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.

Politics, Friendship, and Mortality

I just found out a few hours ago that one of my childhood friends passed away in his sleep last night.  Losing anyone so young is hard.  Well young is relative but I still feel relatively young and as my former sister-in-law said earlier this year “anyone dying before 80 is young.”

So, my mother worked with his father and we grew up on the same street.  His dad drank heavily and so did he but that’s what we did then.  He transferred in high school to an exclusive Catholic high.  I went to college with 6 boys from that school.  They told me that his drinking so disgusted them that they themselves threw him off the bus.  We used to drink at the same bar in our late teens and early twenties.

A memory – the New Year’s Eve  I was 21, I ended up at a party at his house with my two best friends.  The other Tress(same name) and I had dates.  Let’s put it this way, she was going out with Donnie and when I was around we used to double with his best friend who was called Hoppy, seriously.  He was far from hoppy but around 6 foot something and a solid 200 pounds plus.  He was a time filler for me.  Our other friend was just along for the ride.  Our original plan was to have a sleepover at my parents and then the guys came up with this party plan.  Somehow towards the end of the evening we ended up at J’s house.  His parents were there and some others too.  Not mine; not only did they no longer go out on New Years anymore but my mother didn’t like his father – read heavy drinker.  And it must have been very heavy as the first time I was drunk in public  was at her boss’s home(same company)  when I was around 16.  Different era, different mores.  Anyway,  Hoppy takes me over to his parents “Ma, Dad, this is the girl I have been telling you about.”  Big shock to me.  I don’t, didn’t do relationships, especially at that age.  So I am doing the drunken nice girl chat with parents and when I get away, M,  my other friend is in Hoppy’s lap, cooing to him “I want it and want it now.”  Different era, stumbled out of the house and walked the two long blocks home including one block that was a ballfield.  And it was a four lane road opposite parkway woods and a parkway.  A drunk 20-something couldn’t do that now.  Went into the house and my parents called out and asked where everyone else was.  The other Tress is with Donnie at J’s house and M?  M is f*cking her brains out with Hoppy”  Now you have to understand that was a big evil word then and I am known for not using “bad” words.  Upshot?  Parents yell at me for the profanity and M  comes in much later.  The other Tress never spoke to her again.  I am more forgiving but have to admit that I saw her in the subway 20 years ago or so and she was completely grey! Revenge is a dish best served cold.

At that point in time,  J was getting his life back together.  We used to hang in the same bar and have drinks. He was working at the local grocery store stocking frozen food.  He was going back to school.  He was very, very smart.  We had always been in the advanced class.  Then he said he made a girl pregnant that he didn’t even really like (it may have been the alcohol talking) and that was it.

Fast forward years and the advent of FB.  He was mad crazy about his grandson and was a successful guy.  Our high school always has a picnic and three years ago, I went.  Topic for another day.  There’s a candid shot of the two of us jabbering away.

 

But and there is always a but, he was far right and I am far left.  I grew up in Levittown and far right is the way most people lean but back in the day things didn’t seem as absolute.  I always knew that my views were not held by most.  J and I had a teacher in 7th grade who on reflection probably was in the John Birch society.  I vaguely reflect an argument over my not saying the Pledge of Allegiance with J.  Still, see above, we drank together.  However, I just couldn’t take it on FB.  As we and society have aged, we have become more polarized.  I hate hate speech.  Uh, yeah Levittown – 99.6 or 99.7 white when I was growing up.  I was at a high school dinner in Levittown a few summers ago and they were talking about how Nixon was right with Watergate not ‘Nam but Watergate.  Put Obama into the picture and just imagine.  I have only unfriended one person on FB and it was another elementary school onwards person with racist hate.  So, I hid J.  I only saw innocuous likes.

I knew he had moved back onto the Island from a neighboring state.  Today,  I see that he was right here in my town.  He was truly a part of my growing up.  Because I hid him, I didn’t know.  We could have and should have been able to move beyond politics to that common childhood.

When did we as a society become so divisive?  I recently read that people are deciding where to move based on the overall political makeup of an area.  What happened to us?  Where is the veneer of tolerance?  Fake it till ya make it works sometimes.  We are cutting off discourse and therefore growth.  I am guilty.  I am thinking of what I missed the last few years by cutting J off.  It makes this loss huger.

We don’t know what Fate holds for us, why waste time.

I mourn for J and for missteps.

Carpe Diem.  RIP J and I’ll be lifting a glass to Auld Lang Syne.

Bell Bottom Blues

I started thinking about Bell bottom blues after I referred to it in a blog about the death of an ex.  Song was on my brain so I got the Ipod out at work today and blasted it.  Howled in my mind.

I always referenced it for breakups.

I never wanted to fade away and apparently I didn’t. We have run out of days.  And I never ever wanted to crawl across the floor to anyone or beg. “I don’t want to lose this feeling”  I listened to the words today with a whole different slant.  I always thought of it from my perspective.  I never thought about it from the ones I left, it was always about me.

And in your heart I want to stay, I guess I did. It’s odd to think of someone loving me like that after all this time.  They always stayed in my heart.  I may not have loved them but I went out with a guy who said once you had slept with someone more than once they were part of your life, like it or not.  By the way, aside from my first husband, he’s the only one who doesn’t speak to me.

“You won’t find a better loser”  I have done that well.

My favorite part was always “don’t be surprised if you find me with another lover” .  It’s what I always wanted. I felt it was the ultimate f.u. and the horse you came in on. And Joebe found me with a few lovers after. Isn’t it the fantasy?  I survived,  I am over you and look how well I did.  I swapped you out.  It’s part of being a better loser.

