KASEYCOFF
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Day 580 - Aftermath

Monday, March 21, 2016

First, I want to thank all of you for your kindnesses: your emails, messages, and virtual hugs helped me more than I can ever tell you. We may never meet face-to-face, but we are truly friends.

Second, I want to publicly acknowledge my daughter Katharine. Those first weeks were horribly chaotic, and her help as the "communications hub" was invaluable. Some of you were in touch with her, so you know just how crucial her help was to me.

This is shaping up to be... a peculiar year. Beyond the emotional angst is the uncertainty. Suddenly finding myself caught between two countries (each of whom seems to want to grab a big chunk of what we saved but skip out on providing any kind of retirement income) I'm beginning to suspect I may be forced into making a choice.

Well, we do what we can, when we can, ain't? The compass needle is wavering back and forth, but I have faith that eventually it will point north.

Today is one of those dreadful anniversaries, and this is what's been running through my mind:

Some twenty years ago I worked in the call center of a major bank. The twinned concepts of "banking" plus "24 / 7 call center" were relatively new at the time, and we didn't have the restrictions and rigid job-performance directives that call centers have now.

During the traditional banking hours on Monday through Friday we were indeed busy. Often there were scarcely a few seconds between calls.

But by late afternoon and in the evenings, as well as on weekends and holidays, the calls were fewer and there was more time to have a little non-bank conversation.

Even after all these years there are some customers I still remember --a retired professor who travelled all over the world to attend operas… an elderly Greek immigrant in his 70s who travelled back to "the old country" to escort his new wife – also in her 70s - to America… the Scottish woman who sounded like Mrs Doubtfire.

One of my favorite customers was Mrs R---. The first time I happened to take her call she was checking on their retirement pensions. She had a charming, almost lilting accent, and I took a chance, doing something I very rarely did. I asked her "Parlez-vous francais, madame?"

(Now, I'm not showing off. I studied French for years, in junior high and high school and for two years at college. After all that, what do I know? I can say "Where is the bathroom?" and "Help me!" and "la plume de ma tante." I can also sing – badly – most verses of "Alouette." That’s it. Oh, and "Parlez-vous francais?")

Mrs R--- was off and running. I got little of that first conversation, but she discovered that my "baby French" was just about enough for us to engage in a bit of small talk amongst bank business.

She seldom called in more than every few weeks, but she got into the habit of asking to be transferred to me if I was on duty. I always enjoyed talking to her, and in those brief conversations I learned she was a French war bride, that her American husband had been an interpreter for the army and had been stationed in France after the liberation. Her brother was working with the Americans and had introduced them.

They married, and when she came to the United States in 1946 she spoke very little English, but by the time I knew her she had been in America for fifty years and her fluency was assured, the only giveaway that lovely accent.

They'd raised four children who were scattered all over the US and now that she and her husband were retired they travelled much of the year visiting their children and grandchildren. They had an apartment on the edge of a big city and spent their "at home" time going to the theatre and hosting dinner parties – she was so eloquent, described things so well, that even now I remember some of the places and events she talked about.

In 1998 our bank was bought by another: these "mergers" are never a marriage of equals. The big fish eats the small fish, which quickly disappears. Our department was being closed, since The Big Bank had a large state-of-the-art call center of their own in another state. We received pink slips, but in all fairness, the severance package was generous and we had nearly a year for closing down, during which time we could apply in-house for positions or job-hunt elsewhere with glowing recommendations.

I had elected to stay to the end, partly because my plans included going back to school, partly because the overtime -- as we picked up the slack for people who were leaving -- was the most money I’d ever made.

Thus I found myself manning the station on my own one Saturday evening - after all, who calls a bank on Saturday night?

As it happened, Mrs R--- did. I chirped my usual "Thank you for calling the Thus-and-So Bank. This is Kasey. What can I help you with?"

She said "Oh, Kasey, I was hoping you would be there." Then, very softly, she said "J'ai perdu mon mari." She paused, and asked "Est'ce que vous me comprenez?" - "Do you understand?"

