A Changing of the Guard

Today I spent the day with my new boss, a woman I first met near the start of my IT career when she, then a newly-hired contractor, was appointed business liaison for what turned out to be a highly successful software application I was designing. At lunchtime, we got to chatting and our conversation turned to my boss way back then, Frank, among the most brilliant, capable, and just plain decent human beings I have ever had the pleasure to know.

I will not waste your time detailing all the kind things Frank did for me or taught me over my years under his wing, except that a lot of it was not strictly work-related, the sort of thing my father might have impressed on me had my parents not divorced and my father had not been away most of the time on Air Force duty and, frankly, had been a better man.

Frank was a fantastic boss, not only in the obvious ways we saw at the time, but in the often hidden fights and pitches he went through on our behalf. He was the sort of man who seemed to know everything and everyone, no matter what city we traveled to together, and while that was of course an illusion, it wasn’t without basis in fact.

My first memory of Frank is not from work but as the usher who made me put my feet down at the movie theater when I was a teen–back in the day. Frank always wore suspenders and a beard, so I thought of him as “the old man at the theater” even though he was probably not yet twenty at the time.

But my new boss has that beat. When she started at the company, he was in her department for something and paused at her back, studying the name placard on her desk. “Didn’t you used to have hair?” he said. Then he asked her father’s name before explaining–her father had been his principal at the tiny little private school he’d attended growing up — across the state — and remembered her as a six-year-old with hair almost down to the floor.

Maybe Frank didn’t really know everything, and maybe it wasn’t that big a coincidence that he ran into someone he knew on every walk I ever took with him–in every city–but he was the real deal (and still is). Frank was the best boss anyone ever had. He handed me my last promotion on a silver platter–nearly a decade after I worked for him, and now, really, he’s handed me this one too. And more than that, knowing him made me a better man, and from time to time if I’m honest, still does.

Thanks, Frank. I love you. Really. You keep those ivories tinkling.