The Father's Son (@ Jim Sano)
Jillian nodded off for long stretches of the six-hour drive back to Boston, and David thought about his work schedule for the week to help push the resurfaced memories and emotions back into the dark grave where he had buried them. His mother, father, and oldest brother were now all gone. His brother, Bobby, had severed ties years ago, and his calls to his sister, Abbey, were more out of feeling responsible than seeking a close relationship. He had separated from his wife and their two children six years ago, and as his time commitment and frequent travel for his job grew, David had become more of an awkward stranger than a real father to his kids. Amy, now sixteen, was beginning to see her parents as more of a roadblock to life than wise and loving mentors on her way to maturity. James was just turning seven and asking more questions about the father he couldn’t remember ever living with and knew he was missing.
David did not see of any of them now as being a natural part of his daily rhythm. The constant routine of work, exercise, and entertainment left little “free” time to sit and ponder the meaning or purpose of life, which after the current day’s reflections, may have been subconsciously by design.
Monday morning, David’s alarm went off at five o’clock as it did every morning. The song playing was “Wake Up Little Susie,” which only made him smile and mumble, “How about a little ‘Rocky’ or something to get me going?” He reached over the side of the bed and patted his yellow Labrador retriever. He had found him on his doorstep six years ago with no owner tags nor signs of where he came from other than the name Topper on his tag which he changed to Trooper. He dressed and ran a five-mile loop along the Charles River, through the Commons, and up and down the neighboring streets, before arriving back at his front door of his Beacon Street Brownstone apartment with a runner’s high and salty sweat dripping down his forehead. The run helped him quiet down the emotions still playing through his mind. After a soothing hot shower, he got dressed in one of his custom-made suits and headed off for his usual breakfast stop, the Eastside, on his way to work.
The walk from the Eastside to his Prudential Center office was only five minutes, and David would’ve taken the stairs up if his office were not on the forty-eighth floor of the tower. His secretary was a round Haitian woman named Izzie, short for Isadora. Her skin was dark, and she was attractive for a matronly built woman of forty years. After losing her husband, she had left Haiti to give her three children a chance at a better education and life, and she did not hesitate to sacrifice her own wishes to make that happen. Izzie had been with David for ten years now and insisted on calling him “Mr. Kelly.” She was always at work before David and today was no exception.
“Good morning, Mr. Kelly,” greeted Izzie as her hand touched the crucifix that rested on her light blue blouse.
David looked her in the eyes. “And good morning to you, Izzie,” as she handed him his mail neatly sorted in the order of importance from her perspective.
Behind him, he could hear familiar footsteps, the first of many people trying to grab a few minutes of his limited time. “DJ, got a minute?”
He looked up at Izzie’s smile and subtle nod. “Sure, Walshy. Come on in.”
Kevin Walsh was one of his area managers who aggressively drove his sales numbers but enjoyed having a good time as well. Many of the sales reps and managers had come from local colleges such as Boston College, Northeastern, or Holy Cross. Several were ex-football players, but all had something in common; they came from very modest backgrounds, were willing work hard and learn, and they were extremely loyal to both IMS and DJ Kelly. Everybody of importance seemed to have a nickname; Walshy, Sully, Quigs, DJ, Billy, OD, Paddy, Brendy, and Mickey. David knew he had walked in on the Irish Mafia of high-tech as soon as he had started at Information Management Systems.
David was hired by Kevin and started reporting to him early in his career at IMS. Kevin taught him the ins-and-outs of the company politics and how to win a deal by any means possible. David was never thoroughly comfortable with the process but he was young and attracted by the opportunity to grow quickly at a company on the fast track. He spent as much time with all the top performers as he could to learn their tricks and best practices. He studied the technology, the competitors, and especially his customers. David was so talented at identifying opportunities and developing trusted relationships with the right people at the prospective customer that he “blew out” his revenue quota quarter after quarter after quarter. He was promoted to Senior Sales Rep, to District Sales Manager, and to Area Manager faster than anyone in company history and he was now the Divisional Vice President of Sales for Eastern US and Canada. Kevin was now working for David, which he had no issues at all with because he respected David’s intelligence, incredible work ethic, and ability to win business.
