The Observer has been friends for many years with North Little Rock's Steve Nawojczyk (pronounced "Nah-Voy-Check," which took almost an equal number of years for us to get rolling off the tongue), the ex-Pulaski County coroner made famous by the documentary "Gang War: Bangin' in Little Rock" for taking to the streets of Little Rock at the height of the gang violence of the 1990s to educate kids on the horrors of what guns in the wrong hands can do. Steve is a good egg, somebody who really gives a damn, and has been giving said damn for a long time. And so, The Observer was happy to lift a glass to him for a job well done when we heard he was retiring from his near-thankless job with the state on Dec. 1 of last year.
The jubilation was short-lived, however, as we soon learned that, three days after he hung up his spurs and called it quits on the world of work, the doctor called to tell him he had prostate cancer. Steve has since had some kind of robot surgery on his innards, and is waiting for follow-ups to tell if he's shipshape or will require more remodeling. The Observer went through some waiting like that a few years back, and we can tell you from experience: You just don't know how scary the hour between midnight and 1 a.m. can be until you've spent it staring at the bedroom ceiling at a moment like that, watching all your grinning demons dance across the plaster in the moonlight.
Steve, that good egg, has been keeping his spirits up by writing on Facebook, where The Observer has followed his weekend adventures with his dog, the lovely Feebi, for a while now. He's always been a great writer, always ending his missives with the prayer "Paz y amor," but his troubles of late have really kicked him up into a higher gear of introspection, still with the generous dash of humor we've come to expect from him. The other day, he posted something that struck Yours Truly as so damn pretty, we had to share, with Mr. Nah-Voy-Check's permission.
There are real angels in the world, kids. Steve is one of them. Now he's getting a little help and hope from the others who walk among us:
"After being home a day or two, connected to a catheter which I carried in a paint bucket rather than strapping it to my leg, I was limping along in Kroger with a shopping basket in one hand, the paint/piss bucket in the other, wearing my fat person sweat pants. Well, the fat pants began falling (I've lost 40 pounds since October in this little skirmish, so my clothes sort of hang on me) and a nice young lady asked if I needed help. She ended up walking behind me carrying her shopping basket with one hand and holding up my pants with her other. That was fun.
"I have a neighbor who has been a neighbor for 25 years. Two of her boys were murdered in gang violence within a year of one another and she herself has suffered with many illnesses while raising her sons' kids. I was in the backyard feeding the birds, carrying my paint/piss bucket when she came outside and walked over to the fence. She wanted to know what was wrong with me. When I told her, she began weeping, which of course made me cry. As we hugged one another over the fence. I assured her things would be fine.
"She told me that about a week ago she had been looking through some of her important papers and found that my signature, as coroner, was on one of her son's death certificates. It was also on her mother's death certificate as well as one of her sisters who had died in a fire.
"Isn't it a strange world? Here we stood crying in the backyard and it all was related to death and health and hope.
"Being pissed at each other over trivial things is such a waste of energy. We're all in this shit together, kids. No matter what your politics or religion, we are all in this world together, and unless we band together when we need to, we will lose to the real enemies we each have.
"So there. Paz y amor."