Tuesday, December 20, 2011

a resplendent woman

Today I saw Carlene and if you like soap operas keep reading because you are going to get one.

 My former job had ended with a lot of heartache and disappointment and my self-centered boss wore spiked high heels and she renigged on a verbal contract we had. I would work a concentrated three-day schedule allowing me to babysit my shiny new grandson the rest of the week. The scaldiwag nurse hired to pick up the other hours got lazy and useless and then they said we changed our minds, she's out and you need to be here the whole time and I said no, we had a deal, but I was powerless to change things.

 On my last day I clocked in and saw the unbelievable workload scheduled for me and decided, I'm outta here.  I grabbed my Kleenex box and stapler and my toddler grandson and I spent the day on the river's beach, the boy shoveling sand into a bucket and me staring at the horizon wondering what the hell just happened.

I was not accustomed to being unemployed and I did not like it.  I spent the first week sewing a cover for a table lamp and I thought, when this period comes to an end and people ask what did you accomplish while unemployed,  I will say, look at this lamp cover.

Then I got this new job and they gave me my own bright blue folder and I had a desk with drawers and a bulletin board.  Carlene was my co-worker and she was planning a vacation with her husband Jeff, in Hawaii. It seemed liked a contented union for these two and they had a young son, Joshua.  Upon their return Jeff attempted suicide and it had not been the first time. He had carefully timed his intended demise to occur at the same time a sister was scheduled to visit his house and she was never tardy. It was a safe gamble.

Carlene was disgusted.  Jeff had been playing these dangerous games a long time and the disruption to her and Joshua's life had become unbearable.  She left that man and over the weeks we learned the history of this sad marriage, Jeff was an emotional and verbal abuser, a man prone to manic and gargantuan rages.

Shortly after this, Carlene moved to a lake home owned by a woman, deep in the woods north of town and announced she was a lesbian.  Most of us reacted with dropped jaws wondering how we had missed this.  Carlene got stronger, protected and nurtured under Lynn's love and she stopped being such a scared little girl.  All of this was gist for Jeff's hate machine and he managed to convince even her own mother Carlene was malicious and not to be trusted with her new identity.

With his dad's urging Carlene's young son refused to spend time with her and  I watched Carlene bring all this heartache to work. I was impressed with her calmness in the midst of this lonely tragedy.  She never complained or blamed, accepting her lot and always, always her son was the core of her existence and she arranged counseling for the two of them.  Her neurotic husband fought her at every step, spreading lies and poisoning the son, Jeff was a selfish beast.  Carlene had a Zen-like attitude toward life, never challenging or tempting the universe, allowing events to transpire and play themselves out before she would react.

And then she got breast cancer, an invasive, estrogen-fueled tumor that blasted itself into her lymph nodes and left her shivering and senseless from the current medical barbaric technology of cut, burn, poison.  And she met the disease face-on with the same heroic stoicism that kept her sane in the bedlam of her collapsed marriage. Those of small mind mumbled amongst themselves she deserved this fate and we ignored these insignificants.

I work evenings now and Carlene remains on the day shift.  But by chance I saw her this week and she wouldn't stop hugging me. I hadn't seen her since the start of her disease and she was wearing little snowman earrings and her long blond hair was gone and a spiky crew cut stuck up jaggedly on her scalp. The human spirit is resplendent in the soul of this woman, and still I remain uncertain of the very existence of souls, but what moves and inspires this child of the universe represents an energy undefined by anything mortal.


Anonymous said...

Once I started this tale, I had to finish. Even if I was on company time. :-0

dawn marie giegerich said...

Well, thank you.