Mike was the quiet one of these old men. On the days when he was “running the show” they called him “Mikey,” and although he would protest … he liked it. Mike had never graduated from high school, and his five children were not allowed to fail where he thought he had. He had been driving a county trash truck for most of his adult life.
From their "dad," though, they learned that it isn’t the job that matters so much as how well you do the job.
Old men find comfort and stability in traditions.
Normally, whoever arrived first at Rudy’s would stake out that day’s meeting place in the restaurant by taking one of the metal chairs, folding it up and leaning it into one of the tables. This was their missing-man formation.
The chair represented the passage of time and the respect old men have for the breath of life which becomes more relevant and revered as each one of them comes closer to taking their last. These old men always remembered their own. They had lost several of late. G. died two days ago. At their ages, this was always anticipated but never easily accepted.
They had developed a tradition to help themselves move on. This was their sixth such traditional gathering, which, by now, all of Rudys’ employees knew about.
It was their practice to get together within 24 hours after the death of a friend. The old men had tried to gather yesterday, but no one, least of all Jim, was ready, and they needed Jim at his best during times like this.
It is hard to say when this group of old men first met. When one of Rudy’s employees asked, for a bemused moment they all strained to recall, but then they decided it wasn’t really that important. It was though; it was one of those nagging questions that if not answered supposed that they were too old to remember.
With each new recollection, they positioned the memory as if it were a piece in a puzzle, using their communal timeline to see if the edges fit. They believed that their joint memories would eventually uncover that initial conversation that made Rudy’s 360 what it was today: a breakfast-home away from home and a reenactment of an old Texas settlers’ tradition, a gathering of old men discussing life with all its twists and turns.
Sometimes these discussions could turn faster than a cuttin’ horse, and gore quicker and deeper than an ornery steer.
Today was an example.
Mike asked, “Jim, what do you think of all this hoopla over the definition of marriage?”
Peter E. Greulich
Pete has been studying IBM and early American corporate history since his retirement in 2011. These are his thoughts and musings, and of those whose biographies he has read with links to articles and book reviews on this website.