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I ran a non-profit.  Did I ever tell you that?

90’s “You’ve Got Mail ” reference, sorry.    Shopgirl (Meg Ryan) online chatting to NY152 (Tom Hanks)

My store is closing this week.  I own a store.  Did I ever tell you that?  Probably not. It’s a lovely store and in a week, it will be something really depressing, like a Baby Gap.   I am being amazingly brave.  Soon we’ll just be a memory.   In fact, someone, some foolish person will probably think it’s a tribute to this city, the way it keeps changing on you, the way you can never count on it, or something. I know, because that’s the sort of thing I’m always saying.  But the truth is, I’m heartbroken.  I feel as if part of me has died, and my mother has died all over again, and no one can ever make it right.


It just ended between us a month ago and I’m still in recovery.  It was a complete case of me not listening to my instincts, which had already refused applying for the job twice, when the organization started and when the first director (loved her!) left after Katrina.  But then the third time, it looked like the organization was going to dissolve and I had to try.  I’m smart enough; I care passionately about the issue.  (I was about to finish my masters degree on the subject for pete’s sake!)

But oh did I pay and pay and pay for not being true to my nature.  And you can’t tell anyone, because then you look weak and the organization looks weak, and nobody will donate (or loan) money to you or partner with you or respect  you.  You’re just supposed to suffer in silence.  How can you complain when the people your organization is working to help are likely worse off than you are??

Stress goes right to my uterus these days, this age, whatever it is. You swallow enough and it cuts you up inside, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you have a house to live in, a car to drive, fair health, a family, money to travel.  The many failures weigh out over the successes that seemed harder and harder to achieve.

I tried to resign 6 months ago, but was asked to stay on part-time to help transition to a restructured organization.  NEVER DO THIS.  I did, because I felt obligated and thought I needed health insurance through the year end.

And the very end, ugh.  No going away party (which I would have hated anyway), no card, no thanks for 10 years, and the last 2 days before Christmas not even anyone in the office while I was packing, cleaning and organizing.  I didn’t send out my own mass emails, letters or small notes of thanks either!  (I did get a gift from a good person at the  last big meeting, but he looked embarrassed that he was the only one, and another good person came specifically to tell me thanks and good bye, but I think I spit on him when I said I was going “part-time.”)

So, I’m in recovery from non-profit management.  Working Part-time (oops, sorry) and trying to lay low.  My next step in the grief process is to create an Out of Office message for the email address I’ve had for 10 years to tell everyone who to contact in my place.  (I’ve been officially gone for a month – see the dependence?!)

I do feel like a part of me has died, but am very very sure that things will be right again.


Clifton said ‘Pop Pop’  for the first time.

And I flat out lost it.

During this whole process of becoming a parent, missing Dad has been separate from it.  Mom has tried to suck me into some of her weepy moments, but I’m a pragmatic; it’s something that can’t be changed.  I never knew either of my grandfathers and that’s just how it is.

And then that little squeaky voice says ‘Pop Pop’ during one of  his favorite activities, the group photo i.d.-athon.  This time it was the picture on my shelf of the night before David left for Iraq in 1990.  That awful awful night.  I came in from Phoenix; we had dinner at home; other people were there.  Dad’s awkward presentation of his St. Christopher medal and how proud he was of David following in his footsteps.  In the photo, you can see the dread of death in our ghostly smiles.  (David will probably disagree with my recollection of that night and photo description, but look at our mother’s face, okay?)

“Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”   –Julia Ward Howe

(Peaceful history of Mother’s Day to come.)


Jim takes the boys off for baths, and I sit at the dinner table trying to stop bawling.  I can see Dad’s funny faces with goofy sound effects, hear Clem Cadiddlehopper stories, see him wrestling with the wiggly ones, looking into their faces and listening to their secrets.

Clifton gets 3 books tonight, and I’m crying again in the somnolent darkness.  I realize that it’s not just all the things the deep breathing baby on my chest is going to miss.  What really has the tears streaming into my ears is what I’m going to miss.

I won’t be able to share these wonderfully crazy parent moments with my Dad.  I can see him looking at me as I calm down a struggling toddler, feel his hands squeeze my shoulders as he passes me in the chaotic kitchen, hear his jokes about the personalities of my sons and stories of us when we were kids (‘try having four’).

All this slams over me in a tidal rush.  So unexpected.  So sudden.  I can’t put the Pop Pop in their life.  They’ll be fine because they won’t know what they’ve missed.

But I’ll know.