I'm listening to the Beatles this morning. While all their songs resonate with me, there is one on my playlist in particular this morning. "In My Life." It goes a little something like this:
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all
At the tender, confused age of 15, armed with my crisp, new worker's permit and a racing heart, I stepped through the doors of a local pizza place and got my first real job. Dennis took a chance on me, and I became just another "counter girl" at a little pizza place called Noble Roman's. I wasn't blond, but I was certainly ditzy. I answered the phone, folded empty pizza boxes, rung up pick-up orders and stocked the salad bar.
The place was filled with teenagers, although I was one of the youngest in that motley crew. Along with being the youngest, I was also one of the only "private school kids" working there. I wasn't sure where I fit among them. Rockers, all. Smokers, most. 70s hippie kids, some. With a pack of Marlboros at the ready, I fit with most. But, it may have been the only thing I had in common, at least at first. I worked there for a total of five years, so really, this is where I grew up.
But I Digress... I loved them all. They made me laugh (oftentimes at myself), and collectively they made work my favorite place to be. Some were better friends to me than others. I fell in and out of love with one or two of them, but all of them were good people.
Today I'm thinking about one of them in particular. Matto was a few years older than me. About my height, medium build, blonde hair. Every memory I have of him is kind. We partied together. We smoked together during breaks, me cracking up over his very dry sense of humor. He always had a smile, and always seemed happy, laid-back, like nothing really got to him.
Matto was what we call "good people."
About a week ago, I had lunch with another of these Noble Roman's employees - really, the only one I am still in touch with after all these years (19, but who's counting?). The first thing he said to me when I got in his car for lunch was, "Matto said to tell you 'hello'." "Awww," I responded, "I love him! How is he? Please tell him 'Hi' for me." He promised to do so.
Matto died a few days later. A massive coronary took his life way too soon.
We'll all say our goodbyes at his funeral service today. And it will be good to see all those faces, most of whom I haven't seen in almost two decades. But as a writer, I guess this is my way of saying goodbye.
I am sorry that I didn't get a chance to say "hi" to you in person, Matto. Another reminder that life is too short, and we shouldn't wait to pick up the phone, open our arms, make time.
Rest in Peace, old friend.