Kevin stepped into David’s spacious corner office furnished with a beautiful cherry wood desk, a meeting table, and an area with a sofa and leather chairs. There were views of Beacon Hill, Boston Common and the Gardens from other sides of the building, but David liked seeing Fenway where the Red Sox played baseball from early April to September. Kevin sat down on one of the comfortable chairs and looked up at a photograph of the clubhouse porch at The Country Club in Brookline. Kevin pointed to the framed photo. “That was a great day, wasn’t it, DJ?” The photo was a shot of eight of the top sales executives at IMS. Kevin Walsh, Billy O’Connell, Michael Shea, Patrick Harrigan, Sean Quigley, Kenny O’Donnell, Brendan O’Neill, and David were all standing on the porch of the elite clubhouse built in 1882. It had been a fun day of golf, followed by an evening of drinks and dinner on the losers and gloating by the winners of that year’s annual tournament.
David, replied without hesitation, “It was a great day for the winners. I’m glad you enjoyed it too, but you’ll have your chance again next week, Walshy.”
In his thick Boston accent, Kevin said, “We will, and we’re not lettin’ Mickey cheat for you again this year. Ya know, I can recall feeling on top of the world that day. We made more money than our wildest dreams could’ve imagined. We bought homes and cars we always wanted without flinchin’ at the cost. We’ve seen the world on first-class trips, attracted the most incredibly beautiful women lookin’ for the best time money can buy, and we’re looked up to as something better.”
David looked inquisitive. “What are you getting at, Kev?”
Kevin was looking down through the glass coffee table top at the Oriental rug below. “Ya know, you and I were on a plane flying to a customer call in Atlanta, just two weeks after that day of golf, watchin’ those planes slam into one of the Twin Towers. We were just sittin’ there and watchin’ it happen in slow motion like it was a damn movie, and I’m thinkin’ ‘holy crap, we’re goin’ down too.’ Nothin’ I owned–money, cars, boats, my home on the water in Dennis–or could own, was worth anythin’ at that moment. No power or position I had here mattered because I felt powerless. You remember when we landed, and I was in shock?”
David interjected, “Everyone was in shock, Kev. I don’t think anyone wasn’t on 9/11 or for days afterward.”
“Really? You seemed to be pretty even-keeled afterward. Not that you didn’t care, but you seemed calm and thinkin’ about how everyone on our team could keep moving forward. I keep going back and forth in my mind thinkin’ about what’s the point of my life.”
David leaned over to put his hand on Kevin’s left shoulder, and said in a slightly softer voice, “Do you need some time off to sort things out? Is there something I can do to help?”
Kevin kept looking down. “I really don’t know, but I don’t want to drag you down. I’ll be fine. I probably just need to keep busier and think less.”
As Kevin stood up to leave, David reached out and patted him on the back. “Take care of yourself, Kev. Let me know if you want to go out after work for a drink or something.”
The rest of David’s day was full of meetings and calls with his sales teams and customers. Izzie kept his calendar moving and prioritized who could sneak in to see him. He wouldn’t run into Jillian today since she worked out of the Newton office, which was ten miles out of town. They had planned on dinner on Tuesday night in town, and she was getting exposed to restaurants and special dining rooms she did not know even existed before seeing David. He never put on airs, but knew how to move with ease around the inside track of the upper echelon where many of his customer’s decisions were made. He left work around seven thirty, making sure he said “good night” to the younger employees that were still working hard, and headed first to the gym for a workout and then home to make a late dinner and sit on the rooftop to relax and review proposals for the next day.
While David was an expert at compartmentalizing his feelings, his brief conversation with Kevin Walsh kept creeping into his thoughts. He vividly remembered experiencing that same sense of fear and the inability to control the situation as he helplessly watched those two planes, which had also flown out of the same Logan Airport as he and Kevin, explode into flames as they crashed into the towers. It opened up the vulnerability he felt when his oldest brother died and his family was turned upside down forever. To help put these feelings back in storage, he dressed and went out for a quick run through the Common while listening to an Aerosmith lineup of songs on his iPod before walking back home and back in control of his emotions.