2016-0811 – I met Don about 26 years ago at Café El Tapatio. He was recently married at the time to Kit’s sister Tess. Kit and I would be married the following February. In the ensuing years we became family. Don died earlier this week. Don was a family man, a salesman, and a committed member of AA.
I mention AA because he introduced me to it and because I think his involvement characterized his life.
I am not a drinker and so there is a part of AA that I don’t really understand. I knew Don for 26 years and he never took a drink. And his sobriety extended beyond that time for a total of 30-some years. And yet, he always considered himself a drunk. I can appreciate the medical arguments AA members marshal to support that position, but I can’t feel them. To me, Don was a sober guy the entire time I knew him.
But he used the uncertainty of his own sobriety to dedicate his life to the service to others.
Over his years as a member of AA he extended a helping hand to countless others who were looking for a path to straightening out their own lives. He attended meetings regularly. He sponsored people. He came to their aid. He raised money for support services. And so on. With little fanfare. Alcoholics Anonymous is . . . anonymous.
As I said at the beginning, when I met Don, he was just recently married to Kit’s sister Tess. Tess had two young kids at the time, a girl and a boy who I was soon to meet. Don took them under his wing and became their dad, standing with them as they grew in both joy and sadness. And he became a dad to an older half-sister and grandfather to her three kids. He was an uncle that my boys looked up to.
Maybe this was the legacy of years in AA. Maybe it was simply Don’s character.
Don taught me and my boys to golf.
One of the worst phone calls I ever received was from him a few years ago. His wife Tess had just been in a terrible car accident. She didn’t make it. In the years since, Don has held an annual golf outing in Tess’ memory to raise funds to support helping services in the town where he lived. I had never golfed before and really had no inclination to do so, but I couldn’t turn down being a part of his fundraiser. And surprisingly, I had fun. It was something new for me. He loved to golf and he found a way to turn his love into service to his community.
On a few occasions, Don and I talked about AA. I told him that I was impressed with so much that they do (even if I don’t understand it). I told him that I was a little jealous that he had that in his life. I said that sometimes I regretted that I wasn’t a drunk so I could be part of it.
He laughed and said, “Never regret something like that.”
A life lived in service of others.