About fifteen years ago I started a new job working for the State of New Jersey in the Treasury Department. Joining a crew of people from two groups, the new kids who just got out of college and were starting their first job and a few who had worked in other areas and wanted the security and benefits of government employment. I belonged to the latter and having worked most of my life in the “real world”, the salary cut was shocking but I had to remember it was for the “bennies” rather than the money.
One of the greatest benefits I received from this job was meeting this man named Fabian. Prior to meeting him, the only Fabians I ever heard of were a pope from the middle ages and a singer from my teenage years, who made my heart skip a beat. He didn’t work in my office but I heard from the grapevine that he was the original party animal. Any reason for a party, and he was the organizer. He had a friend who owned a Chinese restaurant and gave us quite a spread along with free-flowing drinks at a very nominal package price. It was time for the next party and everyone from the different local offices were welcome so I attended.
After Work Party
When I got to the party and said I was with Fabian’s group, I was greeted like royalty. We went to the back room where a bar was in the corner and food was put out in another corner. You helped yourself to the food and a nice bartender took care of the drinks. As a connoisseur of diet soda, I had no problem. My friend Barbara who had worked for the division for many years had me follow her to the party and she served as the social director introducing me to the people from the other offices and then introduced me to the master of ceremonies himself; Fabian. I took an instant liking to him because he had the personality of a true gentleman but with a sense of humor that both men and women could not resist. I told him I heard all about him from Barbara and he just grinned from ear to ear. I met so many people that evening from different areas, most were auditors and office staff but remembering everyone’s name was not going to be easy, but I do remember faces. After the party was just about over, any leftover food was boxed into the familiar Chinese food cartons and left on the table for us to take home. I was a newbie to the festivities and did not want to seem grabby, but Fabian made us take some home anyway.
More Parties – More Parties – More Parties
Over the years we attended more parties after work and made new friends from other offices. Not too long after one of the parties, we all received an announcement that the local offices were all merging into one central office in Newark. Immediately everyone went into a frenzy and protested that they did not want to leave the security of their local office, which in most cases was close to their residence and go to Newark which was riddled with crime and undesirable elements. Like or not, we all moved to Newark, to a nice downtown office building with secure parking a block and a half away and the Newark Sheriff’s Command Center on the first floor of the building. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise which gave everyone a chance to make new friends and move out of their comfort zones. After the initial settling in period, everyone got used to their new surroundings and made lasting friendships.
Most Memorable Friendship
Of all the friendships I made there, and there sure were a lot of them; my dearest was with Fabian. After losing my father who was a best friend in 1995, Fabian became that paternal influence I missed. Besides his warm and gregarious nature, he was the most generous person I have ever known. When he turned seventy-five, we threw him a party at the Chinese restaurant where we had several of the earlier parties and surprised him with a belly dancer which was a total surprise and he enjoyed every minute of it. When he turned eighty, he and his wife and family had a wonderful party and I was proud to be one of the guest speakers. I spelled the word octogenarian and used each letter to say something profound about why we all loved him. I remember the last letter “n”; I said something to the effect of ninety years and that we will all be here to celebrate in ten years. For his eighty-fifth birthday he did not have a big celebration, but took about fifty friends and family members to Atlantic City on a bus for a celebration both on the way to and from. There was singing and games and just a lot of fun with a few hours of gambling in between. Alas the ninetieth birthday party was never to be. After his second bout with cancer; this time prostate cancer, he passed away on Valentine’s Day in 2008. I guess God waited until a day that everyone who loved him would always remember because he loved everyone and everyone truly loved him. I miss you my dear friend and I love you.