Monday, December 6, 2010

The End of an Unhappy Life

Monday, December 6, 2010
A man with whom I used to work died recently. I read the obituary in the newspaper, and I felt nothing. Now that’s very much unlike me, since I cry at funerals when I don’t even know the deceased. But I’m not grieving for the person who died, the person I never knew. No, I’m crying for my friend or co-worker who lost a loved one, because I’m feeling his or her pain. But not in this case.

I briefly worked in John’s department, although, thankfully, not for him. The people who did work for him had to constantly tiptoe around his feelings of insecurity or risk an attack. They either kissed his ass to stay on his good side, or he saw them as threats to his authority and set out to get them. He was a classic bully, always targeting those who were vulnerable.

While I was there, he had three “whipping boys.” One was a defenseless little old guy who got so flustered over the constant public tirades that his face glowed red, until we thought he was on the verge of a stroke. Another was technically competent, but socially inept, and John would treat him like his best buddy one minute and then viciously abuse him verbally an hour later.

His third victim was actually a kindly older woman. She was fiercely loyal to John, until the day when a couple of executives from another company came in to meet with him. Apparently, a minor problem came to light, and John walked over to the woman’s desk and started shouting at her in front of the guests until she began to cry. He walked away from her with a self-satisfied expression, just short of a grin, on his face, like he was on a power trip.

I saw many of John’s ugly displays and had absolutely no respect for the man. But there was more. He had two sons, and when the youngest was in college, John and his wife decided they didn’t like his then girlfriend, who later became his wife. Nobody knew the exact details, but John and his wife cut off all communication with their son. And John seemed proud of the fact that they weren’t going to accept the woman into their family. Eventually, we heard that they were no longer speaking with their older son either. And the last I heard, they had grandchildren they’d never met.

I wonder now if John and his wife ever reconciled with their sons. Maybe his death brought them back in touch with their mother. And maybe not. All I know is that this is the first time I’ve felt absolutely nothing over the death of someone I knew. I actually think he made the world a better place by leaving it. How very sad.


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