When I worked in Brooklyn, I had a direct supervisor and his name was Jerry Negron. Jerry was an older Puerto Rican man with thick jet black hair and a furry mustache to match. Every day he would ride in to work on his Harley Davidson Motorcycle and every afternoon he would ride back out. Jerry was a simple man whose main pleasures in life included long rides on his bike, hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. The fast-paced, ever-emergency-ridden atmosphere of the Day habilitation center where we served adults with developmental disabilities was too demanding for Jerry. He longed for retirement and ease and spoke of them often, with a smile.
Jerry saw potential in me as a younger and newer member of the agency and he treated me with favor. He would spend extra time explaining policies and made sure that all of my order requests for supplies were approved. He encouraged me to think about my own retirement and helped me to plan for it financially. Although Jerry, through his actions was encouraging of promotion and mobility, his words strongly urged against it. “The higher you climb, the more stress you will endure and this job is never worth the stress” he explained. In any difficult job, when you find someone who gets you, you hold on close. Jerry got me and together we sighed under our breaths and rolled our eyes expressing the same disconcertment towards the growing disorganization of the place we called work. More than a friendship, I looked up to Jerry as a father figure. He looked out for my professional well being and was concerned about my future.
After working together for several years, Jerry finally announced his retirement and as his sidekick, I was invited to be in charge of his farewell celebration. I ordered the largest greeting card Amazon could deliver, with the hope that he would recognize the size of the gift to represent the size of my admiration for him, although I never took the opportunity to state it explicitly.
We had a wonderfully bittersweet party for Jerry where we eagerly listened to his plans of future nature exploration and family reunions. Later that day, Jerry walked out of the building and I haven’t seen him since. I let him leave without a single way of contacting him. No phone number, no email address and certainly no social media.
What I do know is that Jerry loves his bike and so whenever I see a rider on the streets or on a highway I am enthusiastically checking to see if it’s him, but it never is. All I will tell him is that I’m well, I left the agency and am working towards living a stress-free life. I will thank him because his financial advice has given an extra cushion to my retirement plans that I would not have if it were not for him. I will ask him if he’s done the things he was most looking forward to and I truly hope he has.
You never know the impressions you can leave in someone’s heart even years after an encounter. I wonder if I’ve left a mark on his and if he ever thinks of me. For now, all I can do is keep looking for Jerry on the open roads, even though it’s never him.