What counts is love, reliability and simply being there
Herein lies a tale of deception and deceit. (Kind of sounds like "Masterpiece Theater," doesn’t it?)
I had been so hopeful, foolish hopes as it turns out. I actually did have an answer for one of my requests for a meeting and possible future collaboration. But it was and is simply not to be. Yes, we did have a meeting and we had it at QUEST, but oh my friends, and ah my foes, the end was not to be. To be what I wanted that is.
At this point in time there are no future times or plans for said agency and myself to meet or talk again. I had stretched out my hand and said, “Let’s forget the past and start again.” And this is something I truly, truly meant. But the anger sizzling in the room was palpable, and though I had never crossed blades with this person, there were grudges that could not be overcome. And once more I found myself on the outside playing alone and miserably.
Even more than that, I since found to my dismay that the very agencies who would not partner with me in the past because QUEST worked with “those children,” now claimed to be the agencies and the only agencies who worked in outreach programs to aid, help and comfort those children.
I, apparently, had been mistaken in my mission statement, my website and my Internet for 20 years. What is even more bizarre is that the agencies who shunned me had also been mistaken and seen the light and had now joined forces to beat me at my own game. I fed kids, they fed kids, only they had been feeding kids for years longer than QUEST, in fact they never actually knew that QUEST fed kids. Though one beautiful picture of Tifa at the grill cooking chicken had been on the front page of this paper, The Daily Gazette, I picked up my kids in a battered old van; they bought a fancy new vehicle to do the same. I just smiled through all this and told myself imitation was the best form of flattery. I didn’t realize they were playing hardball while I was just saying, "Good, not a single one of us can reach all the kids that need us. Carry on pilgrim," I told myself.
But I don’t know how to fight hate and frankly I don’t want to learn at this late stage of the game. Yes, I know I am gullible, I already know I trust too much and too easily. But to be abused because I care is really sad. Is this a lesson to teach our families and youth? “You’ve got to be taught to hate,” remember that famous song from “South Pacific?” It still holds true.
One of my favorite lines from returning kids is, “are you STILL here?” It never ceases to amaze me and make me smile. I hope to be, if nothing else, a steady stillpoint in my QUESTORS' lives.
My rescue dog has abandonment issues in his mind and body. He wants his whole family (up to and including the cat) safe and sound and always at home like a doggy "Leave it to Beaver" rerun. He howls as if his heart is breaking when anyone leaves and waits by the window watching -- as if watching with all his might will bring them back more swiftly. And you know my kids are the same way. Not just with me and QUEST but with their parents also. They call and call and call their moms while they are at QUEST. One little girl only makes it through an hour or so and 10 minutes after ballet she always wants to go home. Sometimes she goes home, sees mommy then gets right back in the car and says, “Alright I am ready to go back to QUEST now.”
And depending on my mood I either smile or cry, or get annoyed. I am only human, after all. And though I’m always threatening to firm up and stand by past threats -- “if I take you home you are staying home” or “no, absolutely not, I am not going all the way out there to pick you up.” I always crumble and grumble just like any Niskayuna soccer mom and get in the car and drive. The main difference being that I am a ghetto mom, or grandmother, and like the old woman who lived in a shoe I have so many children I don’t know what to do.
But most times I do know what to do -- what counts, it is love, it is reliability, it is simply being there. As it gets harder and harder for me to walk, I sit in my car, and they come to me, my flowers of my old age. My car is always full and my arms are never empty.
One of my friends from probation has come down squarely on my side and as we were talking (vis a vis) about my situation I inadvertently blabbed and told him my troubles. We talked about the two agencies who now claim to have outreach programs, gang-related outreach programs that is, and my friend laughed and said, “Yup outreach programs to reach out and keep those kids away.”
Actually a little levity came at just the right moment because in 10 minutes I got my restricted call that ended with a death threat. Now I never answer restricted calls, but I was momentarily distracted and clearly wasn’t paying attention. Here is this mature male voice on the other end saying, “Listen you f--- white --- you f---- up my life and now I coming over at 7:00 and you better let me in.”
Bang goes the phone and I just sit there stunned. For a long time, a real long time, I was speechless, it didn’t really connect. This was Judy they were talking to, everybody loves Judy, or so I thought. I couldn’t even think of someone coming after me like that. Evidently I was mistaken. I called 911, it took approximately 75 minutes for them to arrive. 6:56 to be exact. I pulled my van to the front of the parking lot and faced front. I figured I wanted to be seen not hiding in the shadows in the back of the lot. Meanwhile Tifa comes up and says, “I hope you didn’t sound like a black lady" (it is Tifa’s considered opinion that I have worked so long in the Hill that I sound like a black woman who lives on the Hill).
It is also her considered opinion that if 911 thinks I am black it will take the police longer to arrive. I shattered that theory right off the bat, for some reason I am not well liked by many police on the hill. The other funny issue was 911 asking me if my caller had a weapon. I guess it’s a standard question, but really my caller never announced his intentions as to weaponry on the phone.
Meanwhile to continue the farcical loop I was waiting for L. to return my keys. L. had rented QUEST for a party on Saturday and while she had left the place spotless she had yet to return my keys and I was getting a wee bit edgy. Well, I had told L. between 5:30 and 8:30 was fine but with this new change in direction I felt that was no longer appropriate as we might have to close early.
So I called and her husband answered the cell phone. He had very little English at his command and mostly he spoke Spanish and I had very little Spanish at my command mostly I spoke English. So when I said I would appreciate it if L. could get here before the police arrived; he stuttered that he would go right home. Ten minutes later L. calls and was she steaming! She said she didn’t appreciate the fact that I was rude to her husband and that she was going to sue etc. etc. etc. Five minutes later she arrived with her broad chested, bulging, muscled son, who stood outside during the whole exchange with his arms crossed over chest and an enormous scowl on his face.
Of course, the police were already there, 2 -- count em -- 2 squad cars. And of course they parked right in front of the building in full view of all State State and beyond. No finesse here. And I proceed to try and fill out a police report and assuage L.’s fears. You guessed it -- the Spanish family thought I was calling the police on them. If such miscommunication could occur over such a small thing, imagine how easily wars could start and continue.
A little aside here...
In the 12th century, an English church promised a side of bacon to any married man who could swear before God that he had not fought with his wife for a year and a day. This may be where the term “bring home the bacon” originated.
Language -- what a wonderful invention, a necessary evil, and a boon to human kind. We now know that dolphins and whales speak to each other through clicks, whistles and singing. We have yet to find out the intelligence of these sentient beings. But the possibility exists that these mammals may be as intelligent as we are. Language and communication, this is one of the key indicators of I.Q. As we as humans become smarter and more self-aware we find that animals are also smarter and more self-aware than we ever imagined.
So much to learn, so much I don’t know. I am still hungry for knowledge. And I wish to pass on this quest to QUEST kids. A passion for living. A joy of continually moving forward. I want to see my kids exploring, talking to each other, playing games of self-discovery. Adding worth to their own lives and sharing that life with each other.
Even as far as dying, life is a learning process. This is always that last inexplicable journey. To be or not to be? What comes next and what comes after that? Will the doors be open or just ajar? Is there really a light beckoning or is it just darkness with an occasional star? No one ever comes back to tell. It is the ultimate mystery. And what will I leave behind. I ask myself, will I at least leave one tiny footprint in the sand. What have I brought to this tempestuous and glorious world? What about you?
Your ordinary mind, that is the way
-- Zen Motto
And my favorite...
I do not evolve, I am
-- Pablo Picasso
Everyone breathe deep and carry on.