Uncommon Women and Others and Being Amazing

The first time I saw Uncommon Women and Others, I was completely electrified.  I saw it on PBS, shortly after I graduated college and just a few years after it had been written.  I watched it upstairs at my parents in what we called the office on their black and white TV.  We were always behind the times that way. It shocks me now to see old programs in color when  I have vivid recollections of them in black and white.  Uncommon Women resonated with me for several reasons.  Even though it was set at a Seven Sisters school and I went to a sub Ivy, I recognized that type of young woman.  There were lots at Goucher and some even at Hopkins where I attended.  In the play, the women are looking back at their lives from the vantage point of 30.  They had promised when they were 30, they were going to be amazing.  I was still in my 20’s and living with my parents.  I needed to believe that thirty could and would be amazing.

Watch this play and you will see early performances by Meryl Streep, Jill Eikenberry and Swoosie Kurtz.  Amazing.  It also confirmed my longing for strong, female friendships.  I had gone to what was essentially an all boys school.  I had rebelled against my mother who saw me at Vassar or Radcliffe.  I did want Bennington but she vetoed that because – shock- a women’s college with a woman president!  In many ways, she was a product of her era.

I did develop those strong female friendships along the way.  I am still in contact with my college roommate over 40 years later.  I have reconnected with some of the girls of my youth.  I have other women I have picked up along the way that have given me an incredible safety net, strength, support and love.  But sitting watching that black and white TV, I knew none of that.

I remember thinking as I watched that I wish there was a way to keep this, like a book, so I could take it out and look at it whenever I wanted.  A few years passed.  It came back on PBS.  By then, I was over 30 with a color television of my own and a VCR to record it.  The world was moving.  I wasn’t amazing but I was doing alright.  I was making crap money; had a glamorous job; and was not working up to my potential.  I was, however, known as a person with friends.  I had a therapist at that time who told me I defined myself as a friend.  I did not think it was a bad thing.

 

I, like the women in the play, began to believe at 40, I would be amazing.  Forty came and went and I was so not amazing.  I no longer had the glamorous job and was back with my parents.  Volunteering saved me.  I was lucky to have a volunteer position that involved raising money to support and advance women’s rights.  New York, my state, was never ever going to be able to compete against California.  There is just too much money there.  However, Uncommon Women and Others continued to resonate with me.  I used it in my stump speech all the time.  I believed that as a state, we could raise our fundraising and be amazing.  We, as women, could and would be amazing. Was this uncommon?

 

Time advanced.  I was ecstatic to discover Uncommon Women and Others on DVD.  I bought a handful and gave them to my important women friends one Christmas.  Technology was amazing.

 

Wendy Wasserstein wrote other, wonderful powerful plays about women.  I have been blessed to be able to see them.  These plays grew along with me. Women of a certain age will relate to The Heidi Chronicles. She became an iconic voice for women. Wendy Wasserstein was truly amazing and she died.

I passed 50 and was still waiting to be amazing, then 60.  I still aspire to be amazing.  As the years have passed, my concept of amazing has changed.  In my 20’s, I wanted the job, the car, the man, the friends.  It didn’t change much for my 30’s.  I did have all of that but somehow it wasn’t amazing enough.  My 40’s found me rebuilding – a broken marriage,  broken relationships, a different career, better friends and moments to be amazing.  I am very proud of the work I did for that organization and hoped I have helped other women find their “amazing”. 50’s – almost there.  I had created a sort of life that became blown up by disease.  I fought and continue to fight.  60? Still standing and literally that is remarkable and amazing.  I was filled with more fortitude than I thought possible.

 

Amazing changes through time and space.  Can I say now when I reach 70, I am going to be amazing?  Seventy sounds like a foreign country, unexplored and unimagined but closer.  I thought when I graduated college that I would go for my PhD in my 60’s.  Well, that ship sailed.  I still have the curiosity and the interest.  However, time and money have become finite.  I consider myself amazing sometimes because I have been able to find and hold uncommon women and “others” in my life.  I never could have imagined that or its importance when I first experienced the play. Sometimes, when I consider what life has thrown at me, I may be amazing.  I still keep on trying.  I try to walk.  I miss the feeling of speed and air when I am walking.  Sometimes, I miss working yet still I tick on. What makes us uncommon women and what makes us amazing?  I consider my uncommon women friends amazing.  Each in her own way is unique yet the same.  They are intelligent, curious, courageous, inspiring.  They lead.  They share.  They never stop changing.  They are principled.  They have style and substance whether they acknowledge it or not. I have fulfilled one of my wishes from when I first saw “Uncommon Women and Others”, I have those close female friends for decades, uncommon women each and everyone of them, and that is AMAZING!

