This past weekend, I attended a memorial service for a professional colleague, a man for whom I developed a great personal respect during the years we worked in the same department. After I left the Savannah River Site in 2007, I didn't see him for years afterwards. When I encountered him at a restaurant in 2013, we chatted as naturally as if we'd encountered each other in the hallway at work.
It was a rude shock to pick up the Sunday newspaper on a recent Sunday morning and see this man's obituary.
When my aunt readTangled
Woods and Dark Waters, she asked me, "Where do you get the names of
all these people?" In contrast to my story ideas, that answer is easy:
Over a forty-year professional career, I met thousands of people, many from
other countries. When I need to name a character, I can dip into my basket of
memories and scramble the names to create new personas. If you make the proper
disclaimers, you can get away with a lot in these arena. Read any of Pat
Conroy's novels and you'll see the names of his friends show up
(coincidentally) in the names of his characters.
We met for the first time during a business trip to New York. I don't remember what I thought about him; he quickly identified me as a young man in love (I had just gotten engaged). He must have seen something in me that I didn't even see in myself, some potential for growth.
Brice treated me like a younger brother. A former Naval aviator and firefighter, I found his stories endlessly fascinating. We found that we shared some common beliefs. From these grew common bonds. Both of us were natural pranksters, but he was a lot better at it than I was.