Farewell, Dexter

I am quite fortunate. I enjoy my job and don’t too much mind going every day. Sure, it’s stressful sometimes, but I also get to be creative. Best of all, my work helps to make other folks’ jobs easier.

I knew right away that I was in a good place. On my very first day on the job, they gave me a desk right next to a Jamaican man with a big grin and, as I was to learn, a huge heart.

Because he was from Jamaica, we discussed the Eddie Murphy movie Raw — especially the part where Eddie talks about letting your woman vacation alone in the Caribbean where she is likely to meet Dexter St. Jacques. For the sake of our family blog, I won’t say any more about Eddie Murphy except that whenever we saw each other, we called each other Dexter.

One day, we were walking back from lunch at the campus cafeteria. Dexter stopped and picked up a sweet gum ball. He asked me, “You know what that is?”

I was pretty sure this wasn’t going to be a discussion about genus (Liquidambar in case you were curious.) or even about the oddities of evolution. So, taking a deep breath and steeling myself, I said no and waited for his answer.

Dexter looked at me earnestly, handed me the sweet gum ball, cranked up his accent a bit, and said, “dat’s a Jamaican ball scratcher.” Then he broke into his grin and laughed.

Family blog be damned. Dexter was funny.

During over eight years of new work assignments and reorganizations, Dexter and I stopped sitting next to each other. We were still friends though. I saw him at work frequently. I visited his home, too. He made the best jerk chicken I have ever had.

When Angela and I met and decided to move in together, we rented a beautiful big house from Dexter. With his limitless charm and kindness, he easily became friends with Angela and Patric, too.

Ironically, after years of bouncing around at work, I ended up back at a desk next to Dexter’s. Sadly, though, he wasn’t at his desk. Just before I moved, he took time off from work to battle cancer. This week he finally succumbed to the cancer.

It isn’t fair. It never is, of course. I feel for his family. He was a wonderful father and husband. I wish they had more time with him. I wish I had more time with him. I wish I had his jerk recipe.

I do have my memories, though. And I still have my Jamaican ball scratcher.

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