Friday, October 28, 2016

Lost & Found

     Today at work I had a small lovely moment and then a grand love story.  We'll start small.  My last name is Sullivan and my middle initial is A, for Ann.  For years, whenever I've signed my full name I include the A, but it bleeds into the Sullivan,  My husband finds that amusing and calls me O'Sullivan. I then frequently make a joke about us dropping the O when we got off the boat.  I didn't take my husband's last name when we started on this journey, because my last name is the only good thing my father ever gave me.  My husband and I discussed it in advance, and he was totally cool with it, by the way.
     Yesterday I got to help a wonderful older Irishman set up an account.  His last name was O'Sullivan.  This amused me greatly.  I sent a follow-up email last night, and when I got in this morning, he answered me.  He said he hadn't noticed that my last name was Sullivan and wasn't that brilliant that I was a member of the clan.  That communication was a delight to receive.  Later in the day, I got to hear a wonderful love story.
     A couple in their early sixties came in for assistance, John and Sarah. They had just moved back to the area from the west coast and needed to get established.  While I was setting them up, they told me that they would only be here for a few months, as John was receiving radiation for esophageal cancer at a hospital in downtown Boston.  They were clearly in love with each other, but there were little signs that they hadn't been married for a long time.  When we got near the end, I asked Sarah how long they had been together. Four years, was her reply. I said, if you don't mind me asking, how did you meet.  She told me it was a great story, and I begged her to continue.
     Sarah told me that they'd known each other since they were 14. John was the best friend to a boy that she married when she graduated from high school.  They lost touch and life continued.  John married, had children and unfortunately, his wife died many years later. John didn't know that her marriage had gone sour a long time ago.  That boy Sarah married had become an abusive husband. They had no children.  He was diagnosed with cancer, and Sarah stayed, even through the abuse, to care for him until he died.  Shortly thereafter, Sarah began to wonder what had happened to John. While on Facebook, she mentioned that she was interested in speaking to him again. One of her friends knew John's grandson and gave him  the message.  John reached out to Sarah. One conversation led to another and another until they agreed to meet, and it was love at second sight.  Within an appropriate amount of time, they decided to marry and agreed to move out west for the nicer weather.  Unfortunately, he was recently diagnosed with cancer which led to them returning here for treatment.
     While she told me the story, I could tell that although they were worried about the diagnosis, she was determined.  She kept talking about the future and what they'd be doing next year and thereafter, as though she knew they already had this beat, because they had each other.  They'd found each other again after 40 years.  It wasn't so much that there was lost ground to make up for, but moments yet to be explored and she was determined to experience each one with him.   

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Update on Jacob & Marie

     Today in the mail at work, I received a lovely card from Jacob. He thanked me again for helping him and listening.  Inside the envelope he included a laminated funeral card from Marie's service.  On one side was this poem:

You can only have one mother,
patient, kind and true;
no other friend in all the world,
will be the same to you.
When other friends forsake you,
to mother you will return,
for all her loving kindness,
she asks nothing in return.
As we look upon her picture,
sweet memories we recall,
of a face so full of sunshine,
and a smile for one and all.
Sweet Jesus, take this message,
to our dear mother up above;
tell her how we miss her,
and give her all our love.

     Super sentimental, I know, but designed to give comfort.  The other side had a fantastic photo of Marie and a very short obituary, more like a tiny celebration.  I have to tell you, her picture made me cry. She was just as beautiful as he described, and even more than that, she looked like a woman who was loved completely, who knew that she was adored.  It made me happy for her.  Two weeks ago, Jacob and I had never met, but he loved Marie so much, that after one long talk with me he needed to make sure I understood how special she was and is to him.  That's a love story.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Locker Room

     Looking back through my blog posts as far as last December, I was talking about the danger of Donald Trump's rhetoric.  Friends and family told me not to worry; he'd never go the distance, they said.  Here we sit, less than one month before the election with a second "debate" in the bag, and he's still here.  He can continue to say heinous things - often without any facts to back them up - more and more of his supporters are turning away, and now we get further proof of his character with the 2005 audio/video released on Friday.
     I had hoped that at the beginning of the debate when he was asked outright about his words by Anderson Cooper that he would be contrite:

"You described kissing women without their consent, grabbing their genitals. That is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?"
"No, I didn't say that at all," Trump said. "I don't think you understand what was said. This was locker room talk. I'm not proud of it. I apologized to my family. I apologized to the American people."  

