12/23/2016

Irreplaceable Oski


Tony, my half (delete “better” because it hints at gender inequality), pulled a fast one on me not long ago.  He surprised me with a birthday party. My dearest one never had insane moments except this one time.

Aside from being clueless, I found it odd heading to a hotel ballroom. When the ornate door opened, an amalgam of faces grinned, representing different layers of my textured life: some kin, some church friends, including our Pastor; some in-laws; and some current and past colleagues—and there was Oski.
In a daze, I walked around but was asked to sit down when Oski approached the podium. He was the emcee?!  Oski, emcee extraordinaire and ad industry icon, was always a riot. I had joined throngs of admen who slapped their seatmate’s back and rolled on the floor laughing (ROFL).

B-b-but, this was different.

Our Pastor—he who preached about proper, reverent words—was in the room.  So were my editors, devout Christians all. 

Uh, noooo!

Irrepressible Oski, face stoic, was at his most improper and irreverent best. He barked, roared, and brayed, making mincemeat of the celebrant. The room burst into a din of hoots and ha-ha-has. On another planet, at another time, I’d lap these up, agog over what would come next. 

But that night, in my new hallowed place—an author on grace—my toes went numb from curling. 

Surreptitiously, I glanced at our Pastor’s table. He was slapping his seatmate’s back. I peeked at my publisher’s corner—ROFL all. Everyone, including my 8-year-old grandson, was burbling.

Suddenly, I was zapped to my ex-ad life, where Oski loomed large as esteemed colleague (and loomed larger as forever friend), and my past and present blended in one, made possible by Oski's magic. 

Little did I know it would be the last time I’d watch Oski emcee a gathering—and it was mine. What a blessed  birthday gift it was!

After a fatal stroke last month, he slipped away. But not before a legion of caring friends scampered to gather around him, pray for his healing, then only to say goodbye.   

Ironically, I was in a middle of a party when someone messaged me that he was gone. Amidst the crowd, I sobbed—the only time Oski made me cry.

Cremation and funeral followed a little over 24 hours later.

This one-in-a-trillion friend left me tons of memories—poignant, hilarious, cerebral, bizarre—from every encounter where he hogged conversations with his jokes and Oskisms. My party is just one of them.
  
In one book launching event, he asked, “Gadachong, help me write my first book. I already have a title for it.” 

“What?”

“To all the girls I’ve loved before.”

I grimaced, “How about changing it to ‘To all the people I’ve loved before’—to include me?”

“You are not people,” he deadpanned. “You’re Gadachong,”

Oski, there will never be another you.

"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3 (NLT)


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