Sunday, July 31, 2011

My friend Nancy

I put down these memorandums of my affections
In honor of tenderness
In honor of all of those who have been
Conscripted into the brotherhood
Of loss....
~ Edward Hirsch

Those of you who know me, know that I navigate my life through words. Through trying to find the exact sentiment that will convey what may be beyond description. I do this with deep conviction in a world that sometimes simply can not understand. I'll try again today for someone who only entered into my life three years ago but will never leave it.

I met Nancy in August of 2008 on my first day at Devereux. I have limited memories of the actual encounter because I was high as a kite on Vicodin after being on the losing end of a battle with a blender two days before. With 21 stitches in the tip of my finger, I listened as I was introduced to the world of Devereux Human Resources by a woman named Nancy Murphy. You couldn't help but like Nancy. I guarantee there isn't anyone out there that didn't like Nancy. In fact, I'm guessing most of us would go so far as to say we loved her. And she loved us back.

I worked in the community and Nancy worked on campus, so my initial interactions with her were rare but always positive. She emanated joy, even if she walked by cussing under her breath (which I loved about her). Nancy was the type of person you wanted to get to know. You wanted to be her friend.

At my 90 day mark, I made an appointment with Nancy to go over benefits. This was exciting for me, since I really never had a job with these kind of benefits. It was quite ceremonious. But shortly after the appointment began, Nancy and I stopped talking business and started being friends. I found myself seeking her out under the guise of an HR related issue. She'd motion me in, we'd shut the door and talk. It was like I always knew her.

About 10 months after I went to work at Whitlock, my brother passed away of a heart attack. As you all know this just about destroyed me. I started having alot of anxiety about making sure I had my "affairs in order" and scheduled with Nancy to discuss my life insurance policy. When I sat down in her office, I looked at her and began to cry. She started to cry too and told me that she had lost her brother too; young from a heart attack. In that moment, I found someone who inherently knew my pain like no one else. And it bound us. When I felt I had outstayed my welcome in the grief department with my other friends, I knew I could call, email or just show up in her office and we could have a brief cry, followed by a good laugh and move on.

This past winter, Nancy and I again had a parallel experience when our mothers were diagnosed with cancer. We confided in each other in a corner during happy hour and checked in on each other now and again. My mother lost her battle in March and I found myself standing in the door of Nancy's office pretending to have a question about retirement (we must have had 15-20 "retirement planning" meetings before I ever signed a single paper). Nancy listened as I told her the story of losing my mother with tears in her eyes. She gave me the time and space to do what must have been excruciating for her to hear. And then she looked down at her desk, shaking her head and said "Carol, I have to tell you. I feel this special connection with you that only you and I can understand. I know exactly how you feel." And she did. And there are very few people in this world who can say that and mean it. I will never forget that moment.

So, even though we were connected by parallel loss, I will always remember Nancy for "who she was" in the greatest sense of that cliche. She was a joy. She had a laugh and a smile that was infectious. She was lucky enough to have children and a family she absolutely beamed about when she talked about them. She was authentic and real and good and pure.

I will miss my friend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shining a Spotlight on....John

With all of my recent entries being of a melancholy nature, I was really looking to write about something or someone fun. When I went back over my entries from the past year, I found my Shining the Spotlight Series to be a fan fav (even though I only did two before now). Anyway – it just so happened that the other night my friend John called me and we got together for a few drinks and from that evening, my latest blog entry was born.

I usually give a bit of a life story on my Spotlighter so here's what I know; John grew up in the Washington DC area but moved up to Chadds Ford when he was in 11th grade. That was in 1970. That's right....BEFORE I WAS BORN, as I love to often point out to him every time we meet. He is one of many (I'm not sure how many) Irish children and they are a close family who genuinely seem to like each other, which at times feels like a novel idea to me, an Irish - Italian sibling. I just think the Irish are a culture that exhibits love through actually treating each other well, while the Italians show it by screaming at each other.