The exchange went back and forth for several minutes with Trump trying to change the topic to the Islamic State before Cooper was finally able to ask for the record if Trump had done these things, had sexually assaulted women. Trump said no.
     What we learned from the 2005 audio/video that was released is the true content of Donald Trump's character. He is a man with great power who feels that he can and should take what he wants from women. These sentiments come from a rape culture that has grown fat on misogyny.  Sexual assault and rape are acts perpetuated out of power and dominance.  We know this to be fact. This isn't locker room talk - which is insulting on so many levels.  That comes from the old "boys will be boys" mythos, which insults every decent, honorable man on this planet.  Normal humans do not talk about doing things against the wills of other humans.  That is sexual assault.  Misogyny is not going to go away if we get a female president, just as racism didn't magically disappear when President Obama came into office.
     All women have a story to tell about the misogyny they've experienced in their lives, you just need to listen.  I can't go into all of my stories, even though you've heard a fair number through this blog, because my children read this, and I'm not at a point where I can tell them everything.  But in the interest of honesty and trying to advance the cause of women, and thereby humanity, I will share some it.
     As you may remember, my father was a terrible man.  He was an alcoholic who routinely battered, belittled and assaulted my mother. He consistently told her that she was ugly, stupid and that no one else would have her.  And he told me that I, the eldest, was just like her.  Marital rape didn't become a crime in all 50 states until 1993 - think about that for a minute - and my mother was often subjected to this and other crimes.  I know this to be a fact, because all three of us children were present for one of the instances in 1984.
     In junior high and high school, I played soccer. My school only had a boys team, and I didn't care anyway, so I played with them.  I originally went to the football meeting, thinking I could be a kicker, but the coach laughed me out of the room, telling me no little girls were allowed.  On the soccer team, I was one of three girls and was constantly taunted and picked on by the boys.  Their favorite nickname for me was scrotum.  The coaches knew, but never stopped it, hoping I think that I would just quit. I used to think that it was because I wasn't good enough, so I tried harder.  It didn't change though.  I had to play without my glasses, something the boys would take advantage of in practice.  My glasses were held together by hot glue, and I couldn't risk breaking them. My brother played for the team for a short time, and they never did it in front of him. (Side note - I did get a scholarship to play soccer for Bridgewater College in Virginia, but it was a partial and I couldn't afford the full tuition so I had to decline. So, I clearly didn't suck.)
     When I got my first job at 14, the restaurant I bused tables at had a waiter who was known to sexually harass the female staff. The management knew but did nothing. He liked to back me into an alcove where the supplies were stored and try to rub up against me. I had to learn to avoid him at all costs. I also learned that if you tried to complain, your pay got docked for dinners that you were supposed to take but were never given the time to take. I didn't work there long, as I didn't think I could tell my mother what was bothering me so much. By this point, my father was gone, and she was under enough stress.
     The first time I was sexually assaulted I was 15. I will not go into it except to say, it was a boyfriend who tried to guilt me into a variety of things. I refused. He insisted. I refused. He forced me. Then he told me that it wasn't that big of a deal, and a number of other things that even as I try to write them make me feel gross, so I'll leave it at that.
     Throughout my work life, I've walked through so much misogyny it's almost laughable. I've had vendors tell me I was taking a job from a man who needed it when I was a receiving manager, had delivery drivers give me unending shit, been called all manner of names and epithets, had male customers ask where the real manager was when I showed up and have had a male boss tell me he'd never promote me until my kids weren't little anymore since my loyalties would be divided. There's so much more, but honestly, after a while it's exhausting.  Ask the women in your life.  It's an everyday thing.
     What's not everyday though is when the misogyny escalates to the attitude that Donald Trump has displayed.  It's not locker room talk.  Men don't gather together and discuss the women that they'll take by force without consent.  There are bad men out there, men with treacherous character and horrible morals.  We would not tolerate them in our lives or with our children. We should not tolerate them to lead our country.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Jacob and Marie

