When it came to just about anything, Jarrett and I didn't agree.
That proved to be a bit problematic, given that he was my boss.
Jarrett hired me to work for him in 2003. He was marketing communications manager in a department that functioned as an internal agency for a large financial-services provider. My job: to write about health insurance.
Exciting? On even the best day, no. But I had two children. Obligations. The company was highly regarded. The pay was good. My skill set, as they say, was a match.
So, onward and upward. I reported for work and planned to have a pretty easy time of things. But soon it became clear: I hadn't planned on Jarrett.
Ah, Jarrett. First impressions: The guy was nice. Nice as could be. Also enthusiastic. Eager as a Boy Scout, he wanted to help me succeed. He wanted to help everyone succeed.
He also really liked details. And spreadsheets. And internal deadlines. I quickly realized that simply because I had a deadline that was a month away didn't mean Jarrett wouldn't be checking daily to see how I was doing.
It didn't take us long to realize the road ahead was likely to be bumpy. The more he encouraged me to do things a certain way, the more I balked. The more I urged him to allow me to do things my way, the more nervous he became.
"I like the final product," he would say. "But I need to know how you got there. I need to know your process."
"For the love of God, why?" I'd respond. And then, often, just: "No."
Looking back, I have no idea why I thought being so insubordinate was OK. I have no idea why he didn't fire me. Maybe he tried, but probably not. He was that nice.
I had bonded with Jarrett's boss, and I sought his counsel. Although Dale and I were friends, his allegiance was, as it should have been, to the department.
"Stop being so hard on him," Dale said. "My God. He's a good guy. Just do a little of what he wants. Just a little."
Maybe Dale wore me down. Maybe I was tired of fighting. Or maybe I realized that if I wanted to keep my job, I'd have to compromise. So for a project I was working on, one that had many parts, I went in on a weekend and created a spreadsheet.
I left it on Jarrett's chair. Monday morning, he stopped by to see me. I thought he was going to weep.
"This is beautiful -- amazing!" he said, "All your collateral is here. All your deadlines." And then: "Let's just brighten up the colors a bit. Here, let me help you." And he sat down at my desk and turned my spreadsheet into a work of art.
And the worm turned.
As easily as we had become adversaries, we became -- well, not adversaries. And then it became clear: We were becoming friends. And as we began to like each other more, I worked harder to please him. And as I worked harder to please him, he eased up on the busywork.
We discovered a mutual love for bad '80s music and John Hughes movies. We'd quote lyrics and dialogue back and forth. I met his little daughters, whom he often brought into work late in the day or on weekends. And I heard often about his wife, Melanie, whom he summed up this way: "I can't believe she married me."
He studied the tchotchkes with which I decorated my office, and added to my collections with trinkets here and there. We collaborated on projects, and we laughed loudly and often.
One day, working with him in my office on a project that involved a challenging client, I also realized I was learning from him. We were commiserating, and I parroted one of his frequent pieces of advice back to him: "Once in a while, it's OK to let the other guy win."
"I couldn't have said it better," he replied.
Although we had become friends, our relationship also possessed some elements that resembled sibling rivalry; he won an award for a project, but had neglected to add my name to the entry, even though I'd worked on it. I sulked.
And once, after he had given up Diet Mountain Dew for a whole year but was continuing to crave it, I decided to test him. It was his birthday, and I bought an extra-large, extra-cold bottle, tied some ribbon around the neck, walked into his office and set it down in front of him.
I heard the hiss of the opening bottle cap before I'd walked six paces. He told me I was evil, but he drank the whole thing.
One day in 2008, Dale called me and Jennifer, another team member, into a meeting. Jarrett was already in the room.
"Jarrett has accepted an opportunity outside the company," Dale said. "He's leaving."
I started to cry.
For the next couple of weeks, I wouldn't let him talk to me. Then, one day, he sent me an email. I still have it.
"I want to tell you about this. Please," he wrote. "You'll be so happy for me. This job is perfect."
And he did, and I was, and it was.
His last day, we went to lunch. Over barbecue -- side dishes for me, ribs for him -- we laughed about our journey. I made light of things, as I often do when I'm sad or nervous. I didn't want him to go.
As we went to leave, he said, "Let's not go back to work."
He's still my boss for the rest of the day, I figured. So, OK.
We ran an errand first; Melanie had seen a door she liked at the second-hand home-improvement store, so he went to buy it for her. He was excited to surprise her and talked, again, about having "married up."
And then we just drove.
We headed up to the area north of town where he had grown up; he pointed out landmarks and told his patented "Jarrett stories" -- long, with embellishments. We stopped for ice cream. And, of course, we tuned the radio to an '80s station.
"I Remember You" by Skid Row came on. He opened the windows. The wind blew us around. We sang at the top of our lungs on the way back to the office.
As he was dropping me off at my car, I felt I needed to somehow put a cap on things.
"I was hard on you," I said. "I shouldn't have been. But we got past it. I've always wondered if maybe you looked at me like one of your projects. I was a challenge that you knew you had to try to solve."
He smiled. "Something like that, at the beginning," he said. "Now you're just my friend."
Jarrett and I stayed in touch. The last time we talked was a year ago; I wanted to tell him about my new job. He was doing well, happy at work, happy with Melanie and their girls. He was planning, always planning. Working on a deck. Creating a spreadsheet, naturally, to help Melanie pack for a camping trip.
He was Jarrett. And a week ago, unexpectedly, he died.
At the funeral, I sat next to Dale, who had so long ago urged me to cut Jarrett some slack, and I thought about all the lessons I'd learned through that experience: My way is not always the best way. Winning is not always the most important thing; above all, proceed with kindness.
And strive to possess the grace of this man who sought to win me over when I was behaving too badly to deserve to be won.
I left the church and started my car. The radio came on, and I sat in disbelief: "I'll Remember You" was just starting.
I rolled down the windows, I let the wind blow me around, and I sang at the top of my lungs.