Sunday, December 16, 2018

10-Year-Old Me Lives Again

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to visit a client at his house. We'd spent weeks planning his final wishes and it was time to finalize a contract.* So, I'd agreed that since he and his mother, who is also his guardian, had already come to the funeral home where I work for several meetings, I'd visit them in their home.

We handled business first. Priority. Because mom isn't some spring chicken anymore, and son is in a delayed development place which means care for himself may be difficult, so ensuring his future needs are met was really important. It's why we'd been working diligently to find peace of mind about his eventual cremation.

Then, task met and as had been promised, mom showed me around her home filled with antiques---a thing for which we'd previously discovered a mutual love. Some pieces were decades old; many relics from her ancestors. Mom and son both had stories for each special item.

Once we'd looped the main floor, son -- a few years older than me -- was equally excited to show me his bedroom, which was in the basement. Ascending the stairs was like revisiting my own bedroom of adolescence, back in the late '80s and early- to mid-'90s. Imagine the quintessential hodge podge of favored toys, games, posters, music memorabilia, a kick-ass stereo, and random, unorganized personality.

Of all the things that caught my eye, only one truly tugged my attention. New Kids on the Block. From their prime. In a poster on his wall. I gushed. He gushed. Another mutual love discovered.

"How much do you love me, Janna?" son asked.

I hesitated internally. Prior work with those having special needs has taught me that sometimes the line between a professional relationship and a personal one can blur. I'd bonded with these two, this mother and son, but wasn't sure what he felt. So I safely said with a small smile, "I guess it depends on why you're asking."

He'd worked his way to a closet across the room and had his back to me. He opened the door so carefully, intentionally blocking from my view whatever it was he wanted to retrieve.

"I've been waiting a long time for someone to give this to, and now I know who should have it." He stalled a bit to feed my curiosity.

When he turned around, it was to hold aloft another framed NKOTB poster. An exact match to the one on his wall.

At the same time my still-a-kid heart soared, my adult, business brain crackled. "Oh, [son], that's SO sweet, but I can't accept gifts from clients."

That's when his mom, who'd been our company all along, pointed out that HE was my client. Not her. "I'm your friend. I'll give it to you, and that gets us around your rule, doesn't it?"

And she had me. I couldn't say no. 10-year-old me was thrilled. Son, too, was incredibly pleased to have found the right person for his gift...

I don't know what I'll do with this poster. Probably store it, if I'm honest, much the way he did in a closet.

I'll store it as a reminder that sometimes our interactions with people are about more than getting the job done. It's about connecting as humans, humans who have more similarities than differences. It's about seeing someone as more than a contract, or a public servant, or a passing interlude, and remembering that you're more than who you are in this moment---you're still all of your past, too.

*As a state-licensed pre-need agent, I spend a lot of my workdays helping folks with their funeral or cremation prearrangements.

Friday, December 7, 2018

To the Woman Living Her Own Life

Today let's celebrate the woman who has pulled herself from situations she realized were beneath her, which she deserved better than.

She who recognized her own potential, even when others couldn't, and decided to chase after it. On her own terms.

She who took charge. She made hard decisions because that's what was best. Healthiest. Absolutely necessary, do or die, long and painful and in the soul. Then she took one step and another, and another, and has carried herself somewhere no one else could or would. She did it.

She's still doing it.

Every day.

Because there's no other way.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Man Catcalls, Mom Reacts

It was dark and cold as we scurried through the Target parking lot toward our car last night. It had somehow been one of our quicker stops at one of our favorite stores, and we left with little more than toilet paper and Will Farrell's Elf on DVD. We were ready to get home after a long day.

So it caught us completely off-guard as a gross adult man shouted vulgar things through his car window, aiming them at my older daughter.

I didn't have to think before I yelled back, "Shut up, asshole, that's my 15 year old daughter!" 

I began to shake. It was that deep-down involuntary shake, the kind that doesn't ask your permission to become something of its own. The kind that carries similar injustices of the past to the surface of reaction.

He started to shout more but I told the girls to "close their ears" and just get in the car. Still, they heard his next ugly words, which included an absurd idea: "I thought she was 18!"

I hated everything about this experience.

That some jerkwad had the balls and entitlement to be disgusting and disrespectful. That it happened to my kid. That it shouldn't matter whether she's a young teen or of age, because no female should have to deal with that kind of behavior. That I got lippy back and made a scene of my own, which probably only fueled his fire. But also that I didn't approach his car and/or say more. Punch him in the throat, even.

The whole thing, from every direction, was upsetting.

I stewed for a long while, then, once we were home, decided to share about the situation in a private support group I belong to online. I needed their feedback, which, it turns out, was the right thing to seek.

Their understanding, matched anger, and logic helped me see that even while I regretted what I did, and second-guessed what I didn't do, I should be proud that I spoke up when so many others wouldn't or couldn't. That I didn't shy away or show him fear, nor that I was intimidated. I brought attention to his behavior. I stood up for my kid. For both kids, in fact, because what affects one affects the other. That's where my focus should be.

So today I've decided that while my reaction may not have made a difference in that one man---he'll continue being an asshole unless or until real consequence meets him---it makes a difference to my daughters whether or not I defend them.

Maybe it's possible that someone observed the whole thing, quick as it was, and next time they're in a similar situation, they'll speak up, too. If so, then I've won. And this is what advocacy for women is about as much as anything.

[For more about my advocacy, check out my side bar.]