St. Pat’s, the Ides, Anniversaries, Joes

According to my mother, her grandfather emigrated from Ireland to Jamaica.  This is not unusual.  My father was Eastern European Jewish.  St. Patrick’s Day was always huge in my house.  We always had corned beef, cabbage and beer, even for us littles.  Amongst the most played records in our house was an Irish sing-a-long record.  I am constantly amazed that my husband, whose father is the first of his siblings born in the States, does not know the words to any of the old songs.  A few times, when I was older, I treated the parents to the Chieftains on St. Pat’s.  All that being said, I can’t stand the holiday, never could.

St. Pat’s was insane when I first started working in Manhattan.  Firstly, and the one thing I am in agreement with my brother-in-law, was that the trains were crammed with non-professional commuters.  This had nothing to do with work classification but rather with knowing how to commute.  Secondly, it was the era where smoking was allowed on the train and the revelers would smoke even if it was a non-smoking car.  The streets were clogged with drunken teenagers and others.  By the end of the day, the celebrants were vomiting on the streets and in the train.  If I could, I’d call in sick.  As to driving at night, it wasn’t happening for me.  Even in that relaxed era, I was not voluntarily putting myself in the path of drunk drivers.

On the other hand, I am writing this on the Ides of March, which as a teen, I did celebrate.  I was part of a group of nerdy, good kids in high school.  Today, the weather is similar to those long ago remembered Ides, warm with wind.  Our group would cut school and walk several miles to what was then called Salisbury Park.  We would run around and walk home late.  We had read Julius Caesar and it had captured us.  Bear with me and this will come together.

I have written before of my postal worker.  He is extremely Irish so my husband reminded me this morning to make sure I ring him this weekend.  Another thing about me – I remember lots and lots but lack a certain feminine snetimentality.  I rarely remember the dates I met some of the important men in my life.  For example, I know I met my college boyfriend at the PhiGam TG but not a clue as to date.  He used to send me anniversary cards.  I never remember my anniversaries for either of my weddings.  Well, I realized after my husband said to call, that I actually met  K St. Patrick’s Day 1984.  35 years!  I only went out that night because a girlfriend was depressed and begged me.  It was at a club across from Salisbury Park, so very close.  We were fairly inseparable until 1988 when I left him briefly for RC, direct from Ireland.  We stumbled back together until 1991.  I married in 1992.  We have never, ever not been in contact with  each other.  As I have said before, in many ways, we have had a marriage.  We have stuck by each other in sickness and health; through our relations with others; richer or poorer. PostalOld Girlfriends, Postal and Rituxan

Years go by and I am working with a fellow named Joe S.  He is 12 years younger than me.  My first marriage is over and I am licking my wounds.  Joe S begins taking me to Karaoke nights at the local bowling alley.  He is an aspiring actor and writer.  I see him in plays.  He allegedly has a girlfriend.  He kisses me.  I spend evenings at his mother’s house whilst he plays the piano.  She looks at me meaningfully and tells me she will build an apartment upstairs for any girl Joe marries and babysit the children.  One night I have to tell her that I am only 12 years younger than her.  He rings me one St. Patrick’s Day as his girlfriend has stood him up and he needs a “date” for a party.  I used to be good “arm candy”.  OK.

The  phone rings again.  This time it’s Joe T, also much younger than me.  Where were these people before I married?  He, too wants to go out on St. Pat’s.  He has taken me to parties before that remind me of my youth – arty and weed filled.  We compromise on a drink for the following week.  I enlist my best friend to go with me.  It’s a club up the street from me.  It used to be a roller-skating rink and an ice cream parlor.  We walk.  Joe T falls hard for her.  In the meantime, I meet JoeBe.  He is much older than me for a change.  My father can’t stand him.  Every time he calls and says, “It’s Joe.”  My father replies, “Which one?”  Daddy delights; JoeBe steams. He lives across from Salisbury Park  I go onto live with him  someplace else for several years.

So, I remember my “anniversaries” with K and Joebe.  Joebe and Joe S are both dead.  I was at work one day and saw a 1 year memoriam on Joe  S’s passing on the Ides of March, March 15.  Joebe died a few years back. Mortality, Perspective and Balance,Men, Gypsies and a Funeral

This is a weekend for remembrance – the giddy, happy celebrations of my childhood, the anniversaries of important adult relationships and passings. Our journey is an unknown road with bumps and detours.

Valentine Venting and….

I have never been particularly fond of Valentine’s Day. My parents were completely unsentimental. I can remember being shocked when I was about 4 or 5 that Daddy came home with candy for Mommy and me. My mother didn’t particularly like chocolate or sweets. I was not allowed. Our chocolate and candy consumption was strictly monitored. I was an odd child without tons of friends so the card exchange was always scary for me.

I remember in college not even checking my mail freshman year and by then I was cute and popular. The next day I found someone had left me a rose.

In our 16 years together my husband has given me two stuffed animals. I hate stuffed animals. My late ex-husband gave me Russell Stover chocolates the year we were married which I believe he ate. Joe, the man I lived with after that did give me chocs but also called me Gordita. So, so much for that.

