Monday, March 26, 2007

The Other Woman

Here’s the bad news. (That’s a terrible way to start a blob but the good will soon follow). My mom’s latest caregiver is leaving. Here’s the good news and much to my surprise, she hasn’t been taking good care of mom – so it’s not such a loss. But I’m in Florida finishing the book Clay and I wrote, and doing some investment work for a new company, and I can’t get to New Jersey before Wednesday. And on Wednesday, because mom hasn’t had the kind of care she needs, we will once again enroll her in rehab, where she will have daily physical therapy, be fed three meals a day, and have social interaction with people her own age. She liked it when she was there before. The plan is to get her good and healthy before she moves into the lovely assisted living facility where we pray she will take advantage of everything available to her, and have some fun. But getting her healthy is the primary goal.

Over the last year, I have dreaded seeing my mother’s telephone number on my cell. My mother never calls me unless there’s a problem and she usually leaves a message on my home phone. But when someone calls from her house to my cell it’s usually an indication that there’s trouble. My heart begins to pound and my head begins to hurt. Two weeks ago the call came at 5:15am. It was so early I thought it was my alarm and just turned it off without looking. It rang again 15 minutes later and as I was about to turn it off, I saw the number. It was the caregiver calling to say mom had fallen and was in the hospital. Luckily, I was in NY waiting for my alarm to ring to warn me that I had to move my car and get on the road to Va. No such luck. I went to the hospital and waited for the doctor and the tests and then took her home. In the past, I have had to drive to NJ from Va., often more than twice a week. Not only for falls but for threats from care givers and other such emergencies. I’m not whining—well maybe I am, but as I have said before there has to be a better way.

Enough of that (I wish). Today, when Soozie and I were walking to breakfast we stopped at Paul’s store to say hello. Neither of us had ever been there, despite seven years of meetings with coffee every morning we’re in Key West. Paul’s wife Mary was there. She works along side him in this kind of charming Christmasie gift store. He makes wooden cut outs of animals and things and they can be used as ornaments or remembrances- what ever. It’s very cute. And so is Mary. She explained that she doesn’t come for coffee because she’s usually working in the garden or doing something around the house before she goes to the store. But the key is that she doesn’t come for coffee and it’s more likely that it’s because they consider morning coffee part of Paul’s life—rather than she’s busy at home. Consequently, my relationship with Paul has nothing to do with his real life.

When we left we headed down to The Last Flight Out, but I wanted to stop on the way to give Clay’s wife Maxine, a little something for her birthday. I met Maxine last year for the first time. Clay and I had been working on the book for about seven or eight months by that time and part of my trip to Key West, like this trip was to actually work in person and progress through the writing process. I had been at the store when I asked Clay if I was ever going to meet the elusive Maxine. He said she was working around the corner and I should go and say hello—which I did. I’m not sure he thought it was as important as I did but it was. Again, Maxine is an adorable delightful person with a great sense of humor—and to be married to Clay, a great sense of herself. But I don’t really know her because my relationship is with Clay and by choice, she has her own life.

When I began to think about these two relationships it took me back to my days of political campaigns. The staff on a campaign, especially the traveling staff (because they are always moving to another place), become very close. Often they have relationships that go beyond the professional, but just as often they do not. What is amazing, however is that hardly anyone knows anything about the others life. For example, there are people with whom I worked for twenty years and I had no idea if they were married, had children, or had real careers outside of the campaign. (I always talked about my son but that was atypical). When my friend Eli died last year I was out of the country and I had no idea he was gone—I didn’t even know he was sick. When I called his wife to express my sympathy and apologies for not having called her sooner, we started to reminisce about all the wonderful time I spent with Eli over the years. She had no idea about how many years we had been political friends. None whatsoever and I have had a long time relationship with her as well.

While it is not often, you do sometimes hear about people who got married or divorced but it is usually years after the fact. I guess part of it, in Presidential politics, is that you only see people every four years and for a finite amount of time. There are exceptions like Paul and Karen Sullivan, who are both dear friends, but it’s only because they both worked on the campaign. Additionally, with people like Karen and Paul, who live in Hawaii, you have to work to stay in touch. They are worth the work, and that is the case with only a few other campaign colleagues, but most often people are satisfied to separate and reconnect on another campaign.

It’s so wild to think of yourself as the other woman, not in the traditional sense but because of the way the world works now. People have their own little universes. Married couples develop relationships with people who they see separate from their spouse. It might be mother in a child’s play group, colleagues at work, people with whom they play and even people who they have coffee with as a consequence of their location. These relationships are absolutely separate from the life they lead with their partner. And they only know about the person with whom they deal—not anything about their lives apart from an activity. I think this is a healthy thing. I think it’s nice to know people who David doesn’t know and visa-versa—except attractive young women who feel it is important to get close to a world traveling photojournalist. It provides us with material for lot’s of interesting conversations. Additionally, it lends to a bit of mystery. And after 28 years of together-bliss (today is the anniversary of our meeting), a little mystery is not a bad thing. And, although I do often wonder about the lives of the people we hardly know, I am always thankful that we know them. We’re just sayin...

1 comment:

Walter Briggs said...

Happy Anniversary on your meeting each other! I was 37 when I finally met Debbie..better late than never, I guess. I am glad to know you both also.