     This afternoon at work, an older man came in needing some help, but I was with another client at the time. He was clearly frustrated that my associate suggested an appointment an hour away and that no one was available right that moment to help him.  Nevertheless, he left, stooped over his footed metal cane with a white package clutched to his side.  When he returned, the appointment I was with ran over 10 minutes, so that by the time I came to the lobby to collect him, he was extremely frustrated.  He gave me little old man side eye, refusing to speak to me when I told him my name and how I would be happy to help him. He slowly rose to his feet, package under his arm, and asked me where he was supposed to go. I directed him to my office, gingerly walked in front and then held the door open for him.
     When he sat down, he opened the package, pulled out a rather large magnifying glass and a huge manila folder filled with multiple binder clipped paperwork bunches.  All the while, he didn't speak to me. When he finished, he finally looked at me, seated across from him and asked, "so, is this how it's going to be now?"  Not understanding what he meant, I asked for clarification.  He asked whether he needed an appointment to get any help and then ultimately that it wouldn't matter since he was now being helped 15 minutes later than was promised. I apologized for the overlap from the previous client and said that an appointment was to respect his convenience but not mandatory.  But now that he was here, how could I help.
     Jacob went on to explain that his wife Marie had died recently, and we had sent him a lot of paperwork. He needed to know what to do with it. Then he opened the folder and started pulling it all out. I looked through it, found the pertinent pieces and quickly realized that the bulk of the rest of it was his statements. As we slowly started to speak to each other, he told me that he was legally blind and was having difficulty figuring out what out to do with the papers - thus the magnifying glass. I discovered that all the statements, three years worth in fact, were dramatically out of date order. I asked if he would be ok if I put them all in the right order. He was taken aback and thanked me. When I finished, I labeled each with a post-it. I found some superfluous things but explained them, found something he should have signed and returned a year ago but promised to mail it for him and made a copy of the paperwork that brought him in in the first place.
  When all was said and done, Jacob thanked me for all the help and apologized for his behavior when he arrived. I told him that he was going through a great deal having just lost Marie, and it was understandable. I asked how long they had been together.  He said that from courting until her death last month, it was 66 years.  He told me that when she took ill six years ago, he had cared for her at home until his children convinced him that she needed to be moved to an assisted living facility 2 years ago. Then a few months ago she was moved to hospice.  He said up until then, Marie knew who he was and could talk to him about her day, ask about their children. He visited her every single day while her sons took turns visiting every night.  Four children, nine grandchildren, two great grandchildren, he told me about all of them. The hospice grounds were lovely he said, although she never got to see them. Once she was moved there, she was on so much morphine to manage her pain, that they were no longer able to speak to each other.
     When Marie died and was taken to the funeral home, Jacob told the funeral director that she didn't look anything like herself.  He asked for a picture and promised Jacob that when he was done, Marie would look just as he remembered.  He also promised that before her casket was opened at the viewing, Jacob would decide if he had done a good job or not.  Jacob said that when the time came, Marie looked absolutely beautiful, just like when they had first met. At this point in his story, Jacob and I were both crying.  I passed the tissues back and forth between the two of us.  When he told me how beautiful she looked, I wish you could have seen his eyes, the smile on his face, like he wasn't with me at that moment. There are people on this planet who will never have another person look at them the way I imagine Jacob looked at Marie - the adoration, the complete look of contentment,and then the dawning realization of utter loss.
     When we finished crying, he told me about their last anniversary together, the party that his children put together for them, before she went to hospice.  Then he told me how sad he was for his children and grandchildren, and that the great grandchildren would never really remember her.  We stood slowly together, and he thanked me for listening.  I thanked him for telling me about Marie and their love story. Then he asked to kiss me goodbye, a gentle peck on the check, and I saw him out.
     I hope that every single person reading this will have this kind of love in their life, that you will know this level of happiness.  And I hope that the person you share your life with, this short time we have here together, looks at you the same way Jacob looked at Marie.