Kevin, who has been the love of my life, didn’t really do it. Though I do remember one year buying a red flapperesque dress and going out for Japanese food.  It was a charming, small restaurant.  I felt pretty and sophisticated.

Valentine’s this year was horrid. My first thought on waking was the Parkland shooting anniversary.  My relationship with the holiday as always been ambivalent.  These children do not have that luxury.  It will be a day of sadness and death.  Did anyone in your high school class die?  You are supposed to be invincible at that age.  Worse, did they die of something other than illness?  Someone in my class did and we still talk and muse about it decades later.  I cannot begin to imagine the pain these kids are in and will be in, along with others their age that the day was completely altered forever.

There’s still the personal. I have been unexpectedly blue all week.. As part of selling the house, I have been decluttering so this wee kI went through tons of paper. I found that I was diagnosed with this condition 10 years ago. I should be grateful but I am not feeling it. It was February and I was about to teach a class.  As I recall, I was getting ready (I was a technical trainer) and was fiddling with AV equipment and plugs and was underneath desks.  The doctor rang, said you have PPMS.  I went back to my plugs and taught my class.  I thought it was the good kind.  Ok, so if I look at my “progression”, I am in good shape.  Me, being me, I am not.  I was so confident and oblivious.  I hate how my world has become confined.  I swore that would never happen and it did.  I am battling back.

The realtor had a realtors’ open house on Valentine’s. Everyone who came said the house was worth much, much less. This is devastating and hard to believe. I was able to go upstairs for the first time in months and understand. It’s a wreck but one that can be fixed. Of course, struggling upstairs didn’t help. It took forever and tons out of me.  It was scary.  However, it was better than last time when I had to go down on my butt and then struggle and crawl to stand.

Now, as to Kevin, he is in a nursing home in another state and has paranoia and Parkinson’s.Postal Old Girlfriends, Postal and RituxanI am trying to ring him every Thursday. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Kev.” “You are two days late.” “No, today is February 14.” From there the conversation totally devolved. I can’t even repeat it as it made no sense whatsoever. For example, he said something about my car and I told him I drive a Buick now. He told me he was surprised I bought a Swiss car.We always helped each other with cars.  There is so much we have shared over the years.  When Buster the Biker unceremoniously dumped me, he arrived with a stack of blues cds.  I held him when he cried several months later when the woman he had been seeing for years, went back to her husband.   I always tell him I love him when I call. We have known each other since 1984 and supported each other through good times and bad. It has been like a marriage.  We have been a constant in each other’s lives.  Valentine’s, he did not understand what I said. It was the start of spring training and even that produced nonsense.  He used to walk 8 miles a day for his job and when it was light, catch a round of golf.  After we definitively broke up, if one of us wanted to see the other, we’d head to the beach.  Either one of us was likely to be there.  The beach has a four mile walk. It didn’t matter who was where, the other one was, we’d turn around and walk the rest of the way, anywhere from 2 -8 miles.  Now, we both can barely walk.  Ironic, isn’t it?  My heart is broken.

I have a friend who is 95. I was speaking to her this week and long before it became popular, she told me I was unusual as I was so resilient. I didn’t understand.  I thought everyone just tried to stand up again until they could.  Many years ago, I worked for a man who used to say about me, “The child does not understand the concept of NO.”  And indeed, I have not.  I integrated a primarily all male university.  I have worked in all male companies/industries.  I have changed industries.  I have been David and gone up against a corporate Goliath.  I though I ignored my diagnosis and kept fighting.  She told me again this week about my gift.  It sounds good on paper and when I look back.  It’s never felt like resiliency or grit.  It has felt that I have lived my life as a Joe Palooka punching bag; one of those toys with the weighted bottoms that when it is hit, it pops right back up again and again.

ocean waves.jpgKevin and I loved the beach, all year round.  I have likened life to the beach and the ocean.  After Hurricane Gloria, we rode down to the beach.  We laughed at ourselves as we did so.  We wanted to make sure it was still there.  There were huge waves crashing against a diminished shore. The sea was calm within a few days. The sea is like that, sometimes calm and clear, other times waves knock you off your feet.  The waves can erode your shore or build it up. I guess I just have to wait for that wave to catch me again and build me up.

Mortality Musings

I am a woman of a certain age.  I remember someone at a high school reunion almost twenty years ago saying “We are in the last third of our lives.  We need to make the most of it.”  Mortality looms,  even more so with this condition.  Time is becoming more finite.  It’s not morbid or depressed.  It just is. If you have read me, you know that I have lost old lovers and husbands in the past.  Dead friends are no longer as surprising.

This month I have learned of two people from my youth that have died.  Somehow, these have hit me.

This weekend, I saw that HV had died. I hadn’t really known him in high school.  We mixed in different circles.  He was a year older. He wasn’t quite fat but rather pudgy, the type of guy, I call vanilla pudding, bland features swallowed in his face, outstanding only in his vanilla-ness.