But Joebe and I have run out of days.  And I ran out of them with Bobby and Richard too.  I wanted them to see me, see that I had made it to the other side as it were.  I guess they did, too.  Richard, I saw again.  Ran into him and disappeared for a few days together and realized what’s done is done.  He tried to call me before he died.  I didn’t take the call and chastised a friend who knew us both for giving up my number.  When I found out he had died, of cancer, before he was 40, I was glad that I had not taken the call.  “No regrets, coyote.”  What would we have said?  Who was sorry?  The outcome would always have been the same, the relationship was dead.  But wouldn’t it have been great to run across him with another lover and me with another one and feel all’s right with the world.

Bobby, I never saw again.  I used to look for him in the New York streets.  He died of AIDS before we were thirty.  He was the one when I have been to therapy and they say well who was the one that you coulda wouda married?  Well, aside from the fact that he was gay, we had the best time.  It was that young in New York kind of thing, hipsters before there were hipsters.  Doing all the cool stuff and wearing all the cool stuff.  He left me for a guy.  I didn’t know it  at the time.  His family blamed his death on me.  I couldn’t, didn’t keep him from himself.

I have always wanted to get to the end of the chapter, see the summer rerun and find out what really happened.  I realized when I was 18, life wasn’t really like that.  Still I keep on hoping and every once in awhile you get one of those moments of clarity.  I am approaching one now.  Maybe there’s a reason why we are not supposed to.  This is hard.  This is not satisfying and full of sunshine.

You did make me cry.  There are no more days.  It’s time to say goodbye.  And it really is, and the irony is on me.

Men, Gypsies and a Funeral

As I said, Joebe passed away last week.   He always called me a Gypsy.  And it wasn’t always positive.    He used to tease me that I could and did move all my belongings in a cargo van.   I had nothing and was free.  Since I married this time, I can no longer move in a cargo van.  I am weighted with both possessions and responsibilities.

Joebe said I was a gypsy and committed to nothing.    He was of an age where he also meant it in the non PC sense of it.  I was amoral, free, uncommitted.  I remember the gypsies of my youth.  I spent the first few years of my life in Coney Island.  The Gypsies would come every spring.  We were always warned that they stole little children and we had better stay close.

Sometimes I didn’t mind when he called me Gypsy because it meant that I was still holding onto that part of me that was uniquely me.  Lord knows he tried to change me.   Like I have said, I have been trying so hard to remember the happy times.  I really can’t.  Every memory just twists.

I met him dancing.  And he was a great dancer.  That’s what won me over. But we didn’t dance because of his jealousy.

Also, after I left my first husband, I wanted to go out with a man who took me to dinner with tablecloths.  My first husband’s idea of dinner out was Fuddrucker’s.  Joebe took me to nice dinners but they were unpleasant as he always accused me of flirting with the busboy or the waiter.   It became easier not to go.

I have always worked with men and gotten along very well with them.  It’s part of the all boy college deal.  During that time, I worked with men and I used to go out with them for what we called burgers and a belt.  I used to stay at my parents and tell Joebe I was eating with them.  With anyone else I could have and would have told the truth.

At his daughter’s rehearsal dinner,  I sat next to her, not her mother.  By this time, I had left him.  But he was always telling me “Pretend to be a family.”  He had had issues with his daughter and had not wanted to go to the wedding. I insisted but I was the one who walked out of the dinner.(I did go to the wedding)  She is 10 years younger than me almost to the day.    So, I would say we really didn’t get on.

Sunday,  I walked into the funeral home.  I think it’s the first time I saw her since her wedding.  She had been the one to initially call me and tell me that her father was in intensive care and she wasn’t sure she had the right person. I got her brother when I returned the call.  She broke away from the people she was with and grabbed me and began to sob.  “Susan, when we went into the house, there was a huge picture of you in his bedroom.  My dad always loved you.  He never stopped loving you.”  This was so hard to hear.  First of all, within weeks of our getting together he practically demanded that I tell him I loved him.  Different generations – what’s love got to do with it.  I was the gypsy rolling with the tide, looking for my good time.  I never told my first husband I loved him.  It’s not something I do.  I hold love close to my heart, my hard gypsy heart.

It has made me reflect what impact do we really have on others?  When I left my first husband, he was more upset I thought about losing the curtains (I took them off the windows) than me.  Joebe told me we were supposed to get married and he was going to be short the money I gave him towards rent.  We did things together afterwards. i.e. daughter’s wedding but I wouldn’t say we were friends.  I do love my friends.    I can’t ask him what was going on because he is dead.  It’s sort of like an open window but one that you really can’t see through.

Of course,  there was the rest of the family to see.  I did love his granddaughter and losing her when I left him broke my heart.  I kept distance from my now husband’s children and his nieces because I didn’t want that hurt again.  I am loosening up a bit and admitting that we can love each other.  Seeing Gabby almost made me cry.  She’s just about grown up and of course, doesn’t remember me.

Now, men.  My husband and I have had many problems and we have come out alright.  Our marriage is strong.  He stood next to me and listened to hearing that another man had always loved me.  He walked into a room of strangers to him that had been family to me.  He literally held me up.  No cane and no one said anything about my walking.  He totally supported me in all ways.

Someone who has this condition said something along the lines of how do you forget you have this?  Well, Sunday once my husband helped me in that door, my condition was the last thing on my mind.  I am larger than this.

So, I am beginning to have memories, not bad ones, just memories.   I hear his voice in my head.  And I am beginning to realize that I’ll never see or hear him again.  That’s the way this works. He’s not the first relationship that I have lost but he was the only one I lived with.  You always think you will see them again and you can be like Bellbottom blues or just surviving.  I was always tickled that I survived Joebe.  Now, there’s this unknown area.

And here’s what’s weird. Joebe gave me amber earrings.  I wear them at least once a week.  I went to put them in on Monday and one fell on the floor and shattered.  Gypsies and dreams.