A Mere Snippet of a Life.
Social work and people were pretty much what she was for years. ‘She helped others’ will most likely be written on her tombstone. From the time she was young adults told her she should be a nurse and she considered it, really she did, but the simple fact was she didn’t have the sciences. She liked to tell herself she didn’t have a mind for maths and sciences, truth was though she didn’t try those courses in high school.
She eventually went to college in a different town and took some social work courses after a dismal stab at a BA syllabus. At twenty she entered into a marriage to a fellow as immature as she was, she earned the rent through waitressing and prep cooking, chambermaid and house cleaning, unregistered companion for seniors you know the type of thing. The work you do when you fall under his spell and turn your back on any ambitions you had.
After they parted and her parents encouraged her to come back to her hometown she balanced a free-lance writing job at the local paper with more waitressing. The first was amazing for her confidence, seeing her name on a by-line, positive feedback from friends and the publisher. The second didn’t last that long, it wasn’t her thing at all. She wasn’t being snobby or anything, she knew how hard the work was and admired people who did it well, but she didn’t do it well and after awhile she and the owner came to a mutual agreement.
Throughout this whole ‘coming back home’ experiment she felt like she’d failed at marriage and being a grown up. It was a blow to her self-esteem and manifested itself in the serial dating of ‘wrong men,’ drinking and being emotionally absent for over five months.
Once she sat up and looked around at her life as a thirty-something, she didn’t like what she saw. The skin didn’t fit if you know what I mean. Her parents had both retired by this point after many years of working and didn’t understand her aimlessness. There was eventually an application for a posting at the local inclusion society and she was hired, just as a casual at first. The agency supported people from childhood to senior living so there were a lot of employment options on offer. Through the following couple of years, she worked in many of them. Along the way she met several long-time staff that still worked in the same residence after twenty years. It was kind of mind blowing to her, who wanted to work at the same location, doing the same things for that long? Probing into her gentle disdain she grasped that she wanted more variety. Who was she becoming this woman of curiosity and sense of adventure? She never realized she possessed either before!
Around this time, she signed up for the agency’s retirement program, they matched her contributions to the fund and as she was making some money it was timely. Having financial security had never been a reality in her previous life, she’d been a free-wheeling, cheque cashing (sometimes they bounced but whatever) kind of hippie chick. As she watched her investments grow and her bank balance rise her sense of accomplishment rose as well.
The agency encouraged her to complete the Community Support Worker program. Her piece of paper led to increased opportunities including a coordinator posting. This role showed her strengths and weaknesses to both the staff she supervised and herself. She knew that her contract demanded that she deal with grievances, attendance issues and in-fighting among the staff. She found them difficult to communicate with as they knew she had no experience in leadership. She eventually found her confidence and could stand up for herself, but her passion for the job was waning and she was desperate to move on.
In her second year back home, she started to see a family friend in a new light. They started dating, slowly at first just to make sure. If they parted badly it could make things uncomfortable for both sides. He was a lovely man, always had been and she found herself learning a lot throughout the next twenty years. He’d lived on his own for ages so he coached her in money management, cooking and even guided her through her issues at work. He’d been a supervisor as well and passed along his acumen. They just celebrated an anniversary, let’s catch up with her shall we?
Let’s see, the two of them have gone through the deaths of his parents, her parents, and an uncle. They had also lost his sister and her brother. For a decade and a half, it seemed a continual round of visits to the funeral home, cleaning out apartments and houses and posts to the obituary column in the local paper. They both loved to travel, and hit Las Vegas, Maui, New York, wherever, it wasn’t all death and dying.
Seven years ago, she’d changed jobs, it was still in a helping profession but this time the goal was to support women and children fleeing abuse. The subject hit pretty close to home as she’d had a family member go through the same pain. She’d been on her little island then and had no idea of the trauma, she didn’t really blame herself but in retrospect she wished someone had told her. Through conversations with more experienced co-workers, training courses and hands-on interactions she absorbed the lessons. She went home after every shift and hugged her loving partner. She still struggled internally with the facts of domestic abuse and though she could read through files and industry materials she could never really grasp the concept of someone purposefully hurting someone that they claimed to love.
Her family of origin was like many in the seventy’s and eighty’s, two parents and three kids. Both parents were funny and intelligent well-respected people. Her siblings both younger were athletic to her bookishness, outgoing to her sensitive and quiet nature. She loved them both and even though she didn’t realize it at the time, being the eldest instilled a sense of responsibility and fairness in her personality. She grew to be a kind and patient person; she’d inherited her father’s quick wit and her mother’s strength of will. Although ironically it was also her mother who passed on the nail-biting habit. That never seemed like a strong-willed thing to continue in her mind.
We’ve come to the current stage of her life. Her sister’s family continues to grow with grandchildren, all of them in a different city. She’s retired from work now, outside the home anyway. Her teacher and partner is aging in a hurry. He’s in his seventies now and is as stubborn about not seeing a doctor now as he was when she met him. So, she cares for him when it’s needed, and stops herself from helping when it’s not. She’s patient with him when he walks slowly in front of her, she takes deep breaths when he falls asleep with the remote clutched in his hand and the weather channel repeating itself on the screen. She realizes that when the young woman inside her head is screaming, ‘let’s get out of here and go to the pub you silly woman, he’s aging you too.’ She can glance at his closed eyes and open-mouth and let it evoke the memories of all the help and support he gave her all those years ago. In these moments she realizes that he’s made her what she is just as her family, her work and her life experiences ever did.