I did understand: what she'd said is "I have lost my husband."

I am not a person who cries easily, and normally the tears I shed are eminently selfish ones. But I could feel the tears starting.

"Mrs R---! I am so, so sorry! What happened?"

At the end of the day, I don't suppose it mattered. Her husband - who had appeared to be perfectly healthy, who'd never been ill a day in his life - had literally dropped dead of a heart attack, gone before she could even cross the room to him.

Mrs R--- said she was not going to wait the traditional year before making changes. She was clearing out their apartment, planning to sell it, then she thought she would live with her children, moving among their residences. Spending time with the children seemed to her the best option.

I spoke with her perhaps once or twice more. Not long after that conversation personal account calls were transferred to The Big Bank's call center, and we handled only commercial account calls for the remaining weeks.

I don't know, of course, whatever became of her. But she's been on my mind quite a bit these last couple of months. I can still hear her soft voice, with her beautiful French accent, saying "J'ai perdu mon mari."

I understand, more than I would ever have chosen to.

Carpe diem, people - time is fleeting.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • GARDENCHRIS
    such a sweet story, glad you were there for her. So very sorry you are having to deal with all this yourself emoticon
    302 days ago
  • JENNIW70
    This is beautiful, Kasey! I've been thinking of you and praying for you. Hoping you are able to find peace, wisdom and strength through this journey. I know it never gets easy, but perhaps less painful?
    930 days ago
  • LEANJEAN6
    Hi Kasey,
    I'm waiting for you to move to CANADA--- lovely picture of yer himself----- How are you adapting?---- hard eh--- Anyway, sending hugs yer way--Lynda
    1281 days ago
  • MEDDYPEDDY
    I am so sorry for your loss kasey, if there is ever anything you would want from me, I hope you ask, I am rather absent from Spark these days and that makes me feel like a bad friend not being around. But my heart goes out to you and if I try to imagine what it is like I just cry. And your story about Mrs R makes me think about the book "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion, both from the authors french name and the theme of that book.
    1327 days ago
  • EDWARDS1411
    I’m There Inside Your Heart

    Right now I’m in a different place
    And though we seem apart,
    I’m closer than I ever was…
    I’m there inside your heart.
    I’m with you when you greet each day
    And while the sun shines bright,
    I’m there to share the sunsets too…
    I’m with you every night.
    I’m with you when the times are good,
    To share a laugh or two,
    And if a tear should start to fall….
    I’ll still be there for you.
    And when that day arrives
    That we no longer are apart,
    I’ll smile and hold you close to me….
    Forever in my heart.
    1331 days ago
  • PHOENIX1949
    emoticon emoticon emoticon as you navigate your new reality.
    1339 days ago
  • SROUS1340
    Dearest Kasey, my heart is so sad for you and your loss. What a wonderful time you had with Himself. I loved reading about your life and your everday adventures. I am so glad you got to have retirement with Himself. It sounded delightful thru the eyes of your blog. Give yourself some time to make big decisions. My heart is with you. Keep writing. You touch us all. Love, Susan
    1339 days ago
  • LJCANNON
    emoticon My heart is So Sad for you!! I really can't imagine all you're having to deal with at a time when you should be taking care of You! I wish I could be there to Hug you in real life.
    1339 days ago
  • ONEKIDSMOM
    emoticon Amazing, amazing story of the ground work that prepares one for knowing you're not alone when it happens to YOU! You are a kind and caring soul, and deserve much goodness in your life ahead. You face many decisions now, may you have the gentle guidance of your Loving Maker as you go through them. And many, many thanks to your daughter for being there for you, and keeping us in the loop. For though we've never met, your Spark friends are real!
    1339 days ago
  • SIMPLYABUNDANT
    A beautiful and heartfelt post, written as only you can write. It says something about the kind of person you are that you remembered this sweet gentle soul for so many years. Just know that, although we have never met and I never had the pleasure of meeting Himself, the blogs you wrote about him made me feel I knew him too. While I cannot imagine what your bereavement must be like, I am certain that your heart is full of cherished memories, snatches of conversations, and mental photographs. Let them be your treasures and comfort as you work through all the transitions ahead, and know we all love you here.

