Friday, April 20, 2012

Bob, Ruby and The Right Decision

I don't know if I did it for Bob or because of Bob.

Bob Clayton died many years ago now, he was a good friend to me. Even after he moved to Vancouver from Toronto we stayed in very close touch with each other. Some friendships dwindle with time and distance, some don't. Ours didn't.

When Bob died of AIDS, I was devastated by the loss.

This was back in the days when I was working at becoming known as a lecturer and speaker. The funeral was planned on a day that had already been booked and I was expected, somewhere else in the world, to show up and present. I had a decision to make. I decided that I would keep the commitment and trust that people would understand. They did. Or, perhaps, they said they did.

So, on the day of Bob's funeral I was standing, making funny, in front of a room full of strangers. In my mind, the whole time, I mourned Bob, I mourned my inability to attend his funeral, I mourned the eulogy I would not give. But I did what I was supposed to do.

Now I realize that if I had cancelled, a few years later people would not remember that I had had to drop out of the event. And yet, I am faced with remembering always that my friends will remember always that I did not attend Bob's funeral.

It was a mistake.

A couple weeks ago we found out that Ruby's dance recital is this weekend. She's taking classes with the Propeller Dance Company and she loves the classes with a passion. Over Easter she asked several times if she was missing her dance class. She was relieved to know that the classes were cancelled for the holiday. Last weekend, with the recital coming soon, she went to classes on Saturday and Sunday. When I spoke with her on the phone I mentioned she was going to a lot of classes. She said, almost solemnly, 'I love it.'

So imagine my upset and surprise when I learned that I was booked to speak, to a group of parents about parenting, on the weekend of the dance recital. I knew I had a decision to make. And suddenly, I remembered Bob's laughing face. I remembered the ridiculous discussions we had. I remember his apartment here in Toronto and there in Vancouver. I remember the hole he life in my life. I remember making a very bad decision.

In my defense, and it's a poor defense. In human services, it can begin to feel that one is needed more at work than at home. In human services the needs are always greater than the resources. In human services one can lose perspective and thereby lose a sense of priorities. I've seen the same with parents - who have to parent, and advocate; who have to divide time between making money and making family; who end up losing what need not be lost of the life before. Bad decisions seem like good decisions at the time, don't they?

We sat down at the computer and wrote an email. I explained honestly what had happened. I made it clear that I was sorry to cancel but that I really, really, really, wanted to be there when Ruby takes the stage for the first time. I want her to know, without question, that Joe and I will be sitting in the audience cheering her on. We tell her we love her, but words are words and actions are actions. Love is something you do.

Pushing 'send' on the email was surprisingly easy.

I sat back in my wheelchair, seeing the notation that the message had been sent. I swear I felt a hand on my shoulder.

I think Bob approved.


Anonymous said...

Those type of decisions are so hard to make. You don't want to let anyone down. Yet - if you always go to love - you will have few regrets. What is that old saying - love your loved ones, like your job. The tough part is when you love what you do. I'm sure you made the right decision. You most likely are not the only person with the knowledge to help families - but you are Ruby's only Dave (& Joe).

You will be missed at the parenting session - but by your presence at the recital you are practicing what you preach by example.

CL said...

Dave, your blog posts have moved me many times, but I think this is the first time I got to the end of a post and burst into tears. Thank you.

Education: Exploring Online Learning said...

You said far more about parenting by showing up for Ruby than showing up and a conference.

Tamara said...

Sweet story - good decision. I loved Anonymous' (first comment)"if you always go to love, you'll have few regrets".

Tarawynn said...

Lovely post, absolutely true!!!

John R. said...

You have just taught me something....I will tell you what it is when I see you again but this post could be my horoscope today!

Your decision is an act of love. Breaking commitments irresponsibly is one thing. Breaking hearts is the issue here and commitments are renewable. Hearts take much more salve to heal.

Ruby will be pleased and loved.

thank you, Dave....I needed this!!

Faery said...

I completely understand what you mean about working in human services. My day to day work is filled with so much emotion and the feeling that I'm making a difference to the lives of many. It's easy to prioritise that over my home life and family. Until I realise that I've volunteered to work late and am missing out on reading my little girl a bedtime story...again.

The stereotype of the parent who constantly misses their child's school plays because of work is usually one of a hard nosed business person, permenantly glued to their mobile phone. No one thinks about the people who feel guilty about leaving a job unfinished because they know how much of a difference it will make to the service users.

I need to step back and remember that there is a whole team of people ensuring that the work is done - but only one mummy to be there at bedtime...

I think you've made the right decision! Besides, there was a certain amount of irony in the idea of skipping Ruby's dance recital in order to give a presentation on parenting!

I hope you enjoy yourselves. Good Luck to Ruby! xx

Celine said...

Good for you Dave. At the end of the day, I'm pretty sure I won't be grateful for all the extra time I put in at work - but I will be grateful for the time I spent with family, friends, and loved ones, the time I spent taking care of myself physically and mentally and the time I spent exploring this great world of ours.

Rosemary said...

I am glad you are going to Ruby's recital. You are blest.

Nan said...

. . . and the greatest of these is love! (and Dave!)See you there!

wheeliecrone said...

Well done, Dave.

There will be other Parents' Groups, and you can probably reschedule that Parents' Group. And parents will almost certainly understand that Ruby will never have another First Dance Recital.

Anyone who loves a young girl who loves Dance - understands.

Ruby is the sort of loving young person who probably would have forgiven you. But she would not forgotten. And you would never have forgiven yourself.

And we both know that Ruby's First Dance Recital will be a wonderful evening, and you and Joe will greatly enjoy the experience of watching darling Ruby on stage.

Have a splendid time, Dave and Joe! We are all hoping to see photos!

Belinda said...

Bob's funeral has been fertile ground. Flowers are blossoming all over his grave. I'm sure he'd like that.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy that both of you are going to get to see Ruby's first dance recital!!! Can't wait to hopefully see some pictures :)