TITLE: Friend. Date: 11/9/2017
By Maurice Armstrong
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I've been here before, and I can handle tough critiques. Thank you.
In this family-owned-company, I came to replace John who was leaving for an English teaching assignment in China. His Dad said, "John wants to help everyone all over the world."
"Did he tell you he was in India last year"?
No sir--I replied.
John had also been to Trinidad and was enthusiastic about another visit. We talked for hours about his month-long vacation in the twin island of Trinidad and Tobago.
On my first day at work, he and I walked the five-acre compound as he introduced me to the other employees. At every stop, he would repeat “…Maurice is from Trinidad. He’s our new production manager.”
John said, “I’ve been working with my father in the steel business since I could walk.”
I had one month to learn everything John knew about the production department. Therefore, we spent many long hours, day after day going through every piece of paper sitting on his desk. We began each day with large cups of French-Vanilla-coffee, John picked up at the 7-Eleven store. Lunch was delivered, Pizza and more Pizza, then Chinese. But when it came to Italian--Johns favorite, we went out to the restaurants. I placed my order, ate, and John paid the bills.
“Consider this your sign-on bonus,” he said.
“If you have any questions you can always talk to Mark—the general manager—he’s also my older brother. In his absence, Dad should be able to help or at least guide you in the right direction.”
Mr. Koons senior was eighty-three years old and had no intentions of retiring. He said, “I need the money” as he walked back to his desk with a sly grin on his face. Dinner at the family table included stories of his past—much to my delightfully itching ears, but a nag to the brothers who must have heard these stories several times before. Mark and John were polite enough to let me hear them for the first time. Mrs. Koons, I learned from one of the stories was now resting in a better place.
However, the week prior to Johns leaving is forever etched in my head and heart. We went from kayaking to water skiing--rock climbing to mountain climbing—bungee jumping, golfing, and, to end the week's adventure we did a ten-mile bike trail. This is one week I’ll never forget— I had fun and excitement as if I were a kid again. For the bungee Jump--I gladly volunteered to be his personal photographer. A quick lesson on operating his camera--I shot scene after scene like MGM. Production.
My only interest in any of the above activities had been by way of ESPN. But this was Johns’ world. I was his guest with an all-expenses-paid ticket and I was alive again.
That Sunday, John attended church with me; he sat through my Sunday School lesson from 9:30 to 10:30, and then shared in our continental breakfast.
“I enjoyed the lively singing and the sermon is indeed food for thought” were John’s comments.
In a final farewell gesture, I was invited to dinner where I met John’s fiancee. Miranda mirrored John in many ways—t-shirt and jeans with sneakers and a back-pack; ready for the outdoors. She greeted me with a tight hug and a kiss as if she had known me for several years. I came close to tears, but I quickly composed myself as we sat down to what was our last supper.
The next morning, with deeply mixed emotions, I drove them to the airport and said goodbye. That was eighteen years ago. Although, we spoke several times during the first few months of their leaving--somehow we’ve lost contact over the years.
True friendship is a rare commodity.
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