My Gepetto - Kent Morse
Maybe you've stood at a party struggling to make conversation... In an elevator... At work... Often feeling like the words are just filling air. Awkward. Looking for something that you might have in common so that it can be a real connection with another person.
Not everyone feels like this among others, but I often do. Especially when I was younger.
But not with Kent. For whatever reason every conversation with Kent was real; important, relevant, smart. I needed that. I was an outsider, and I'd found another outsider, and when I was with him I was an insider.
When you're young, you take these things for granted a little. As I get older I realize i don't make new friends as easily. Suddenly, there I was in middle age, counting my friends on my hands. There was Kent, accidentally close by in Florida.
There's that moment when I start to reach out to someone with whom the tides of time have created distance where I ask myself "Should I?" because maybe they mean a lot more to me than I mean to them... After all, there's that chasm of time ... So it was with Kent. But in seconds, there it was again; the connection. Laughing at inside jokes, clever turns of a phrase and 20 years was gone like it was 20 minutes ago we stood facing each other as young men. One of my best friends.
Still, inside the back of my mind there was that sneaking suspicion that it was a show, not real. That's the way it is with outsiders, so I kept guarding my position; I'm a phony ... Not real.
And then Kent got sick. And I had to watch that. But through his sickness, he reminded me why I admired him so. His stoic, morbid sense of humor, his humility and acceptance. His elevation of the special gifts a mundane life present. Was he my friend, though? Then at the end, this text:
"...that other thing I am hungry for just now, the lived experience of human connection and friendship of the highest order. You're a mensch Tom Morgan."...
His last gift to me was the acknowledgement that I was real, not an outsider, at least to him. He was my Gepetto; he had made me real.