I graduated college and ran into TM, definitely not my set, also a year older.  He was a football player.  I was a nerdy hippy type.  TM asked me out.  Fourth of July 1977 was on the horizon.  There were going to be a group from high school going to Montauk for the weekend.  Montauk at that time was still definitely, the un-Hamptons.  We were Levittown, still gritty and blue-collar middle-class.  HV was a charter boat captain and he had a house there which was to be the base for the weekend.  T and I drove out early in the morning.  People were already there.  It was a crowd from high school that had never been  my friends – football players and cheerleaders.  Since I had left high school and Levittown, I had blossomed.  Well, everyone does, don’t they?  You leave behind high school, teenage hormones and expectations.  I had shed my glasses and emerged from my chrysalis.  They saw me as a new thing.  I grew up in the era in Levittown where everyone drank.  It was a fact of life.  You went over someone’s parent’s house and you were given  a drink.  My mother’s boss, when I was 15, asked me what I wanted to drink and said, “And don’t give me any of this Coca Cola shit.”  Vodka stingers!  Even given that background and mindset, I had no interest in drinking before the early afternoon.  We walked in and were immediately handed beers.  I realized that the weekend was going to be longer than I thought.  At that age, I was very good at holding onto a drink and/or pouring it out.  I was still fascinated and slightly intimidated by the former cheerleaders.  I remember Crosby, Stills and Nash on what appeared to be a continuous loop on the stereo.  In those days, there were record players and probably everyone was too drunk to change the record.  I hated “Dark Star”.

H had also undergone a metamorphosis.  He was tan, lean, bleach blond long hair, deep, startling green eyes, gorgeous and charming.  I was stunned, tongue tied.  His girlfriend was one of the cheerleaders and so friendly to me. At some point during the now evening, H approached  T and suggested that we leave and go to the boat.  People were bleary and passing out.  The air was thick with cigarette smoke.  Levittown and jocks during that era was all alcohol and no weed.  We went to the boat.  Remember the excitement and newness of being “adult” couples?  We drank more and then T and I retired to a berth. Hormones, alcohol, excitement.  What can I say except to the inevitable outcome?  I hadn’t the experience I was to later acquire, starting with T, to understand that sex with football players is a non-starter.  T, especially T drunk, had all the technique of a stray, horny dog.  My outstanding memory of the evening was looking through the portal and seeing the 4th fireworks.  I said something about it and T thought I was seeing fireworks because of him.  I was too amazed to rid him of that notion.  He then declared that he was looking for three  things in a woman – she had to be pretty, good in bed and know how to cook.  H had already checked two of the boxes but didn’t know if I cooked.  We all passed out.  The beer started again at dawn.  I never ran into H again but still see his dark green eyes, deeply tanned legs and remember his kindness.

T and I continued for the summer.  It was the Son of Sam summer.  We were in a NYC  suburb.  T, big jock that he had been, was deathly afraid of spiders.  So, that combined with the fear of sitting in a car, led to me being practically thrown out of the car with the motor running.  Romance was not in the air.  Mercifully, I never cooked for T.

The ramifications for the weekend did not end there.  I had a high school boyfriend who I have always loved and adored.  He was an artist.  He had moved to California.  We stayed in touch in a distant way.  A few years after the Montauk party, B came for a visit from CA.  The first thing he said after we walked out of my parents was “What’s this I hear about you sleeping with H on his boat in Montauk?”  “I slept on his boat but not with him.  I was there with T.” “T, even worse!”  The world is small.  B was working temp at a factory in CA as was one of H’s brothers.  They got to talking…. And I guess it was a better party than I thought.  B and I got straight after some difficult awkward moments.  We are still friendly to this day.

The story doesn’t end there. There was a reunion of 70’s classes from my school in early 2001.  An H brother was there.  He had a few brothers.  Reunion, Levittown, alcohol.  Someone introduces me to the brother.  I go off on him.  “And you, you had the nerve to tell B I slept with H!  How dare you!  It wasn’t true and even if it was how f’ing dare you!”  Uh, wrong brother?  Levittown was like that back when we were growing up, huge families where all the kids looked the same. And we held and hold onto those associations.

The second death preceded the first death and is a different story.  A family moved in diagonally from our backyard.  There were two girls, M and C, M, a year older and C, a year younger.  The elder was fragile, tiny and stooped as she had had polio.  The younger suffered ridiculously bad acne.  High school was almost 2 miles away.  We were just under the bussing line.  I used to walk home sometimes with M.  She was terribly slow.  Children and teenagers are cruel.  As I mentioned, I was in the nerdy, hippie set.  I was bullied which made my later acceptance by T and H odd.  However, much I was bullied,  it was worse for C and M.  I have always felt it important to be kind.  It’s one of the adjectives most used to describe me in recent years.  It’s been part of my life.  Being “other” offers choices.  You can either reject or embrace the world.  I go for the positive.  As with younger siblings of odder elders, C tried to distance herself from M as did my brother.  It didn’t really work.  However, she was stronger and bigger so superficially, at least, she was better able to stand up for herself.

