Sunday, April 11, 2010

He Wasn't There

She always had a fierce, independent spirit that didn't require much from the men and friends in her life. Ever since she was a community organizer back in high school and college and having first read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, she learned to accept that having friends and lovers in a similar field meant that they would often be so consumed by their causes that they would often be missing in action during important moments in each of their lives.

So she didn't mind a bit when he missed her 21st birthday. If you were to ask her today, she wouldn't even be able to recall what he was out of state doing on that weekend...but she would know that it was definitely for a good cause that they both believed in. At the time it didn't bother her a bit.

Over the years, similar patterns reared their ugly heads and he often wasn't there on many other important days.

He wasn't there when she first got her teaching job and wanted to go out and celebrate, because he was working with the ACLU at the time in North Carolina. He also wasn't there when she bought her first house and was excited about it, because he was still working in North Carolina with something that had to do with factory workers.

He also wasn't there when was she promoted to a coordinator. Or a school principal. Or a district manager.  Or when she received her first masters degree. Or when she got a merit scholarship to participate in the doctoral program. He was off doing important work with prisoner rights and advocacy, the repeal of the three strikes law or health and human rights violations in the prison industrial complex. It didn't bother her that he was largely missing in action, because she believed in the causes.

It only slightly bothered her when he missed her 30th birthday, but only because many of her family members gave her a hard time at her birthday celebration all night long about him not being there. So she got confused in her head and for the first time asked herself if this was the life that she wanted to live. And later she reminded herself that it was.

In a sense she was happy when he decided to settle down and take a "normal" job in the school district. But similar patterns continued, only a lesser degree.

It's not as if she's an angel in this story though. She knows that she was missing in action on many of his important days due to one work or advocacy-related reason or another. She knows that she was not around on his 40th birthday, because she was in Washington D.C. trying to advocate for changes to the No Child Left Behind Act.  She's slightly cognizant of the fact that she was also not around for other important days, yet they are his important days and she can't recollect them because he has never rubbed it in her face that she wasn't around.

She has never rubbed it in his face when he missed one of her important days either, because the cause was more important than any socially constructed day of importance.

Except when her boss hinted that she BETTER attend a certain awards dinner when she had told him that she couldn't make it, she saw the look on his face and slightly suspected that she might be getting an award. And when she drilled her secretary later, she was pretty sure of it.

She's never been the kind of person who gives a damn about an award.  Maybe she is getting older. Or perhaps she has been through hell and back over the past two years at work, much of the hell being a result of her never-ending stubbornness to fight for the rights of children and parents--a tumultuous fight that has managed to get her into a hell of a lot of trouble and conflict over the past two years and most especially the past couple of months.

For the first time in her life, she felt a deep sense of frustration when he told her, "I won't be here that weekend. I have to go to Washington D.C. with the lobbyists to lobby for grants".

When he told her, she knew that his absence would be for the legitimate cause of saving the jobs of many, many people. Yet she became confused by the strange pings of irritation over his possible absence, a feeling that she had never quite felt before. And she started to become worried that she might be beginning to grow soft, a threat that she has heard many people tell her over the years that would happen to her when she finally decides to "grow up".

But she's a tough chick and can handle it because she knows that they are two fiercely independent and autonomous individuals who both love one another and are also in another full-time relationship with social justice.

This time she will TRY to not rub it in his face.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is always a challenge to balance the cause of companionship with "the cause" We all make choices early on that will determine exactly how those choices will shake out.

The way they shake out at 20 is the way she will shake out at 30,40,and 50

Its a challenge.