I was in a noon Twelve-Step meeting, crying so hard I couldn’t talk when it came my turn to share. There was a pain in my stomach that felt like it was going to reach up to my throat and strangle me any minute.
I was going through my second divorce and my co-dependency had a death grip on me. The room was filled with older men, I was the youngest in the room at 42. I knew everyone there with the exception of this one older gentleman.
I managed to eek out at least enough to let them know I was going through a divorce and losing absolutely everything, again. When I was through with my share, the one I didn’t know spoke. “As they say, son, This too shall pass. It may be like a kidney stone but it will pass.” Everyone, even I, let out a laugh; some more than others, all more than me. Even though it was said in jest it had a deep meaning to him as you could tell by the expression on his face. He had obviously been there and done that.
He managed to get out of there that day before I had a chance to introduce myself. I felt drawn to meet him, I wanted to know if he was for real. He seemed so different; his demeanor was almost eerie but in a way that was intriguing.
A couple of weeks passed before I ran into him at another noon meeting. I do not remember today what he said at that meeting, but again, it had a profound message accompanied with a little humor. I loved that about the older guys in the Twelve-Step rooms. They were always making a great point and their delivery could make you laugh at some things that most would think inappropriate to laugh at.
This time I was not going to let him get away. After the meeting ended, I stood in line to meet him. He almost had celebrity status in those rooms. Everyone seemed to love him and most of them wanted to talk to him. I waited.
When it was finally my turn, of course I began with, “Hello I’m Johnnie. You introduced yourself as Gerald. Right?” I was nervous, which was odd. I had already been around the meetings and working a pretty decent program for around sixteen years. It was not the norm anymore for someone to intimidate me. He did. After regaining my composure, I said, “I am looking for a sponsor. I have seen you in meetings twice now and both times I really liked what you had to say.” To which he responded, “We need to have a cup of coffee and go to a meeting first. After you spend some time with me, you may decide we are not a fit.” I returned with, “That sounds great. Can we set a time?” He came right back with, “Sure.”
I drove to his house the very next night, had a couple of cups of his ‘mud’ as he called it. He wasn’t far from right either. It was the strongest cup of coffee I had ever drank. Once we were in the car and on the way to the meeting he said, in a stern tone, “Listen kid, if you are wanting someone to help you with this program, I am your guy. If you are just looking for someone to co-sign your bullshit, I ain’t it.” I kind of timidly said, “I really need help.”
The meeting was thirty minutes or more away, so we got to know each other a little bit on the way to and from the meeting. I really liked him. His demeanor was comforting and easy to be with. Still, I was somewhat on edge. Back at his house as he was getting out of my car he said with a smile, “If we do this again, I drive.”
After that night, I slowly became entranced by him. He was the one man that I wanted to grow up and be like. I was forty-two years old already but he always referred to me as the kid, and I never minded.
We went to four or five meetings a week together, which entailed meeting at his house early for our first cup of mud before the thirty-minute drive to the meeting, that we always arrived early for, and then the drive back.
Gerald’s wisdom and his wit were always compelling to me. When he spoke, I was listening, I just never knew when he was going to come out with some pearl that could sustain me in life.
Eventually, I moved away but I called him three or four nights a week. I missed him terribly, I missed his wit and wisdom and how he could be so incredibly profound and make me laugh at my own silliness.
One evening I was called by a mutual friend who said, “If you want to see him one more time you had better come now. He won’t be here much longer.” I went from Florida to Kentucky in record time but by the time I got there he could no longer speak. He could still hear and understand someone talking to him though.
I held his hand and whispered into his ear, “Gerald, as long as I am alive you will be, because I will share your wisdom with all who will listen.”
His pearls are on a rolodex in my mind and they still carry me today. No matter what the situation is I have a Geraldism that fits.
I will be forever grateful for the man, that was a father, grandfather, brother and best friend. Thank you Gerald.