[Private journal entry written on Sunday, October 14, 2012 – continued from previous post]
So, perusing the event program filled up about five minutes . . . still no one had shown up at my table or at the judges’ table . . .
I looked over at the Johnson’s table . . . it was about half full . . .
I wondered if it would be rude of me to go over to their table and ask to hang out with them until people at my table started showing up . . . it seems to me that networking would be expected at an event such as this, at least to some extent . . .
I really liked them . . . and, after reading their profiles in the event program, I had all the more reason for wanting a chance to talk with them . . . it seems we are kindred spirits, at least to a significant degree . . . and I felt a connection with them . . .
Oh, what the hell . . . it’s not like I’ll ever see them again . . . it won’t be the end of the world if they turn me away . . .
I took a deep breath, stood up, and walked over to their table . . .
“Would it be alright for me to sit with you for a few minutes . . . there is no one at my table . . . I’d enjoy visiting with you . . . would that be okay . . . ??”
“Oh, sure! I’m not sure how long it will be until the rest of our family shows up, but you are welcome to sit with us until that happens!”
“Neat! Thank you!”
I slide into a chair next to Liz. She introduced me to her boyfriend, sitting on the other side of her. Liz then explained the relationships among the family members present . . . her two aunts, an aunt’s uncle, her brother, her mom, her dad . . . I started piecing together the family tree . . . various family members told me where they lived and what they did for a living . . . they were very welcoming and accepting of me . . .
I turned my attention back to Liz. I told her that I had read her profile in the program. I inquired if it would be impolite or improper of me to ask about her story . . . or, did I need to wait to hear it with the rest of the audience . . . ??
She said it was totally okay for me to ask . . .
She said that she had been molested by her maternal grandfather when she was younger, and she had not disclosed to anyone. Then, when she was 14, she disclosed to her parents. Her parents contacted law enforcement and the investigation resulted in the arrest and conviction of her grandfather. She went on to say that, months later, her mother began having flashbacks to being molested as a child by the grandfather (the mother’s father) and she started having trouble functioning. Her mom then went into intense therapy, which led to her recovering her memories. She is doing much better now.
I expressed to her how proud I am of her . . . and that I understand some of what she went through because I have my own story about being molested.
”Were you interviewed at an advocacy center?”
”Oh, no . . . advocacy centers didn’t exist back then . . . there were no avenues for disclosure, or investigation or prosecution . . . there was no help for kids like me back then. We weren’t believed, and nothing was done to help us. That’s just the way it was back then.”
”So, no one knew?”
”No, not at that time.”
”How did you get through it?”
”I buried the memories – like your mom did. I didn’t start recovering those memories until later in life, when I went into therapy because I was suicidal – again, like your mom.”
”I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have anyone help you as a kid.”
”Yes, it was terrible. However, now I’m preparing to be a CASA so I can help that to not be the case for the kids of today. I have the ability to do something about it now. I’ll be doing something really good with a part of my history that was really bad.”
I took out one of my business cards – thank goodness I went back to get them – and I wrote the name of my blog on the back. I invited her to check out my blog, if she cared to. She thanked me . . .
About then, the last of their guests arrived and there was really not room for me at their table any more. And, when I looked over at my table, there were a few people sitting there. So, it seemed my time to leave had arrived. I thanked the Johnsons and headed back to my own table.
I had only a few minutes to introduce myself to the people at my table, and make a little small talk, before the judges took their place at the table next to mine and the master of ceremonies picked up the microphone to welcome all 400 (or so) attendees . . .
The MC then launched a slide show that described the advocacy centers and related facilities that would benefit from this event. And, the slide show gave credit to all of those who had played a key role in making this event possible. When the slide came up naming the two event co-chairpersons, I noticed a familiar name . . .
It was Debbie, the real estate agent who spoke with me two or three years ago when I returned as an observer to watch a child sexual assault trial for which I had been called – then dismissed – as a juror. On that day, she told me that she had been molested as a child, and that, as an adult, she is involved in the CASA program and in the victim’s advocacy program in order to create a different experience for the kids of today. She said she is doing something very good with her own painful history as a part of her own healing journey.
