Thinking today about a caching friend of mine. I'll call him Dan. One of the smartest people I've ever met, but he hated high school and never did his homework. He calls that a big mistake in retrospect. He married his high school sweetheart, dropped out of community college and built pools for a living for decades. The man is a behemoth, by the way...6'6" and 240 pounds on a body accustomed to hard physical labor and grizzled by years of exposure to the elements. He's rarely to be seen without a battered hoodie and his size 15 Red Wing steel-toed work boots and if I didn't know him well, he would probably scare the living hell out of me if he popped out of the woods at me when I was hiking.
About fifteen years ago, he and his wife moved back to his hometown to take care of his ailing mother (who has since passed on) and mentally handicapped brother. He switched jobs when he moved and has since been working for the town's municipal water authority and folding himself into the cab of a snowplow when need be. Dan's coming up on retirement age, 65 this fall, and the brother is a few years younger, say 60 plus or minus a year or two but mentally maybe 4 or 5. A good guy, as Dan puts it, but one who needs a lot of taking care of. I had the opportunity to meet the brother this past weekend, and I'd say that assessment is correct on both counts.
You first lay eyes on the man, all you think is, "Holy SHIT he's big." He's the quiet type, not much for talking in general, and when he does talk, he talks slowly, so a lot of people underestimate the sheer brainpower hiding under the rough blue-collar exterior. I think that amuses him.
For whatever reason, people open up to me. The older I get, the more I'm convinced that I was placed on earth to listen to people who need to talk, and I'm perfectly ok with that as a reason for being. Because of it, I know the kind and decent man inside the hulking shell, the one I am proud to call my friend and who invariably calls me "kiddo" with a smile on his face.