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01 September 2009 @ 07:08 pm
One of those things.  
My boss, Catherine, died over the weekend. The details are not confirmed, but apparently she drowned trying to save someone who had fallen out of a boat in a pond on her property.

If you have ever heard me talk about Catherine -- and some of you have heard me talk about Catherine A LOT -- then 99% of what you heard was probably negative. My relationship with her was very, very complicated. There were times when she was absolutely horrible, truly unprofessional by anyone's standards, and one time humiliated me in front of my coworkers in a manner I have never experienced in a working environment. She was hypercritical. She often gave vague directions and became obviously frustrated if you asked her to clarify what she wanted. She was the very definition of a control freak and rarely welcomed any input as to how to approach a project. Although she certainly had some appreciated qualities in a boss -- she gave public praise when it was due, and always made sure I got credit for my work in front of the partners -- I did not, on the whole, like working for her.

She was loud. Extremely, unabashedly loud. The most common answer to "Does anyone know if Catherine is in today?" was "I don't know... I haven't heard her." She was honest like a punch in the face. She was from New York City. She was side-splittingly funny, and when she laughed, the people in the offices across the street could probably hear her. She dropped the F-bomb at least once every ten minutes. She owned thoroughbred horses, five of them. About six months ago, she adopted a retired Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale, and brought in pictures when he arrived, as proud of him as a new mother. She used to hang out at Studio 54. She met her third husband at the firm, a tall, gentle, good-looking man who just retired after 30 years there. Her eyes lit up when he used to stop by her office.

If I had ever gotten myself into anything that I didn't know how to get out of, if I ever found myself in trouble and didn't want to call my parents, I would have called Catherine. She would have moved heaven and earth to help me, or anyone else in that office, and asked questions later. Her criticism was harsh and her behavior unpredictable, but her affection was deep and her loyalty was fierce. She was a force of nature.

I've never had this happen before. People have died, obviously, but not someone I saw almost daily for the last year and a half. I have no experience with this kind of thing, this thing where your first reaction is "But she was just here." Where you seek to cement the last time you saw the person and you realize it was when you said "Have a good weekend!" on automatic pilot and she said "You too, girl!" on automatic pilot, because that's what you always say every Friday afternoon. And that was it.

So what do you do? What can you do? After I found out, about 7:30 last night, I burst into tears. I talked to my coworkers. Then I talked, or hyperventilated, to my parents. I collected myself. I texted some people. My friend Michelle came down and we sat on my front stoop and got drunk on red wine and smoked cigarettes and talked about the things you talk about, which is mostly how much it sucks that the older you get, the more shit like this happens. I went to work today and it was very, very strange. It's going to be very strange for a long time, I think.

Very strange, and very, very quiet.

eelizaloula on September 2nd, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
Oh! Oh. I love you. And I don't know if this is a fitting thing to say at a time like this, but you are such a wonderful writer. I wish we could all come and sit with you on your stoop tonight. I'm so glad your friend M. came to be with you. Sending you big hugs.
Kymmkymmz on September 11th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
Late reading this, a beautiful, honest obituary. She wasn't perfect, but she was completely the kind of person who would die trying to save someone's life. And I think that that's the kind of person we all like to think that we are, but until the moment, we don't know. And that's what she turned out to be.