  Seriously, every time I turned my back, my beer glass magically refilled itself!  I don't doubt that my intoxication would have amused both Alex and Graham, but the joke was on Graham.  My alcohol limit is insanely high!

In short, I am not a cheap drunk.  Not that you really needed to know that, but it's the truth.

Besides, they got me back at the pool hall that we went to later on that night.  They cleaned my clock at the billiards table.  But I still maintain that it was one hell of a night.

Alex and I also competed in the 2009 Bowling for Miracles event in Ottawa, where we entered a team from our workplace to bowl for CHEO.  All the money raised went to the children's hospital and we all had fun - even if my score was abysmal.  I did manage to beat Alex's score though, and that was all that mattered in the end to me.  Bragging rights?  Why not!

And then there was the time that I got sick.  Really sick. 

You all know that I had my gall bladder removed a few years ago.  And you know that the surgery was so complicated that I ended up hospitalized for two whole weeks.  Well, would you believe that Alex and Graham both came up to visit me on more than one occasion?  Alex and Graham actually came up together on the day that I was admitted and actually made fun of the fact that I was on the maternity ward (apparently February is a really bad month for hospitals being at overcapacity).  I joked that I was set to give birth any day now!

Seriously though...their sense of humour helped me get through the surgery.  And after I had the surgery, did I tell you that Graham somehow got access to the ICU and visited me while I was recovering from surgery?  I never did find out how he did it, but the fact that he cared enough about me to visit...that's how I knew that I had real friendship with him and Alex.

Friendships that began in 2007, age 26.

Now, here's the part that doesn't have such a happy ending.  You see, sometime in early 2012, Alex had been suffering from an injury that he had gotten in January or February, and in May 2012, he stepped down from his job in the dairy department.  And of course, I wanted to give him a send off that he would remember, so I arranged to give him a retirement speech and had everyone at work sign a card for him.  Everything went perfectly, and I wanted him to enjoy his retirement.

It almost seems so unfair that just four months later, Alex would pass away.  You see, Alex had been terminally ill for some time, and he knew that there was no cure for what he had.  But he chose not to tell Graham or I because he didn't want us to worry about him.  That was just Alex's way though.  He didn't want people to fuss over him.  He wanted to go out on his own terms, and I guess this was the way to do it.

With Alex gone, Graham and I worked together for a few months after that, but in April 2013, I was transferred to the Garden Centre area and later moved to electronics while Graham stayed in dairy.  And right around this time, Graham was having health issues of his own, with him taking on seizures - a side effect of a surgery he had when he was in his early twenties that until 2013 he had been able to control with medication.  But Graham was determined to not let that stop him from living his life, and even though we worked in different departments, we still found a way to hang out.

And that's why when Graham died in November 2013 - it was really a loss that hit me hard.  Within fourteen months, I had lost two of my best friends, and when you have losses like that in such a short time period, it completely changes you.

I know that in many ways, I feel like there's something missing in my life.  Alex and Graham were good people, and it wasn't fair that I no longer had these wonderful people in my life.  It wasn't fair that their lives had to end right when things were going well for them.  It wasn't fair that two people who I was proud to call my friend were no longer here.

At the same time, my life is so much better for having known them both.  They taught me so much about myself, and so much about life, and I know that somehow they will live on, even if only in my memories.  They will always be my friends no matter what, and even though they are no longer here physically - I know that they're out there somewhere.

At least, I have to believe that.

At any rate, Alex and Graham became my friends when I was 26.  And that's why I will always look at 26 as being a year that was bittersweet. 

Coming up tomorrow, I have a story to tell you about turning 27 - and how one holiday snapshot made me realize something about myself.

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