It has been a while since I’ve (we’ve) been able to spend more than just comment approval time on Urban Schmurban. So, indulge me for a moment and allow me to summarize the hurricane that has been 2012.
In the early part of 2012, my boss and mentor, Linda, became very sick with a rare disease. I’m going to talk about it here because awareness of it may save some lives down the road. It’s called psuedomyoxma peritonei. It’s diagnosed in 1 in 1,000,000 people each year and mostly women. Treatment is highly invasive, risky and life changing even if you “recover”. But that’s only if you are diagnosed early enough to be a candidate for treatment. Most aren’t. Linda was diagnosed via a fluke in a routine procedure. She got lucky. Or so we thought.
So around February/March, Linda was preparing for a second medical leave to undergo treatment and I was slowly stepping into her role at the office. Then in April, something unprecedented happened at the office. We created two new departments out of one and fundamentally reorganized a core part of how our agency serves the community (a quick Google search reveals all, but for quickness’ sake, I work for a local transit agency that provides bus service to over 14 million riders a year in the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys). That change promoted my boss into a new role and left her former director position open. I applied and was awarded the position in May, right before Linda went into surgery at City of Hope.
So most of May, June and July were spent adjusting to my new role, responsibilities and boss, working 10-12 hour days, and coming home exhausted but happy to be doing something new with my career. A career, I’ll add, that I was struggling to reconcile with the allure and demands of my “other” life as a food educator, writer and photographer. I still struggle, but now it has taken on another, more positive flavor. I’m trying to find ways to merge the work I love in transit with the work I love in food. It’s no longer a painful either/or situation and I’m finding myself coming to peace with a multi-faceted life of gifts. I’m still writing, still teaching, and very soon I’ll be pouring a lot of energy into the Slow Food LA chapter. Many big and wonderful things are yet to come. But I don’t want to jump ahead.
Linda had a few serious complications early on after the surgery but she recovered and seemed to be making slow but steady progress. She was at City of Hope for five weeks and then moved to a hospital closer to home to begin physical therapy that would hopefully allow her to go home. Initially, she had anticipated that this treatment would only have her out of the office for two to three months. Once we hit July, it was obvious that we’d be lucky to see her by Thanksgiving. Accomplishments were measured by heart breaking metrics — how many minutes she could sit upright in a chair, how many minutes could she stand on her own, or could she eat solid food today. Walking hadn’t quite come into the picture. But on Sunday, July 22nd, we received a text from her husband Nick that was very positive. She ate a full solid meal for the first time since her surgery and she was making progress in her therapy again. The next day, I pulled my assistant aside and started making plans to work with IT to set up her computer so that she could remotely access files. We both knew that if she was going to start feeling better, she’d want to jump back into work soon. It was just her way. I gathered together a few other coworkers to coordinate setting up her office for her (she moved out of her old one when she left and everything was in boxes) so that on the off chance she decided to come in on a weekend, she wouldn’t have to bend over or rifle through cardboard to find things. We knew it’d be a while until that happened, but we wanted to be ready (she always was) and it felt to all of us like a turning point.
Within 48-hours of that text, Linda was gone. An infection took hold and between a ravaged immune system and antibiotics that just wouldn’t work, she couldn’t fight it off. She passed away on Tuesday, July 24th around 11:45PM, surrounded by her family. I was told the next morning by my boss (her former boss), and together we started the long and painful process of informing the hundreds of colleagues she knew throughout our industry. I wrote her obituary for our industry trade publications and threw myself into organizing a memorial service for her.
I had worked with Linda for nearly a decade. I was in my 20’s when she recruited me. I was in my 30’s when she promoted me. And I was nearing 40 when I rose into her old position, the same summer that she died. She had been with my agency for 17 years. SEVENTEEN years. I can’t even count the number of times in the past few months that I’ve wished for her sage advice or reassurance. It happens every day. It took her death for me to realize that the challenges we faced in our own working relationship were a part of her mentorship. Good mentors don’t coddle. They push. They pull, drag if need be. And I have been a stubborn little employee. But that’s another post for another blog.
Trying to wrap my head around the fact that it is now October has been a little dizzying. Things have been calming down a little. Either that or I’m adjusting to my new normal. Blazing summer heat has started to wane (Fingers crossed. This is L.A. after all) and I’m starting to think about readdressing the homestead and jump start all those ambitious projects I listed when the year was new. The garden is a non-garden. I watered, but that’s all I could do. The fall/winter garden will be better. And things will begin to pick up here. My sister, Ana, is facing not-a-few changes herself and will probably be stepping away from contributing. So Urban Schmurban will change, too. More on that in a later post.
Thanks for reading. More to come.