THE LEGACY OF NOT FITTING THE MOLD: GARY M’S STORY

Not everyone fits the mold.

Gary M., my longest-standing friend, is a case in point. Gary is 66 (I’m 65, almost 66). I’m taking him to 2 doctor’s appointments tomorrow, so he’s on my mind.

We met in my 3rd year of college, in January of 1971 on a bus from Atlanta to Charlotte. I was headed back from Atlanta, Gary got on in Greenville SC, and we began to talk. Even though we’d been at college together (the college was another 100 miles past Charlotte), we’d never met there. Small world, but an even smaller bus. I offered Gary a ride from my house near Charlotte (I had a car, he didn’t) and he took me up on it.

A couple weeks later, he introduced me to my first wife Iris (whom I married 2 years after the intro, was married 25 years, and she died at the end of 1998—that’s in some other blogposts I’ve written). We lived in Columbia from 1978 to 1984, and Gary lived with us for a year while going to law school at USC-Columbia SC. He graduated and got his law degree (Gary had a great mind and loved thinking and talking theology, law, ethics—anything in those realms). He ended up not being able to make it as an attorney in spite of his brilliant mind, primarily because he loved the poor and downtrodden. He has ended up working at a number of jobs for non-profits and disabilities board-type institutions, at subsistence wages. He never married (though he had several women who wanted to) and cared for his mom in her feebler later years (she just died about 3 years ago). Ironically, one of the women who really wanted to marry him, had the same last name as his mom, whose name was Evelyn W,, and her name was Ellen W. Go figure.

Gary has a great heart also. He has wanted to foster and often ends up helping down-and-outs who end up being a drain on his patience and resources, and almost never meet Gary’s expectations in the relationship. Thus is life, at least Gary’s life. In the last few years, he’s had not only his mom but a number of other key people in his social network pass away. So he’s struggling. And busy as I am, I’m trying to fit more time and diligence into the relationship, just because.

I treasure Gary and his insights (even when I disagree). He is one of those people it’s hard not to like, even love. But it does take a lot of patience. Still overall, it’s worth it. You only get a few friends like that in a lifetime. He’s part of my legacy, and I want to honor him with that thought here.

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