Friday, November 4, 2011

Fortuitious Friday: Reflections on Brotherhood

It was a little over two years ago that a friend of mine suggested I watch the FX series Rescue Me. I will admit that I wasn't very keen. I'm not a huge fan of 'American Sit-com/drama shows' and, to be honest, I thought the premise was a bit dumb (a firefighter who sees gosts...what?). He insisted, however, and I finally began to work through it, bit by bit, until I finally watched the last episode of the final season (7) earlier this week.

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I'm not sure exactly when I decided I liked this show but I know it was before I had finished the first season. At times it was silly, and at times just plain boring (I actually fast-forwarded through episodes that were particularly annoying). I would watch a single episode, or sometimes a half an episode, when She Who Will Be Named Later was working evenings as 'company' for when I ate my dinner (before getting into some gaming, of course).

In the end I bought into the show, and its premise, because I found, within those characters, people from my own past who I hadn't seen in quite some time. Tommy Gavin, and the other Firefighters referred to their co-workers as brothers, and each and every character in that show is a reminder of someone I once knew.

You see, once upon a time, in what seems like another life, I worked a similar job. A job where the people around you were more than someone you passed in the hall, or nodded to in the morning. It was a job where, at any given time of the day or night, your life could depend on the person next to you. Days, nights, Christmas', birthdays, good days, bad days: we shared them all.

We didn't always get along- which is a massive understatement. Stressful jobs create stressful situations and conflicts are inevitable. Similar to the characters in the television series, we had our difficulties both with each other, and with our own personal demons. Some of those guys I wouldn't have given the time of day to, if not for the fact that we relied on one another. I think, if anyone had bothered to count it all up, that we spent more time together than with our real-world families. There were fights, fall-outs, and drama that you'd expect to find only on T.V.

When you work a job like that a peculiar bond develops. Born out of both proximity and necessity, forged in fire (pardon the pun), and tested, in life-altering, and often dangerous situations it was indeed a brotherhood. And at times I miss it dearly.

When I returned to Canada after so many years away and met with the only friend I have left from those days (the one who suggested the series) it was a bit of an eye-opener. Most of those I had known were gone. Moved on to other jobs, quit, retired, or, all too sadly, dead. It felt awfully strange to only be 40-years old (yes, that is young, thank you very much) and have so many people you once worked with dead.

Having left the job, the country, and those friends, I find myself sometimes, in small ways, relating to Tommy Gavin and his issues with survivor's guilt (pass the Scotch please). I do admire Tommy's taste in top-end Irish Whisky: Midleton Very Rare. How jealous would he be knowing I used to live near that distillery?

When I was living in Ireland the "Franco" of my own real-life, work-forged brotherhood died. He was so much like that character in Rescue Me: tall, dark, handsome, and someone you were glad to have with you when the shit hit the fan. 6000 kilometers away, newly married, and embroiled in a legal battle with Irish Immigration, I was unable to make it back for his funeral and that's something that I very much regret.

I don't know what it's like to be a Firefighter. I have no idea if the show was a realistic portrayal of their lives, friendships, and work. I only know that each and every character portrayed are people I can put a real-life name and face to. Each and every one of them was also, in a way, someone I have been at one stage of my life or another (except maybe the gay guy....and note I said maybe...). There were times during some episodes of Rescue Me that I was transported back to those days and was, for a short time, amongst brothers and for that, I am grateful to the writers. Much like Tommy Gavin did in the series, it allowed me to revisit the ghosts of my own occupational past, have a laugh, say hello, and toast to their memories.

Remembering Kevin Robert Venne: September 16, 1976- May 24, 2006.