Now you see it, now you don’t

There’s a chance that Geoff might get fired today. I really wish that I were joking, but I’m not. If you know me, know him, then you probably want to laugh anyway. You’d know how crazy it sounds. Geoff gets promoted, not fired. In fact, he has been promoted twice in three years. You’d know – without me having to tell you – how hard he works and how much he accomplishes. He’s a doer. It’s a challenge to find him not doing something even in his free time. Imagine how much he can accomplish when you throw money into the mix.

If you know Geoff, then you know what a nice guy he is, how agreeable he is. He rarely ever gets angry. It’s one of the things that I love most about him. You’d know that he’s really smart and that he has an uncanny ability to teach himself anything that he wants to know. You’d know that he is an innovator, always thinking of ways to make things work faster, more efficiently, no matter how small.

So, if you knew all of these things about him, would you believe that it would ever be possible for someone to turn all of Geoff’s skills, all of his gifts, against him? Could you believe someone who cast a light in such a way as to make his attributes look like flaws? Would you buy it that he is a liability, not an asset to his company?

Well, it happened.

How, you ask? Well I’m not positive, but I have a suspicion that emotions are to blame. I could go into the gritty details, but I don’t think it really matters. Suffice it to say that emotions are like a magician’s bag of tricks. In one set of hands, a dove flies out of a top hat. In another set, the top hat holds a cloud of gloomy black smoke. It’s a simple illusion, nothing more than a manipulation.

Just remember, not everything is as it seems. I’m half hoping that he does get fired today. Maybe it’s just the kind of motivation that I need to find my way back to the workforce. Maybe we can use the time off and severance money to take a trip. I hear Hawaii is nice this time of year.

Postscript: Geoff just texted me — he’s still employed. Whew. I think.

Maybe I had it right all along

We visited her at the nursing home just a few days before she died. I was 25, yet I remember it so clearly. Geoff drove, and my aunt stayed back because there wasn’t enough room in the car.

Bubbie had sent instructions, of course: Bring Hershey bars. We stopped at Rite Aid on the way, but they were out, so I picked M&Ms instead. The nursing home was in a small, tidy building with a garden in front. The bright, colorful lobby felt almost cheerful. As we moved past the entrance into the patient area, we said hello to the patients lining the hall in their wheelchairs. Some responded but some were sleeping, their minds elsewhere. The intense smell of pee and beeping machines reminded us of illness and imminent death.

Bubbie waited for us, sitting in her wheelchair just inside the door to her room. I don’t remember why, but she couldn’t talk. Perhaps it was an effect of her recent stroke, maybe her voice escaped her body ahead of time. Nevertheless, I remember her mumbling for Rose Ann, my aunt, incoherently. My mom explained that my aunt had stayed back at the house. Bubbie also asked for my uncle, Norman; Norman who was her favorite child, who deceived her so coldly in the end, my uncle, who had fled back to his home across the country just days earlier.

So Bubbie made due with just us four – my mom, her sketchy but well-meaning husband, Geoff, and me. We kept our visit upbeat, chatting and laughing the whole time. Bubbie eyed us as though she wasn’t quite sure who we were. But maybe she was just angry at us, at me. I handed her M&Ms one by one from the package, hoping that my last-ditch effort would make her love me in the end. Who knows if it worked? She accepted the candy like a child, but still her face stayed as locked up as always.

Here’s the thing about having a grandmother who hates you, or one who at least withholds her affection for you even in the face of your own attempts at loving her: You learn how to handle others’ disapproval. You learn that you can’t ever control someone else’s emotions, even when you try. You learn how to seek your own approval from within yourself before seeking it from others, even from your family.

When you see your grandmother reject your achievements and reward your sister’s failures and illnesses, you learn that not everything is as it seems. No, sometimes love is hate and hate is love. When all that your grandmother offers you is anger and hatred, you learn that sometimes emotions are their opposite. You accept the paradoxical, the impossible, the ambiguous.

When your grandmother serves you a big plate of rocks instead of cookies, and when you are a good girl like I was, you eat up those rocks, smile, and pretend they are cookies. You just accept it. And years later, you might find yourself, as an adult, in a tough situation. You might one day feel broken down in some way, challenged. If you really focus on what’s going on inside you, you’ll feel those rocks still in your belly after so much time, and you’ll know for certain that everything is going to be fine.

If I could go back to that day in the nursing home with my Bubbie, I would thank her for always knowing how much I was capable of, for demanding the most from me, and accepting nothing. My Bubbie always made me work harder.

It looks like I have a secret admirer! Thanks to whomever nominated me for this awesome linkup.

Five Star Friday