It is said, revenge is a dish best eaten cold. C went on to work for unemployment.  It appeared that all those years of bullying and childish spitefulness had taken a toll on her.  She was now in a position to fight back.  Unemployment is difficult in the best of circumstances.  C certainly got her own back in that position.  Nasty and unpleasant doesn’t begin to describe it.  I remember once telling her but I was nice to you!  I moved out of the neighborhood and stayed employed.  They passed from my existence.

Then I saw a notification on my high school FB page from a former childhood neighbor that C had passed away.  Sad.  But.  People who hadn’t known her expressed sympathy and condolences.  Fine.  I don’t understand that but it’s the intent.  The guy who posted was also her age; she lived directly behind him and he was also distinctly odd and bullied.  I have no idea of the depth of their relationship. What did amaze me was the comments of the people who had known her.  One likened her to a “shy kitten” yet despite this I remember him being one of her tormentors. The family had a name that was similar to a brand commercial.  Some people remembered calling this out to harass the sisters.  Most of us grow up.  What disturbed me was that these people expressed no regret only an “I remember doing that to them.”  Now, written  in my yearbook as well as in later years, I would run into people and they would express regret or that they wished they had known me better or they went along with the crowd.  I was horrified that there was none of that for C. So, how much has really changed for some people since high school?  Are we stuck in a high school/childhood loop?  How and why do some of us change?  I like to think that I have but maybe not?  The childhood neighbor wants to friend me on FB but I have no interest. Yet, I am close on line with childhood people that I had issues with in high school.  I remember working on my 10th reunion and a mean girl was on the committee and she told me I was no longer weird.  I told her I was the same as I ever was.  I believe I am except I had contact lenses, a good hair cut and an enviable job.  I always told people after high school that perception changed just as long as you were well-groomed.

Two passings.  Two different lives.  Carpe Diem.  What will be said after I’m gone?  Will I be remembered as the Montauk girl?  High school nerd?  Or the woman who can’t really walk, the disabled? Or the woman I see myself as?

Bone Density Dressing

Clothing is my life.  Shallow, sad but true.  My mother announced when I was 10 or 11 that she could tell that I was going to be a clothes horse when I grew up.   She said this resignedly.  I had no idea what she was talking about and I definitely didn’t like horses.  I have always been my grandmother’s child, so there it is – life defined by what you wear. Grandma could tell you all about the lavender dress she wore when  her father’s will was read.  I can remember what I wore when going far back.  And no, it’s not  because it’s memorialized in pictures.  I remember what I bought, when and usually how much it cost.  One of my first paychecks went to a pair of Bobbie Brooks brushed denim bellbottom blue jeans with camel stitching.  I wore this for my first week of college with  a beige ribbed turtleneck. I wore a plum shantung dress with a full skirt and short jacket when I was 10 to see “The Brothers Grimm” with my aunt in NYC.  Oh, and yes, of course there were short white gloves.  See what I mean?

I dress for the occasion. For my initial appointment at Mt. Sinai I believe I had on a hunting jacket and black skirt.  I definitely wore black leather 2.5 inch heels. When I had my first MRI, I went locally and was told no metal, no bra with hooks.  So, sports bra, sweatshirt and sweatpants.  I hate being seen that way unless I am at the gym.  At Mt. Sinai, it’s not an issue as they want everything off and provide gown and pants.  It’s slightly hilarious as it’s one size larger fits everyone and I can’t wear the spectral leg.  Last month, I had to have the MRI locally again.  It was really hot so I wore an Old Navy  navy blue sundress with turquoise embroidery, no bra.  And nothing showed!  Ahem, I can “protrude”.

I decided after the MRI came back with spinal deterioration,  to get my long delayed bone density scan.  It came with the now familiar no metal  caution.  What to wear?  My plan was my Sudara blue/green pants with a green tank top.  Overnight, it was fall.  No sundresses and bare legs.  Here’s the thing – I  can’t do the sports bra thing anymore.  I am not strong enough.  Tom gets too frustrated helping me get them on and off.  Wow, have we aged! So, a totally discombobulated outfit ensued.  Track pants, a Coldwater Creek sleeveless black top with tiers (to hide the “girls”) and at the last moment a grey knit poncho because it was so cold.  On my feet, the spectral leg and my Jackson Pollack influenced splatter sneakers (Target, $11.99).  It all made me feel horrible, like an old bag lady.

The scan took place in the Women’s Imaging Center so no help from Tom.  Great news!  I didn’t have to remove the spectral leg or the sneakers.  Getting me on and off the table can only be described as fun.

