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.

After Mammo

No suspense, it’s all fine!  I am relieved but have a lot to say.  I went Friday and they took two more views and an ultrasound.  By the time I reached the scan, I was resigned to it going badly as every time they pressed the wand or whatever, it hurt.  Of course it did, ninny.  Your breast had just been smashed and squashed.  Talk about dense!

So more on the mammo. It seemed every other woman was there for a second look.  It hit me that they used to do the two views originally.  Then you used to sit around and wait for the results.  I don’t know which way is worst.  I was thinking again this week, it’s all about the money.  Where I go you take everything on top off, put your things in a plastic bag and sit in a top that is almost impossible to close.  So, would it take that much more time to take your things off in the room?  It is so sad, all these tense women sitting around holding plastic bags like refuges from a lost store.

Ok, there’s more.

12 years ago,  I had a similar scare.  It was worse and my high school boyfriend drove me to the biopsy December 23rd.  I was flashing unhappy memories.

Friday,  I had a friend to lunch.  My thinking was whether the results were good or bad, it would be good to be with a friend.  My husband was going over his sister’s to supervise a construction project.  So, we are sitting around having a nice time.  I have a lovely bottle of wine on the table.  We are also drinking steeped tea.  A very girly lunch, pink china, crystal. Friend says who is coming over.  I live on an odd block with only two other houses.  It’s out of the way.  We never get trick or treaters.   It’s husband’s probation officer!  I tell them where he is, ask if they want to come in which in retrospect may not be the best idea with wine on the table.  We are not supposed to have alcohol in the house.  They don’t come in but I am now flashing back big time.

So, 12 years ago and I believe this is one of the seeds that let whatever is in my body out and running amok;  I received a call at work that my Dad wanted to go to the hospital.  This was 9:30 a.m. I left work immediately.  My father was dead before 11 a.m. I found out my mother was in 6 figure debt and had no handle whatsoever on reality.  I gave the eulogy.

A week later, my now husband was arrested at my mother’s house for non payment of child support.  This was bogus as his ex-wife knew there was a violation of probation outstanding.  She is not a bright bulb and the police had been coming to her house looking for him and terrifying her 13 year old.  He was jailed.  This started a new chapter in my life.  I am suburban, middle class.  This was f’ing terrifying. Visiting jail and going to court were experiences I never expected to have.  On my first visit, a woman said well, if her husband wasn’t available, she’d visit her Dad.  This was a completely different world for me and one I have been living in since.  And I fell as I am wont to do when upset.  At work, my manager who worked out of the UK wanted to write me out of work for the rest of the year.  She could have if I was in the UK. Our HR person who I always refer to as Topo Gigo because she bears an astonishing resemblance to the little mouse told me I could do it unpaid.  I was responsible for three households! Compromise:  I had to go for counseling.  The counselor figured out that when I was upset, I let my feet out literally from under me.  According to my neurologist,  I must have had the condition since then or earlier.  Two weeks later, I had the bad mammo with the lump.  I kept on insisting it was the fall.  They said not.  Guess what? After all the tests and worry, it was the fall.  All this pain and fear  came rushing back on Friday.  But on the positive side, I had and have some amazing friends who have stuck by me steadfastly through all of this.   I did survive and have continued to survive.  I hated flashing back.  But once again, I made it through with the help of a friend.  Life is full of possibilities.

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.