    emoticon

    1339 days ago
  • SDEHNKE
    emoticon I'm so very sorry. As if the loss wasn't enough. So many decisions so many changes. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Suellen
    1339 days ago
  • LEANJEAN6
    Oh Kasey---- I am in tears--- I am so so sorry---- Life throws good and bad stuff our way---How to deal with it--I dunno--- Your daughter Catharine must be invaluable ---I want to wrap my arms around you and cry for you----Life goes on however --- you must too, but how?---- Hugs hugs hugs and more hugs my friend--Lynda in Northern Ontario
    1339 days ago
  • CAPECODLIGHT
    I am wiping tears as I respond to your post. Thank you for sharing this very meaningful story - beautifully written. I, too, want to thank Katherine, who did a great job of letting your many Spark Friends know of your husband's death. We are all here sending our warm thoughts of comfort. Some have already walked the path that you are taking and can offer insights about what the journey has been for them. I have not, but I send my heartfelt hope that you find the strength and grace you need in this "peculiar year".
    1339 days ago
  • DEBIGENE
    It's so nice to see you here again. The lost of a loved one is such a hard part of life to deal with and the 1st year afterwards is always the hardest as EVERY DAY is a NEW day without them. I'm not saying it will get easier cause everyone deals with loss differently but that 1st year is very hard.
    You are one of the lucky ones as you have a strong support system that will be your strength.

    Thank you for sharing such a lovely part of your life with us. emoticon emoticon
    1339 days ago
  • WINE4GIRL
    Kasey, I'm in tears, my heart hurts for you. My prayers for peace and for navigating the next steps are always with you. Thank you for sharing the story of Mrs. R. The memory of her will hopefully help you as well. Thank Katherine for me please, for keeping us in the loop. Hugs to you, my friend.
    1339 days ago
  • GARDENCHRIS
    I am so very sorry about your loss, my prayers and a huge hug....things will work themselves out , glad your daughter stepped up to help emoticon
    1339 days ago
  • PICKIE98
    I am so glad you shared your stories with us. IT is a privilege to be your friend and hear about you and your friends.. Spark friends are not the only "invisible people" who are our friends.. her life touched yours so that you could be comforted right at this time from her experience and sharing with you. God sent her to you.
    I am glad you are back and that you have a wonderful daughter with you. GOd Bless You sweetie.
    1339 days ago
  • BABYBARNEY
    Thank you Kasey for sharing such a beautiful story to start my day. Life changes so quickly...tomorrow we enter a new phase following a house move...This recollection has left an imprint on your heart & even though we don't get to meet...SPARKPEOPLE has the same effect for me...I hope a rainbow of possibilities is coming your way...paved with a view of SUNSHINE!
    1339 days ago
  • NELLJONES
    It is sad that that kind of personal connection couldn't happen today.
    1339 days ago
  • DEBRITA01
    Hugs and prayers as you work through this part of your life. God bless... emoticon
    1339 days ago
  • JANETL1
    My heart and prayers are with you, Kasey...I've been there, too.
    1339 days ago
  • LYNMEINDERS
    Amazing Kasey......so nice to see you back...
    My prayers have been with you....
    I understand what you are talking about so so much.....
    My 2 youngest childrens dad died last week and although we have been apart for nearly 30 years we have still kept in touch and would talk occassionally....
    Like your hubby...because it was so sudden I truly am struggling with it....so are my kids....

    Life throws us curve balls at time but God brings us through
    1339 days ago
  • LECATES
    You made a connection with her---and she felt the need to share--just like you do on here. You are such a special person! Hope your decisions become easier as it goes along. Life often is so unfair, esp. if any government is involved. Hugs!
    1339 days ago
  • BALANCE15
    Wow. What a story. Completely captivated me this morning. Thank you for sharing that. I know it's hard to never know what happened to her and I bet she wonders the same. Maybe some day you cross paths again. People enter our lives for a reason
    1339 days ago
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