The other day I talked with a long-time colleague of mine at work. I guess that I have known him for nearly 20 years now. There were several stretches where we worked quite closely together on a day-by-day basis. However, our most recent interaction had a lasting impact on me. It left me kind of stupefied and uneasy.
The imprint of this man that is burned into my mind is one who always used to be at the center of the action. Involved, curious, bright, and active. Shoot from the hip and then slay the room with a timely joke and a boisterous laugh. He was once a pretty close friend and mentor. I remember many times where I stopped by his office just to shoot the breeze or to ease some built-up frustration. We had a professional falling out about five years ago and I don't see him all that much any more.
In our brief chat the other day, I noticed that he had changed noticeably in appearance and mien. It was such a stark difference from my internal image of him that it really threw me. His once thick and flowing blond shag of hair was more white than gray. His face and neck were covered in deep creases and wrinkles. It was like a wave of old age had just washed over him from stem to stern in just the briefest of times. Even beyond his looks, his personality was nearly unrecognizable. No laughter. No jokes. No broad smile. No more leading the band in revelry, more like playing out the string. I think that I was so deeply affected as I kind of saw myself in him, just projected onto a screen from the future and I realized that it is not so far off.