Thursday, December 27, 2012

Elegy for Alouishes...

English poet John Donne once wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” I have no doubt that his words—these many centuries later—have been enshrined in a well-circulated Facebook meme. Still, I would have to disagree with the erudite Donne. Yes, a handful of men and women’s deaths diminish me. But honestly, most don’t—in any way, shape, or form—because I didn’t know them in any way, shape, or form. However, a case could be made that some people’s deaths actually enhance me…and the wider world, too. But that’s for another blog topic.

I can think of one man, though, whom I didn’t know very well, whose untimely passing has diminished me in some nebulous but nonetheless profound way. I learned of his demise just a few days ago. He was a ubiquitous and reassuring presence in my favorite diner for more than a decade. Initially, I thought diner personnel were calling him “Al,” and then it sounded to me like “Louie.” So I compromised and dubbed the man “Alouishes"—not to be confused with "Aloysius." Alouishes worked his way up from busboy to counterman to waiter. His former boss lavished the ultimate praise on him when he said, “He was one of us,” meaning Alouishes ultimately did it all in the bustling diner milieu—a considerable accomplishment—and was as loyal and dependable as they come.

I was told that Alouishes never missed a scheduled workday in his fourteen years on the job, which didn’t surprise me. He was a comforting constant when I patronized this very special diner—almost always there. While the man was not especially proficient in the English language, he rarely erred and effortlessly communicated in the fast and furious diner universe. He had a certain knack—a sixth sense—for zeroing in on his customers from great distances. Alouishes would often times have coffee on the table before my diner companions and I even entered the place. That’s the kind of guy he was. He kept a vigilant eyes on our those cups, too, making sure they were never empty.

Alouishes became a welcome part of my life for a spell, and when my diner—the last of its kind— shut its doors a year ago, it was an end of an era for sure. However, I never imagined it would be end of a very good man. I learned this past week that Alousishes was approximately my age—too young to die just like that of a heart attack and stroke. Perhaps there’s a cautionary tale in all of this. Working seven days a week, long hours, and not attending to one’s health—and all those warning signs—is, maybe, not the best life course. Why not find that happy medium instead? R.I.P. Alouishes. Your death diminishes me…and so many others.

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