It was love at first sight.
The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.
The only man that I have ever fell in love with at first sight was Frank Cherry.
I was about 14 and he was about 60 when he married my grandma I suppose.
He was very lined.
And very kind.
And as my grandma’s first husband Harry had been dead for a few years – all was well.
At that time, the two most influential men in my life were my dad and my stepdad.
The first most influential man in my life, my dad, wasn’t in my life.
Because when I was 11, not paying maintenance payments was a more attractive proposition for him than being with me.
And my stepdad was, around that time and for all of his life from memory, being abusive.
My love for Frank was, initially then, because of the juxtaposition.
I had never experienced a selfless man this close up.
A patient man.
His eyes listened to me like no mans eyes ever had.
And, most notably, he seemed to really enjoy making the lives of the women around him better.
I had only ever seen the opposite.
But this early love grew into a different, more independently cultivated love because of something else.
Frank’s mask never slipped.
Because – and this was new to me – there was no mask.
He was sincere.
He made me feel respected and listened to when I was with him.
And he made me feel important and that I mattered when I wasn’t.
He had given me something to hold on to.
Hope, I think.
My coward of a stepdad didn’t like him of course.
But he doesn’t matter.
Joseph Heller said he found a way to start writing Catch-22 when he heard in his head a version of the first lines.
Heller’s lines are the first two lines of this short tale you’re reading now.
I first found a way to start living as a young man when I met Frank.
And all he did was to listen to me.
Never mould me or put me down.
He just listened and smiled.
He was the first gentleman I ever met.