Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Mistrust of Praise (2)

I was never more crushed by Marcie's condition than when she used it as a rational to undermine anything good that came her way. She was terrible at it. Everything and anything that could be chalked up to the disease immediately was.

Marcie hated being singled out in any case. Her acute dislike for such recognition became much more pronounced as the cancer progressed or as she reached milestones.

So loathsome was the idea of being associated with the disease to Marcie that she went so far as to hate everything about the phenomenon of breast cancer. Foremost and most hated among her pop culture targets was the Pink Ribbon campaign.

"Oh my god, why is veveryone buying me pink?" she asked me one day as she rummaged through a care package from a well-meaning friend. "God, I fucking hate Susan Komen and her stupidass campaign."

She had obviously had enough. She tossed the good back in the bag and looked up at me, exasperated.

"And the ribbons?! Oh my God, please don't hate me, Frank, but if one more person comes over to me at work with a pin or a ribbon or a little doodad with a ribbon or a sticker, I am going to stick it right in their face," she said, flopping back.

She laughed and crawled into my lap with a huff. "I don't want to be the cancer woman," she said. "I want to go back to being the homemade cakes and cookie chick."

But of course, she was much more than that. Marcie was a miracle worker and a business generator. She did not slow down or falter and always kept up the pace. Unfortunately, no one had ever given her the recognition she deserved.

That changed. When her disease finally resulted in the treatments that took her away from work, she was selected as Employee of the Year. I congratulated her.

"Honey, that is so wonderful," I said. "Are you going to make it to the ceremony? I know you feel better, and I would love to take you out to your awards ceremony."

She looked at me as if I had bitten the head off of a monkey or committed some other bewildering atrocity. She then gave me the followup look, the tilt of the head as if to ask, "Are you that stupid?"

"FRANK! It's a fucking pity award," she said. "They did not award this to me because of what I did, they are giving this to me because of the fucking cancer. Just get out of here and leave me alone."

She began to sob, and then she was wracked and her hands covered her face. "It's so humiliating," she moaned. "I worked so hard all these years, and I know they only gave it to me because I am sick and they think I am going to die."

I did my best to console her at first. "No, no, no... they just realize how important you are now that you are at home," I said. "They miss you and you carried that place, honey."

I just held her and she sniffed into my chest, "Really? Do you really think that?"

Yes, I certainly did. Scumbag salesmen would drop multimedia projects on her desk and she would get them done, though it was not her job. Managers would assign her report generation well outside her department.

Marcie handled well her duties with Jim Drummond, her boss, and did raw coding and design for her projects, usually a duty for the content and web folks. She was in business development, but everyone else seemed to think that meant, "load her ass up when her manager is not in."

Jim, as much as she loved him, was almost never in. When he was, he walked around in thought. At any rate, Marcie never complained, and would have had scant cover if she had. So everyone leaned on her, and she did it all, saving her complaints for me, at home.

So when she accepted that she deserved it, she made it clear that it came with a caveat.

"I know I earned it," she said. "But they only gave it to me because now they would feel guilty if they cheated me again."

And if that was not complete acceptance, it was better than the cancer winning it, and I felt much better, as I know she did. But she was still not completely pleased.

"I just know whatever salesperson they were going to give this to is sitting there thinking that I wouldn't have won if it wasn't for the cancer," she said.

"I hope," I said. "If that is the case, that they win a lot of awards to make up for it, and for the exact same reason, whoever they might be."

She looked up and was angry at first, but she smiled at me and kissed my cheek, the metallic bitterness of chemotherapy on her breath and lips. She curled into me tightly.

"Yeah, those fuckers," she said. "They can have my award if they take the cancer with it."