Mission accomplished.  As we stumble out to the main area, the tech comments on my great sneakers.  My take on shoes is not to appear handicapped.  I hate those big galumphous black shoes you are supposed to wear.  The sneakers are something I would have worn in my old, “normal” life.  I can’t say that for all my shoe compromises.  Many times, it feels patronizing when people tell me how they like my shoes. IMG_2055 I know, I know; it’s the effect I strive for.  I am not sure how often people say this to able-bodied people. The tech and another one wish they could wear ones like that.  They are not allowed.  They must wear all black including shoes.  Their feeling is that being able to wear color would help both them and their patients. I agree.  There’s a difference between being professional and being somber. We all need to dress for the occasion.

Anniversaries and Losses

July marks several anniversaries for me.

July 3, 2000 found me starting a new job at the omnipotent megalith hereafter known as The Bank.  I have told this story in a blog before.  Whilst I was in orientation with the HR person, I was informed there was no early leave at The Bank.  My initial thought was , “Why are they talking about retirement when this is my first day?”  I found out that since July 4 was a holiday, I could not leave early.  Really?  My manager sent me home at half past two o’clock.  My plan was to stay a year.   I live outside of NYC but NYC is my place to work.  Unfortunately, most people have a bad sense of both geography and commutation.  It takes me less time to get into the City than people who live in the other boroughs.  I needed a year back in to quash the naysayers.  Overall, I was there more or less for 15 years!  My mother used to say, “Do two, maybe three, strive for five.”  My parents were totally anti-corporate which also means no pension, no benefits.  I started.  I hated it.  I tried to get another job immediately.  The Bank had surveillance cameras throughout its offices.  No one knew if they really worked.  I am sure they must have as literally hundreds of millions of cash and checks passed through there daily.  When I first started there people could actually make cash deposits.  I remember seeing a 25 million dollar check being casually processed.  Back to the cameras.  So, every morning I would look up at a camera and carefully enunciate. “I hate working here.”  No luck.  I went on a business trip to California with my manager and his manager.  I am a technical trainer so I was training the staff on how to use technology that did everything a real teller in a bank could.  Due to space limitations, the managers had to be in the room with me.  They loved my approach.  In a last ditch effort, I told the senior manager that most days I felt like a square peg in a round hole.  He told me he felt the same way.  So, instead of becoming my ticket out, it became my ticket in.

2001 arrived and I made ready to move on. September 11 happened.  And here are parts of the reason I never liked The Bank.  NYC on September 11 was an odd place to be .  I was in Midtown but no knew what was really happening. People started leaving.  The Bank’s policy was to never expense employee meals unless travelling.  Even then they had a global policy of $45 daily for everything if you w ere travelling.  By the afternoon, one of the managers said he would buy pizza for everyone still there in our department.  He was admonished and advised he would not be reimbursed.  I ventured back into NYC on the 13th.  I had been due to teach a class on loans.  I felt that needed to be placed on hold as people adjusted to our changing world. I went to the floor where the students sat.  It was just past 9 A.M.  And the first day back in Midtown for many of us.  You could have heard a pin drop as people sat at their desks, heads down, working furiously.  I still refused to teach the class.

I worked in the IT area and was hired specifically for my non-techie self.  Someone there told me I would like “The Big Bang”.  It’s because some of the people were just like that.  Despite all this, I stayed even after my group was let go.  I was brought back as a consultant for another 11 years.  It worked.  I was mostly on my own.  Despite the lack of benefits, I made nice money.  Almost too much money as it were because it was difficult to get something similar.  I worked alternate hours 7:30 – 4:00 or 4:30.  Eventually, I worked  7:30 – 3:30 but I was always available before and after hours.  In fact, due to my West Coast following, I took calls and emails till 9:30 or so. I also worked remotely on Fridays as commuting became dangerous for me.  I also worked remotely in bad or hot weather.  This was the job where my mobility began to give out.  My standard line (feel free to use as you see fit) was, “It’s not contagious. It’s not cancer.  It’s not terminal.  And, there is nothing wrong with my brain.”  For the OMG! OMG What happened to you crowd, I would laugh. “I am just falling apart.”

It all ended badly.  My reasonable accommodation was removed.  I was made a truly insulting offer to become an employee which was totally unacceptable.

I struggled to find work.  I was a woman of a certain age who had been at a company too long and walked with a cane and the spectral leg aka brace.  Hey, my canes were seasonal and pretty.  I finally found another position more than a year later.  Enormous pay cut and more responsibility and work.  So, this represents another July anniversary.  On July 14 last year, Bastille Day, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite,;  I walked out. I could still do that.  I had the misfortune to work for a mean girl from high school.  I loved the company and the people.  It hurts.  I had more personal interactions there in 5 months than I had in the 15 at the Bank.  People miss me both places.

My feeling, rational or not, is that losing these two positions has severely impacted my health.  And I hate the phrase, “losing a job”.  I know where it is.  It’s not lost.  At the Bank, I walked 10,000 easily and often.  The building was a city block and I walked to Grand Central , walked through Times Square Station and then Penn.  The next job had much less walking but phenomenal people.

