In spite of my own misgivings about our first meeting, my professional relationship with Al began and progressed easily and successfully. We worked very well together, and to this day, although he was my boss in various capacities for nearly 7 years, I never once felt like his employee. He always worked alongside his teams (he still does), engendering teamwork and creating in his work environments a sense of family and comraderie of which, by and large (though there are always exceptions), corporate America seems nearly totally devoid these days. Upon his arrival, he challenged the staff in my office to try new things, learn new skills, to grow and improve and better ourselves. And most importantly, he truly cared about each of us individually, and wanted us to find and capitalize on our own potential.
I can't put into words how refreshing this was professionally or personally. At this awkward and vulnerable point in my life, having someone who believed in my abilities and trusted and encouraged me was absolutely soul-saving. And Al did those things so naturally and dependably and with such kindness and humility that to disappoint him in any way would have been unthinkable. I worked hard and learned everything I could, pushing myself to reach the potential Al saw in me. There was just no other choice.
And we had so much fun together, all of us. After particularly grueling days in the financial services world (which were frequent), we'd all close the office together and head over to our favorite tavern to relax, complain a little and laugh a lot. We could let our hair down with Al, and we all became such great friends. Al was always with us, and always right in there telling us hilarious stories about his days as a broker, and whining and snickering with us about our less-than-favorite clients and co-workers. We all bonded during those after-work "meetings," and they gave us more reasons to love coming to work.
After my ex-husband and I were finished, I began dating again. Never having dated outside the shooting monkeys in a barrel atmosphere of college, I was in for a rude awakening and loads of confusion in the "real world" dating scene. Luckily for me, I had my friend, big brother and sometimes-father-figure, Al, to coach and console, advise and admonish me through my first forays into the world of singlehood. And he was good at it too! I managed to catch, date, and subsequently dump several boys. But something kept me from committing to these men. There were sad times at the end of these relationships, but Al was always there to help me pick myself up and move on with hope and a sense of humor.
At the time we met, Al was married as well, and I imagined him to be blissfully happy in his marriage... he was such a positive, upbeat, loving, loyal, caring man. How could he not have an amazing partnership with his wife?
Time went by and within 2 years, both Al and I were promoted to new positions within the firm, which meant leaving our little "family," and one another. We both remained in the same city, but moved to different offices and rarely saw or spoke to one another. Time passed and life went on, but I missed my friend, my mentor, my big brother.