Tonight I am watching a Netflix movie called “Juanita”. In it there is a scene where hospital worker Juanita decides to leave her grown, deadbeat, mooching children to their own devices and go on a trip. Where? She does not know, but she figures West sounds good. She goes to the beauty parlor to tell her best friend. Best friend tries to dissuade her but when Juanita will not be dissuaded and says, “I figure there’s just got to be something more out there,” best friend gives Juanita a bear hug and slips her a roll of cash.
I remember a similar scene in my life. I had been dreaming of a year-long, around the world trip for 10 years. My ex husband and I had finally saved just enough money to make it happen. I gave notice at the hospital where I was working. My last day at work, a woman I will call Susie Danner cornered me in the break room with a card. “Open it,” she said. I did. What was memorable was not the card, but rather the $500 dollars it contained. My eyes bugged out of my head. I gawped at her. “Everybody else just talks. You’re actually doing it. I’ll never do anything like that, so this way, I kind of get to be a part of it.” I stammered a thanks and gave her an awkward hug. I never saw her again.
Susie had been extremely difficult to work with. She suffered from depression and bi-polar disorder. I would not have said that she liked me. Or anyone for that matter. Depending on whether or not she was taking her meds, you just never knew which Susie you would get from day-to-day. Some days she was hilarious: the life of the party, cracking jokes, slapping you on the back, everyone’s best friend. The next day you might encounter her red-faced and trembling with rage, screaming obscenities down the hall way as you scurried by trying to stay out of the cross-fire. Once she was charged with training me on a new piece of equipment. She deliberately pointed the portable x-ray machine at me and fired, exposing me to radiation. She pointed her finger at me and laughed hysterically. Shaken and upset, I went to the manager. No action was taken. Everything was chalked up to her medical condition and no one was willing to risk her wrath.
To receive a card with so much money from her, well it was unexpected to say the least. It was very generous of Susie but left me with such mixed feelings. I had been afraid of her. I hadn’t expected this kindness at all.
Years later, at my current job, I was in the cafeteria on my morning break. I was sipping a cup of bitter hospital coffee and reading the morning paper when skimming the “Obituaries” page, I stopped. “Susie Danner. Passed last Saturday, age 52, survived by her parents so and so and so and so.” All the breath went out of me. It must have been suicide. I don’t think they say those things in the paper, but what else could it have been? She had tried before. I felt so sad for her. And sad that most people would never know that she also had an incredibly generous side. A side that dreamed of going on a big adventure, but not the wherewithal to make it happen. A side that didn’t begrudge someone else’s making their dream happen, but gave a hand to help make it happen.
Susie, I hope you are riding in the palm of God, sailing through the universe, pointing at the stars, oohing and aaahing at the comets, falling asleep to the silently spinning galaxies, and waking to the sunrise of a thousand suns. May you have the biggest adventure of them all. And thank YOU for helping to make my first adventure happen.