When Fred started working the omelet line I was still bringing in my own little containers of eggbeaters. He used to tease me that his eggs weren't good enough. And I would always have to pry open a corner of the carton for him so the eggs would be ready to pour because the containers were so very difficult to open with gloves on. Then he surprised me one day with the news that the Nebraska Cafe had started carrying a new product, which was low cholesterol so I didn't have to bring my eggbeaters.
But every once in a while we would get to talking, you all know how much Fred loved to talk with people, and he would start to put real eggs in my omelet and I'd catch him with the ladle in his hand and we'd joke about it.
I began to notice that on those days, as I would catch him ladle in hand, that he would seem a little less lively than usual, and one day I asked him if he was getting enough sleep. He told me that he was staying up too late playing a computer game and that he had gotten stuck. Fred told me that he was playing "Oni-something-or-other" and as a character the game in 2004, he could not escape Nobunaga Oda at Mont-Saint-Michel.
Of course I had no idea what in the world he was talking about, but I Googled it and discovered that in the game, this was the character's second adventure at Mont-Saint-Michel, and that during the first, way back in 1582, he was supposed to have found the soil patch that was "soft and well-kept" and planted the seedling "Genma Plant" that this character had collected in his travels.
The character needed to do this because, when planted in the "soft and well-kept" earth, the "seedling Genma plant" would grow over the centuries to be tall enough, and strong enough, to allow him to leap over the edge of the wall into its waiting branches and enable him to climb down to safety, thereby escaping Nobunaga Oda.
So the next time I saw Fred, I let him know what he had to do. And sure enough, it worked and Fred was well on his way to his next adventure.
I can still remember seeing the happiness on his face, and the excitement in his eyes as he told me, "Hey Sean, it worked!"
Those moments with Fred are a gift that I will appreciate for the rest of my life. He had his own special way of nourishing our souls as he prepared us for filling our bellies. He was not afraid to extend the hand of friendship to anyone -- he cared not for what we did but found a way to appreciate each of us, just as we are.
So let us all open, somewhere deep in our hearts, that place which is "soft and well-kept" and there plant our memories of him, that they might continue to grow with us, as he would have wanted, a constant reminder to be good to each other.
And if I could tell him one more thing it would be just this -- "Thank you, God speed and good luck on your new adventure."
Stories from the omelet line January 25, 2008 on 3:35 am | About "U" | http://www.unmc.edu/blog/publicaffairs/?p=319/