So, this week I am marking a year without working.  I have become officially disabled and un officially retired.  This is so not what I wanted or envisioned.  It’s hard.  I miss getting dressed – clothing is my life. I miss people.  I have been demoted to a walker.  It hurts me to look at it.

All losses are relative.  July was bad before the Bank.  If you have read me before, you know I have left a swath of dead boyfriends and other lovers behind me.  Bobby was one of my favorites.  Once, I was asked in therapy, of all the guys I had been involved with, who would I have liked to marry.  Immediate answer – Bobby! Uh, a small problem, bisexual?  Well, he left me for a man. But… But we went to the same school and bore similar scars; we liked to cook and eat out; we loved to shop; we loved Dylan’s Black Diamond Bay; we walked in Washington Square on warm evenings; we loved to go to the movies and theater. Big missed hint and clue:  We saw American Gigolo three times and we had to get tickets to Bent.  He died of AIDS before his 30th birthday which was July 7.  It’s hard to imagine that he’s been gone longer than he was here.  I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral as his parents blamed me for his death.  He used to tell me if he ever married me, it would kill his parents.

July 7 also marks the day my childhood friend, Julie died.  Again, way young.  She died around 40.  She was real and funny and loyal. You always knew where you stood with her.  She arranged for her father to take the photos for my first wedding because I hate those forced, frozen, fixed photos.   Her husband had diabetes.  She used to tell him, “Chuckles, I am going to dance on your grave when you die ’cause you didn’t take care of yourself.”  Ovarian cancer.

So, to put it in perspective, what’s the big deal with not being able to walk.  How can I possibly measure not working against not living?  Well, it’s my pity party and no one else is invited.  Mourning is mourning. Respect  for all deaths and departures.  And then?  Then there is summer and its warmth.

Old Girlfriends, Postal and Rituxan

What a difference a day makes!  An update on the postal situation from yesterday.  I placed calls to his landlord, psychologist and the VA.  The VA was helpful.  No calls from the others by 4 p.m. so I call K back.  He’s very cryptic and said the situation has been settled for $400.  He doesn’t sound right.  “Are you on drugs?”  “Of course.”  I finally am able to get his cousin’s name and phone number out of him.  Bombshell.  K has checked himself out of facility and told them and cousin that he is coming to live with me.  This is not possible on so many levels.  He appears to grasp this and states his intent is to check into one of the cheap, tawdry motels on Montauk or Sunrise.  In fact, there is one within walking distance of my house that I call the Pedophile Motel as a year or so before we moved in there were legal issues as it appeared the town and county were housing all the pedophiles there. Alright, I tell him we’ll deal and get him situated.  I tell him that I have called the landlord and will call him again.  My husband is livid over the situation and thinks the landlord has K’s belongings.  He wants to drive over, get everything before it’s tossed then drop the dime on the illegal rental.  K says don’t call him again.  He’s spoken to him today and landlord was very cold. He also tells me to say nothing of his plan to his cousin. Now whilst I am having this conversation with K on my landline, I hear other calls coming in and my cell is ringing too.  I see one call on the cell is my neurologist so husband picks that one up.

I hang up and see the landlord has called me.  I ring back.  Wow.  K has played us all.  I worked for years on a phone so I am really good with voices and lies.  Landlord is a straight up guy.  After I saw K just before Labor Day weekend, he rapidly deteriorated and was falling several times a day.  It culminated, ironically, enough on September 11, when landlord S’s children heard yelling. K had fallen facedown for 10 hours.  K was refusing help.  S told him paramedics or police.  He was hospitalized for 5 or 6 days.  During his episode, he had crystallization of his blood.  K was released to an assisted living/rehab facility.  Ironically, my husband and I drive by there all the time.  He was there until the end of September when the insurance ran out.  The cousin P was called.  The facility told him that K could walk 160 feet with a walker.  However, he had degenerated so much during this period that he was not allowed to use the bathroom on his own.  S had looked into the apartment with a view to making it handicapped accessible.  K had lived there almost 11 years.  Apparently, he has not had control of his urine or bowel for sometime.  The apartment/room needed fumigation and a new floor.  S also determined that he could not assume the responsibility nor have his children exposed to the consequences of falling,  S drove him to the cousin P in Maryland.  He had to help him in the bathroom on the way down.

The first night at the cousin’s he fell repeatedly.  The cousin called an ambulance.

I have a call into the cousin.  The cousin takes care of his nephew who as far as I can ascertain on the phone has at minimum a significant speech impediment.  I call twice leaving messages.

In the meantime, the psychologist has left a message for me on my cell.  All three of these men know of me as an old girlfriend, not my name,  just an old girlfriend.  The psychologist, B, and I have quite the conversation.  He has treated K for years.  In fact, he has retired and is very old.  He sounds ancient on the phone.

