It began with a phone call.
Work Granny- “Hey Brat, got a minute?” (Yes, she calls me ‘Brat’… we have a tough-loving, sarcastic-yet-close relationship.)
Me- “Whatsup Slacker” (Slacker: noun- a name given to a woman who always makes me do her dirty work.)
Work Granny- “It’s cancer.”
Me- “…………………….(waiting for her to finish her joke)………………………………”
Work Granny- “Hello?”
Me- “I’m here.”
My “Work Granny”, a woman in her mid 60’s who took me under her wing when I first got hired, was diagnosed with cancer last Thursday. It started with chronic pain and headaches. She thought it was due to other medications she was taking, or sinuses. I even joked that she was just trying to retire early than planned (6 months left!) prior to that call. The doctors originally found it in her spine, further testing has also found spots in her brain. The biopsies were today.
My mind was in a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Business and personal. I literally couldn’t find the words. Part of me wanted to reach through the phone and hug her, the other part of me wanted to tell her to “rub some dirt on it” and get back to work. After all, that is our humor. I said nothing. She continued talking about the diagnosis and testing to come. She asked me to take her place at a few meetings, and told me her passwords to access files needed for upcoming presentations. The call ended.
After work on Thursday I drove the 45 mins to the hospital where she was staying. I brought her favorite lunch from one of our favorite mom & pop shops. I stopped in at a nearby target and got her a house coat and some fuzzy pig slippers (an inside joke) and a stack of random magazines. We ate, laughed, made fun of her male nurse and the potential of her receiving a sponge bath, said our good-byes, and I left.
We didn’t talk about cancer, or the fact that she was hooked up to a zillion machines in a hospital bed. I didn’t want to. I don’t think she did either.
On the ‘up’ from my quarter-life crisis, I have been actively trying to correct my character flaws. More or less by actively trying not to be a selfish jerk. Work Granny is always offering unsolicited advice. Name the topic whether work related or personal, she always has something to teach me. From my visit the other day, I have learned the power that comes from bringing peace to another person. On the other side, I have learned that I am toxic to some of the relationships I keep.
I keep writing about ‘real’ connections, and genuine relationships. I am toxic to many. I have such a hard time letting people in that I also have a hard time letting people go once they make it past all the moats and walls it takes to get to know me. I have never been one to have more than a couple of close friends at a time. I hate the thought of not being a part of those lives, even after those ships have sailed. This applies ESPECIALLY when it comes to girlfriends. So, I stay in contact. Our lives have changed, none of us have much in common these days, but I still initiate that random conversation here and there for safe keeping. Then I ask myself, “How am I contributing to their lives? Am I a positive factor, or one that’s there in case one of us gets lonely? Am I holding them back? Offering false hope?”
After Thursday I realized that I should put more effort into those who need a friend than those who I want to need me. Being selfless isn’t one of my strongest attributes, but it’s on the top of my priority list to improve. I have so much more to learn from my Work Granny.
Please keep her in your thoughts/prayers/spiritual rituals/good vibes/other unmentioned faith and/or lifestyles.