So anyway, I met John a million years ago, when I was about 19, waitressing at the Kennett Square Inn (let's face it, everyone I ever met of any real substance in my life, I met at the KSI) and he was a 38 year old divorcee. That in itself could be cause for scandal but I am sorry to disappoint. John was always a gentleman and we became good friends. I think, and I'd guess he'd agree, there's a bit of a kindred spirit relationship between us. Must be an Irish thing. But for a few years, we carried on platonic relationship that I will always view as a positive part of my life. It's always nice for a young girl to learn the lesson that she can be treated with respect by a man who doesn't necessarily have to treat her that way. 

Eventually, John went off and fell in love and got married and I did the same. We lost touch for many, many years but occasionally, I would wonder “What ever happened to John?” So fast forward those million years and about four years ago, I get an email from the Unionville Alumni website stating that someone is looking for me. Now this is before I had fully embraced Facebook as a form of connection with people from my past so I really couldn’t figure out who could possibly be looking for me. The best part is when I clicked on the link to connect me I was prompted to pay $25 to find out who was so desperately seeking me out. After weighing the pros and cons, I figured anyone who actually took the time out of their day to “seek me out” was worth the 25 bucks for me to find out who they were. I must say I was completely surprised (pleasantly, nonetheless) to find it was John “seeking me out”. We got back in touch, very occasionally but it wasn’t until my 40th birthday party this January that I finally saw him face to face after those million years. 

I put this reconnection in the same class as many reconnections I made over the past 2 years. In losing 2 of the most important people of my life since June of 2009, I regained numerous friendships that I really took for granted to simply be “time and place” relationships”. I learned that John, among others in my life, is much more than that. These are people who came into my life long ago for a reason, and came back into my life all these years later for a reason. I have learned that time means nothing when you connect with true friends over the course of a lifetime. And John has been a testimony to that.

But, the spotlight wouldn’t be complete without a story so I leave you with this one that I did not witness but had a profound effect on my life nonetheless. In 1970 (before I was born), John was elected Senior Class President of Unionville High School after a hard fought battle and subsequent runoff election. Given the social climate of the times, it only makes sense that John, as president, would have to enact some change in order to earn his place as president. So, John set up an appointment with the principal, Garland Hoover. Personally, the fact that Unionville’s principal name was Garland Hoover is enough for me but there is more to the story. So John went to the principal with 3 demands. Number one: the student body was demanding a smoking lounge. Number two: the student body was demanding that they be allowed to leave school during last period if they had a study hall scheduled. And Number three: given the previous year’s shooting in the NYC hotel during the senior class trip, the senior class was requesting the trip be changed to Williamsburg, VA. None of John’s demands were met that year but as I said before, his demands affected my life many years later. The following year, the smoking lounge was put in place. This courtyard is where I first spotted my friend Jed Demajistre 15 years later and thought to myself “that dude is a total head” (see Spotlight on Jed blog). I enjoyed many a smoke there myself throughout high school. And eventually, some bureaucratic bullshit put an end to the smoking lounge (although I’m really not complaining). 

The subsequent class was also able to enjoy early dismissals if they were scheduled for a study hall last period; another labor of love for John and his policy makers. By the time I got to UHS, they had done away with that policy but I must admit, I never spent an entire day in school my senior year. It appears that if you park just outside the principal’s office and act like you are supposed to be leaving at 1:30pm, no one questions you. 

The final demand was also eventually succumbed to, but not without a good fight from Mr. Garland Hoover. When John sat down with the principal Mr. Garland Hoover to explain the student concerns about being in a hotel where gunfire had erupted the year before on the class trip, the obviously Republican principal replied,
“You know John, coming from a rural setting like we do, something like that can be of educational value.” John’s senior class enjoyed a gunfire free trip to New York City that year but eventually the trip was changed to Williamsburg per his request. And by the time I made it to UHS, the pansies sent us to the happiest place on earth, Disney World. Talk about a change in social climate.

So thank you John, not only have you affected my adult life. You have affected my youth too. And you didn't even know it.