(Again, if you’re here from Facebook, please click through to the blog to comment.)
I worked for a temp service in Boston for a month or so before finding my first real job after college, and spent two weeks working for the Harvard School of Public Health during their applications season. I helped file and photocopy and other mundane tasks. One afternoon, an older gentleman came into the office to collect the admin to attend a lunch with prospective students.
“What are you doing?” he asked gruffly when I continued my filing as the permanent staff prepared to leave.
“Oh, am I supposed to come too?” I asked.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he replied, or in similar words.
The man kind of terrified me and I wasn’t sure how to interpret his answer. Someone made it clear that was his form of invitation, and we left. I learned as we walked that he was a celebrated emeritus faculty member.
We ate at the Squealing Pig. I worked one more day at the office and then moved on to another project before I found my job at the start-up.
Fast forward through my years in Israel and now I’ve started graduate school in Michigan. I begin dating a guy from St. Louis, Josh.It’s a funny coincidence that he has a Boston connection as well, and we go to visit his grandpa there in the Spring of 2003.
I can’t remember at what point I realized the professor from my temp position was Melvin First, Josh’s grandpa. Mel didn’t remember me from that day, but he confirmed they often took prospective students to the Squealing Pig, so my memory was correct.
I grew to love Mel. We’re coming up on the fifth anniversary of his death, but especially since my grandfathers died before I was born, I’m so grateful he was in my life for almost 9 years. Our first meeting entirely fit his personality. He wasn’t always the easiest man to get along with, but of course he’d include a random temp in a lunch invitation. As gruff but accomplished as he was, no one was invisible to him.
Hoot’s middle name is Melvin, and more than once I’ve thought they share more than a name. Wise thinks he remembers Great Grandpa, but his memories are more than likely based on his imagination from this picture, which we called, “Great-Grandpa and Wise Discuss What to do With Your Life.” It’s okay — almost all the elements for a correct memorial of Mel are in this shot if you examine closely.
The second grade hosted a “Living Museum of Inventors” this spring, and Wise was crazy proud to dress up as Mel, even though filters and laboratories aren’t as immediately interesting as light bulbs and chocolate chip cookies.
I wrote a tribute to Mel when he passed away, and it’s still one of my favorite memories. You can read it over on my old blog. It’s a great story.