B never knew that I knew K at the time of the original postal  incident.  I had to go into therapy because of it.  I couldn’t handle it and left K for someone else.  K stalked me and threatened me when he found out.  I know, atrocious taste in men.  At that time in the late 80’s, there wasn’t the awareness or sensitivity to domestic violence there is now.  The police told me there was nothing they could do until he actually hurt me.  Their suggestion was for me to move.  In Suffolk county at that time there was a rash of domestic killings in a few months. I know because my girl friends, their mothers and my parents all cut out the clippings for me.  And yes, I went back into therapy once his meds were stabilized and I started interacting and seeing him again.

I give B the cousin, the landlord and the facility numbers as I explain he will have more weight than I do.

 

P calls back.  “Thank G-d you called.  I have been trying to get K to give me your name, number and address!”  He told K that he wanted to talk to me before he dropped him here  today. K has even told him I have been married twice.  P questions whether my husband will accept him.  K refuses to give up my address but instead tells P how to get my house from his room.

We have a most illuminating conversation.  P also knew of me as the old girlfriend, no name.  But he knew of my diagnosis, my two marriages and that I went to Hopkins.  Unless people tick me off, I don’t usually tell them I went to Hopkins but say I went to college in Baltimore.  I did the same yesterday and all three men said “Yeah, I knew you went to Hopkins.”  P found out from me the truth of the postal incident.  No, he didn’t hit 3 -4 guys.  They did try to provoke him to do so but instead his blood pressure rose so high he nearly stroked out and was taken out by ambulance.  I thought K’s father and mother were both evil and I do not use that term lightly.  K is older than me and his teachers reported the father for child abuse.  In that era you could just about kill your kids.  There were 6 brothers.  At least two are dead and one has been institutionalized for years.  Despite this K kept in touch with his father who ended up living in an SRO.  When he died, his mother refused to have anything to do with the burial.  Only one brother came.  That’s one of my gripes against the mother.  She was a lay minister in the Catholic church and would not separate or divorce the father.  She sacrificed her sons.  I do not believe in that kind of G-d.  P told me as soon as they were old enough each son beat the father up.  K broke his jaw.  He also shared my opinion of the mother and told me more stories about her.

All three men and I shared stories of K’s increasing paranoia and remoteness. I bought a computer for K once when I had a huge bonus.  Good fortune is meant to be shared.  A few years later he returned it to me saying it was broken,  Maybe,  but apparently was truly paranoid about it.  He wouldn’t use one at the library either.  He only recently had a cellphone and I believe it was through a program.  Caller ID displayed LI Spinal Foundation.

P can’t fight him any more and told K he will take him anywhere he wants to go.  He will leave him at a motel, wait an hour and call 911.  I beg him to let me know and I will call if necessary.

Oh, and the call my husband answered on my cell?  It’s my doctor’s office asking me to come in today.  I have been approved for the Rituxan.  I don’t even register this or remember it till after 8 p.m.  This is huge.  This drug could literally change my life. I can’t even process this.  I keep on forgetting!

 

My husband wakes in a rage this morning.  How could anyone dump K?  I repeat our 911 plan.  Smack forehead.  Of course, the police will come before ambulance.  We anticipate his resistance and see jail in his future or else due to late father’s influence (top police lieutenant) K being able to stay in motel to die.  He was able to get out of a traffic incident this summer dropping names.

I call the VA again this morning.  They suggest the cousin drive him directly there.  He is technically homeless and they have a shelter on the property.

The Catholic hospital nearest me said if there were mental health issues, they couldn’t take him.

I call the psychologist.  He has had no luck with the cousin.  He said P was adamant K was going to New York.  He and his wife also had the same serious reservations about the 911 plan.  B then revealed that K was so paranoid that for five years he would only meet B at diners or restaurants away from where they both lived.  His opinion was that K cannot survive in a group situation. Also, none of us must have any guilt   as we all have done much more than could be expected.  We are all good people.

At ten of two this afternoon, the phone rang.  It was P.  He went to get K at 8 and asked where are we going?  K said I’ll let you know in 4 hours.  P refused.  They went to 7 -11 for an hour and a half.  For now sanity has prevailed and K has agreed to stay and sign on a contract to live there. He says he doesn’t want to die in Maryland.  The cousin says who wants to die?

We all agree that this is very sad.  It is.  I agree we all tried to do the best we could. But I am looking at it another way.  We have all known K for decades.  We knew of each other – the old girlfriend, the cousin, the shrink, the landlord.  He reduced us  all to the role he wanted us to have in his life. We all do that.  K is just more extreme about it due to his emotional issues.

Ok, not guilt but I am so questioning myself.  How did I let myself so eagerly be a part of this.  K and I never officially lived together.  I have been married twice, lived with someone and had numerous affairs.  Through all this we have been constants in each other’s lives.  We have been “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.”  I need to process what it means.  I sense that somewhere along the way, we all failed him.  And I, I failed myself.  Why can’t I let go?  Why have I maintained a relationship with a man capable of hurting me physically? All relationships involve hurt.

If this crisis had not occurred, we all would still be in our roles.  How do we as a society perpetuate these situations?  We are all so close and yet so distant.