Wow . . . I had just said to Liz what Debbie said to me in that courthouse . . . and now, it was very likely that Debbie was right here at this same event . . . talk about a small world . . .
I started looking around for her . . . I had only a vague memory of what she looked like as our conversation had been so brief . . .
I noticed a lady sitting at the judges table, next to Annette, who reminded me of her . . . but, when I met Debbie at the courthouse, she was wearing a conservative (but stylish) business suit and her hair was in loose curls around her face. The gal sitting next to Annette was dressed in a glamorous and not-at-all-conservative short skirt and very high heels . . . her hair was pulled into an upswept style, and the application of her make-up was suitable for a night out on the town . . . I couldn’t be sure it was Debbie . . .
Anyway, the slide show wrapped up, the directors of the child advocacy centers and programs were introduced, the MC explained the logistics of the food service, and we were invited to start our culinary adventure. Before I headed to the first food station, I slipped over to the judges’ table and asked Annette if she could point out Debbie to me . . . she told me that the gal sitting next to her was, indeed, Debbie . . .
I could see that Debbie was very busy at that moment with moving the judges into place at their table on the stage . . . I figured I’d try to catch her at some other point in the evening’s festivities . . .
I went through the line at the first food station and returned to my table with a fair-sized plate of food. We were given only a few bites of each food; however, a few bites of every item on the comprehensive menu is A LOT of food. The good news is that we had a couple of hours to work our way through all the individual menus.
During all the eating, I was able to visit with the other people at my table. I learned very quickly that I have very dulled taste buds . . . they were all discussing the fine variants of all the different flavors . . . what flavors blended well together and which flavors clashed . . . they asked my opinion a couple of times . . .
Well, let’s just say that my assessment was limited to: I really like that, I disliked that so much that I would have preferred to spit it out, I could take it or leave it, and it tastes like chicken. All the extraordinary efforts to create amazingly memorable food were lost on me. Obviously, I have really, really, really primitively-functioning taste buds because I would have been just as happy with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – maybe happier.
As I was waiting in line at the last of the five food stations, I realized I was standing next to the director of the CASA program located in City #2 – she had been introduced on stage during the opening comments. She was standing alone, so I introduced myself and told her that I was applying to become a CASA in City #1. I asked her about the schedule of the training in her program and if she thought her training was comparable to the training offered in City #1 – I explained that I was exploring the possibility of doing part of my training within her program and then transferring it to City #1’s training program. She was open to that possibility . . . and she said the training content was pretty consistent nationwide.
She invited me to consider applying to become a CASA in her city . . . she said she thought I would likely be a good fit. I thanked her for the invitation, and I explained it would be tough for me to go that route since my mom lives quite a distance from City #2 and I will need to be caring for her more and more in the coming years, so I need to try to keep my life centered more around City #1. She said she understood . . . and she thanked me for being willing to be a CASA.
When I got back to the table with my plate of food from that last food station, there were only two people at my table, and they left within a few minutes of my sitting back down. So, I ate my food in solitude.
I can’t say that I enjoyed interacting with the people at my table. They had come to the event in groups of two or three and they weren’t interested in including me much in their conversations. They asked a few polite questions – mostly about my experience of the food – then they turned their attention back to their exclusive friendships. The conversation in which I was included was of little interest to me . . . the latest phone they had bought, a concert they were planning to attend next week, the brand of make-up they were trying out, their dream car, what so-and-so said to the other so-and-so at last week’s party . . .
My attempts to move the conversation in a more inclusive and meaningful direction were not warmly embraced.
They seemed to me to be rather shallow . . . self-involved . . . critical and crass . . . so, I wasn’t too upset when they all disappeared long before the food service was finished. I’m assuming they went to the bar area so they could focus on drinking. I didn’t see any of them again the rest of the evening . . . and that was my preference as I then had room to put my water glass and my elbows wherever I felt like putting them.
As I was eating that last plate of food (I’m a notoriously slow eater), I noticed that Debbie was no longer hurrying about . . . she was standing and talking to some people in a relatively relaxed manner. I decided it was a good time to talk to her . . .
[To be continued in the next post . . . ]