Stewart was just not my coworker, he was my best friend.  I remember the first time I met him… I was the chair person in the hiring panel and I interviewed him.  I liked how he came across… honest, so sure of himself.  I had no doubts that he would be a perfect fit at Ohlone.  Then, he started training with us, and sure enough he was good to go.  I remember he told me he couldn’t believe someone so young like me would be working there.  He thought I was 20.  YAY!!!  And was shocked to find out I was 4 years older than him.  Somehow, within months we became close.

He had an amazing sense of humor.  He could change lines to a movie in a spot and would make it fit the situation we were dealing with.  I will NEVER forget “A Few Good Ben” and I am so glad that I was able to write it all down one of the times Stew would start reciting it (a la Jack Nicholson).  Then came the morphed pictures of our staff.  The Ben-Jamie’s, Bill-Jamie’s, Bill-Ben’s, the BenDoza’s, Benita Peralta, Lance-Ben, etc.  He and I had made a deal that we would not use each other’s photos to make “faces”, but had no problems using the other people’s faces.  He would bring in his creations and everyone would start laughing.

The one time he forgot when my birthday was, he was so sure that he knew the month and date that he agreed for me to punch him in the arm the month and the day.  He thought it was the first days of February.  31 punches later, he would never forget November 20th.

He was so into knives that he came to work one day and gave me a little pocket knife that I could carry with me at all times.  He was the expert when it came to knife laws that he made sure it was legal for me to carry into a K-12 school because he said I might need to use it for something since at the time I was helping out at my kids’ school a lot.  That pocket knife ended up being carried at work.  He was so proud when I bought my own pocket knife… a Spyderco Native.  At times, he would bring a Spyderco Dodo and I would ask to see it.  After a couple of times, he knew why… I would open it halfway so the handle would look like the body and I would move it back and forth, up and down, while saying “Do-do-do.  Do-do.  Do-do.”  His reply, “It’s not a bird and it does not dance.”  Even though he knew what I was gonna do, he let me play with it whenever he brought it to work.

Our friendship became so close that I wanted him to be my sponsor when I did my Catholic Confirmation a few years ago.  He came over to my home a few times, spent time with my kids, we did things together.  He would call my son “Little French boy” because he said my son looked like he was French.  I invited him to my college graduation last year because I wanted him there.  I wanted him to be a part of my life.

He was always there for me.  When my marriage fell apart, I spoke to him.  When I was having problems at work he was there to help.  When we wanted to just laugh, he was there.  We could talk on the phone for a few minutes OR so long that the phone calls went well into the 3:00am or 4:00am hours several times.  We would be on the phone and give each other links of websites to check out.  Like he would tell me often, I was his sister from another mother; and he was my brother from another mother.

Now, my best friend is gone.  My Stewey-Dewey will no longer be there to call me Gwenie.  I will no longer hear his laugh; see his morphed photos, no more late-night telephone calls; no more YouTube videos of movie quotes; no more animal lessons; no more him making fun of me because of how girlie I became when I came across a snake, tarantula, rat, mouse or insects; no more of the stuff that we used to do together; no more hugs.

I still can’t believe he is gone.  I still hold on to hope that this was just a bad joke and that he will call me late one of these nights and say, “Hey Gwenie, how are you today?  How are Lexi and little French boy doing?”  I still expect to see him show up to work a few minutes before his shift starts with a plain shirt covering his uniform shirt, a bag of food in one hand, and his duty belt over the other shoulder because that hand is holding a huge cup of either diet soda or iced tea.  Seeing his locker so close to mine with his name on it is just so hard.  Being in that office is going to be so hard because I know he won’t be there anymore.

I want my best friend back, I need my best friend back.