Tag Archives: help

Once in a Lifetime Friend

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Our Jim

My friend Jim was a swell guy. I know he thought of himself as grumpy or prickly but I didn’t see that. He was funny and loving and very wise. And patient. It’s funny  how we view ourselves compared to how the rest of society views us. Sometimes the negative things others tell us we are sticks and we go about life believing we really are those negative things even if we don’t present those traits to the world.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Jim. My dad pulled up as I was coming out of the house. There in the passenger seat was Jim, looking like I was going to slap him. Dad introduced us and I shook his hand, smiling. He tentatively smiled back as if he couldn’t believe I was being pleasant and nice to him. I was a bit baffled by his reaction to meeting me, but Dad looked really happy and that was all that mattered.

Jim  became a part of my dad’s life and as I got to know him, I began to understand why he assumed that I wouldn’t like him or accept him. That had been his life experience up to that point. His family wasn’t supportive of his lifestyle and he had come to expect intolerance and hate and anger. When I brought the kids over it was as if they had always been a part of his life. They loved him immediately. Again, they didn’t see of feel any grumpiness from him….I wonder who convinced him he was  a grumpy guy…

Not too long after Jim became a part of my father’s life, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. That put their relationship into fast forward. Jim moved in with dad to help care for him and to spend as much time together as possible. Dad’s diagnoses was pretty bad. Almost 50 years of smoking had finally caught up with him.

As sad as the circumstances were that landed Jim at dad’s it was actually heaven-sent. Jim was the perfect complement to my dad and like I said the kids and I loved him. We became family. Looking back, I can’t imagine not loving anyone who my father loved. But Jim and I had an extra special bond. I could feel it but I didn’t really get what it was.

Come to find out Jim was well versed in the 12 step program. Finally!!! My dad found himself a program person!!! I knew I loved Jim!! We had a language we could share and that language became invaluable in the coming year as we took care of my father as he died. We laughed and we cried and we totally understood each other. It gave dad great comfort that Jim and I were as tight as any family of choice is.

We held each other up when the man we loved died. He died with us there, knowing that we would be there for each other in this time of grief. In the years that followed, Jim was my rock. He was one of my closest friends. He was the one I called when the crisis crashed and when the insanity became too intense. Not only did he fix things around my house, like lights and lawn mowers and windows, but he also did a fabulous job decorating my livingroom.

Jim was my family. He came trick or treating with us. He was here on Christmas morning to watch the kids open presents from Santa, he got along better with my mother than my father did…

And then, one spring day, he dropped by just to say hello and talk about what we needed to do to my house to get it ready for summer. He had lunch with the youngest kid and myself. He winterized the snow blower and played a round of Uno with us and as he was leaving he hugged me tight and told me he loved me.

Later that night I got a call from the state police that he was no longer with us. He had left me a note.

I was sad, very mad and I went through the ‘why me’. But all of that passed. I respected Jim, I respected his choice. I respected that he felt that he could no longer continue in this life. The anger didn’t dissipate right away though. It took a very long time. Whenever I had to take down a storm window, or winterize the lawn mower or choose a paint color for the family room, I cursed Jim. And he knows it. I loved him unconditionally but man, I was pissed that he checked out and left me all alone to fight my battles.

Today, I am no longer angry. I know he is in a better place (although I know he didn’t believe he’d go anywhere special or that there was anywhere special to go) and I talk to him regularly. Both him and dad. I hear his very rational advice, I hear him calling me out on being a nutjob, I hear his laugh…I feel his honesty and I feel his love. He is gone but I am so grateful to have had him in my life in such an important way.

We squeezed so much life into such a short period of time. There will never be another man like him in my life. I am very lucky that we were able to share the world. He was my ally and advocate and I was his biggest fan.

And whenever I dust, I remember his very sage advice : NEVER clean hardwood floors with Pledge.

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It does take a village, a town, a country, a society.

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Domestic violence is everybody’s problem. And those people who turn their heads or make excuses or point fingers are the ones who are at greatest fault. When another woman is murdered, a mother’s life taken at the hands of her husband,a partner disappears, it impacts society in a negative way. The ramifications are far reaching and inconceivable. And it is preventable.

When hearing the stories that make it to the news, and watching neighbors and friends act dumbfounded at the crime that has been committed right under their noses, it is time to come out of denial. It is time to get involved. It is time to not be  a coward and believe when a woman reaches out for help, that she needs it.

But what the general public doesn’t understand and refuses to comprehend is that denying or ignoring does not make the problem disappear. We have entered an age where privacy is valued above all else. And that is good. There has to be a line. When you hear fear, when you see abuse, notice it, report it. DO SOMETHING. Just don’t sit there.

Another mother has just “disappeared” and her husband is the key suspect. The friends of the woman have said that the woman was unhappy and scared. But those voices are being drown out by the drama. Children have lost their mother, parents have lost their daughter, what will it take for others to see the dangers? What is it going to take for society to stop allowing these abuses to exist? It seems that if a man doesn’t “look” the part of wife beater, then they get the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, domestic violence does not have a “look”. We don’t fit a “type” and it isn’t always the woman who came from a dysfunctional home and it isn’t always the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks.

There are so many facets to domestic violence. Why not educate yourself? Arm yourself with knowledge and reach out to those who may be to scared or beaten down to ask for help. Don’t ignore, don’t assume. Everyone needs a helping hand every once in a while, and a family suffering, a woman in danger needs your attention.

Avoiding this issue has not helped those who need it. There is no reason for domestic violence to exist. If a person is unhappy, if a relationship isn’t working, then leaving is always an option. But in a domestic violence situation, leaving can be deadly. The abuser feels threatened and reacts. It isn’t about love or passion. It is simply about control. When they feel that their illusion of control is slipping over the other person, they react violently at times. The abuser refuses to lose. They see the relationship as a game. Many times they view their partner as simply an extension of themselves. And they feel justified in taking whatever steps they need to to stay in control.

Just like rape is not about sex, abuse is not about love or relationship. It is only about control. See it. DO something. Protect those who need protection. Do not ignore a person who says they need help. It is your responsibility. As a member of society. As part of the human race.

Many of us will get behind a cause. We will be outraged at injustices in other countries, crimes against humanity, rotten dictators, our economy, H1N1, the state of our public schools. We all have plenty to be angry about. But domestic violence is pushed away as shameful or as the victim’s fault. At the very least it is looked at as a private matter. Until another woman is killed or missing never to be found. Then it is a terrible shame. Feel guilty. Change it. We have the power to disallow these abuses. Believe that it is happening. And believe that if YOU stop condoning it with YOUR silence it can and will change. Educate yourselves and your children. Every victim of domestic violence was somebody’s child. The shame is ours. We can change it.

A victim of domestic violence has legal recourse. But without support and protection, they are walking naked into a room of unseeable landmines. The consequences of a victim reporting a crime are sometimes deadly. Because we allow it to be. Victims go back time and again because they are scared, because they have hope, because they are forced to. A victim needs help. And we as a society should be obliged to give support and help to those in need. In a free society where we are all encouraged to make choices and live free, when one of our own is in bondage and suffering, we need to act. Stop ignoring, stop denying, stop being so self centered and educate yourself and those around you. It is not a happy issue. It is not like there is some cure waiting in a lab. It is not an easy fix.

Nothing worth doing is easy. It may take generations for this issue to resolve. But in the meantime we can and should be aware. We can do what we can today for those who need us. You are important in this issue. You have the power to help. There is no shame in being a victim, there is shame in being a bystander who refuses to help.