I made it 50 weeks without having to put a uniform on. I didn't think about it much when I took mine off after working my last shift - I just assumed that I wouldn't have to wear one until I was buried in my hated class "A". 50 weeks is a long time, the longest I had gone without wearing a uniform since I was 20 years old.
I didn't think about wearing it to other people's funerals, the idea of it just skipped my mind. That is until two weeks ago, when I learned that Bob, a guy I had worked with in the early stages of my career, had passed unexpectedly while puttering around at home.
I had mentioned Bob briefly a few times on this blog, most recently in July when I was reminiscing how unpleasant it is to lay on a garage floor underneath a 200 lb. dead guy. Bob taught me a few other things as well, some relevant to my career, some just to life.
While at the reception after Bob's funeral, I was speaking with Dan, one of the legend firefighters from my dept. We were discussing Jim, another retired member who had been rumored not to be doing well. No one knew any details, but Jim was reported to be ill and was keeping his status close to his chest.
Last week, we received word that Jim had passed away after losing a battle with cancer. Though I knew he was ill, I don't think anyone knew that he was that ill.
Jim, like Bob, Dan and numerous other firefighters had taught me the survival skills necessary to make it on the KBFPD. Not only the firefighting skills, but the cultural skills required to succeed.
Jim was my senior firefighter for the first year of my career with the KBFPD, As such he had to endure all of the repetitive drills, the boring company schools, the memorization drills and the tedium that training a new guy entails. He did so without complaint (mostly) and spent extra time with me, covering a few things that I was having difficulty with.
Jim was also on my first crew when I promoted to captain. He was my junior firefighter at 49 years old, a few years younger than the other members - Queen, and Curtis who were both past fifty. It was easy supervising that crew, all were experienced, old school guys who did their jobs well. I appreciated their efforts, they tolerated mine. Young captains can be a challenge to an old school crew, we handled each other well.
Jim also taught me how to pour concrete - how to lay out a job, set forms, pour mud and how to finish. I worked for him for a few years after coming off of probation, back when overtime was rare and almost every fireman had a second job. I learned a lot, skills that I still use occasionally, though thankfully not out of necessity.
Today, I am pulling my despised "A" out of it's bag, making sure that it is presentable after wearing it to Bob's funeral. I have to pick up my dress shirt from the cleaner in the morning, don it and head to the church. The services are at ten, followed by a reception after. With any luck, I'll be rid of the uniform by three, and it will be bagged by three thirty. Depending on my mood, I may be bagged by five.
Hopefully, it will be longer that 50 weeks before I have to wear it again, though I hear another one of us old Battalion 2 - B shift boys isn't doing well. Time will tell on that.
Thanks for reading,