October 10, 2006

The Other Woman... Joe's life is someone I'll just call Kay for now. Joe told me that she was only interested in "style and fashion" so I had a rather low opinion of her before I met and came to know her better. He said he couldn't have as good a conversation* with her as with me, which I took to mean, an intellectual conversation and I wrote her off as "vapid" as best, pushy at worst, since Joe always complained of that. But for all that, I barely knew her, knew of her, yes, but only knew her by sight and by name, that was about it.

Then Joe got sick and we were perforce thrown together, the two of us being the primary caretakers, insofar as Joe needs care. I had more trouble with Kay than she with me, feeling that she was indeed pushy and trying to monopolize Joe and take charge of everything. But after I learned more about ALS and she realized this, and that I knew more about it than either of them, she acceded to this and started letting me in, not leaving me out of all the planning and decision-making. After all, I was the resource that could explain things to them now.

I still have some trouble with her, though. We "huddle" to discuss Joe's problems as they come up, his stubborn refusal to do something simply because he doesn't want to, his being overwhelmed by too many phone calls to be made, the decision to be made vis a vis his PEG and so forth. And we usually come to some agreement as to who is going to take what responsibility for what task, either with Joe or not. But sometimes, I'll take on a "job" and get it started, only to find out at a meeting of the three of us that Kay has duplicated my efforts in a different way and actually gone above the heads of the people I am discussing things with, screwing things up into the bargain. When in fact, she doesn't know what she is doing or talking about! This had to do with the PEG and my task to find out more about when and where and how quickly it should be done. I had the query out and people working on the answer, but Kay decided she could make a phone call to the neurology secretary to get the answer. Well, the secretary had answers, different from the ones I was getting, and so Kay took that to mean that her info was correct and started making appointments on that basis until I got furious and told her to STOP! In fact, Joe's case was being evaluated individually already and appointments would be made when their decision was made. Finally, just today, she got the message, and will, I hope, cease and desist from now on.

Despite this, I have come to like her -- somewhat. At least, we have gone out on weekends twice, to have a soda or go shopping, and talk, and I've not been bored or antsy to go home. She has led an interesting life compared to mine, did a great deal of traveling early on, and, as I wrote in my poem, lived in Paris and Hong Kong and traveled in every continent in between, despite severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She said that the traveling was terrific because it was an opportunity to learn all sorts of things everywhere she went, an attitude that is near and dear to my heart.

The best thing about meeting her is that I have at least one other person in the building to talk to besides Joe. She is in fact the only other person I have met here in 11 years to actually go out and do things with, the only person I have ever talked with at any length or who has seen my apartment, the only person whose last name I know and her telephone number, the only one out of 250 in the community! So this is a bigger deal than I have made it out to be, and may well be more important than I know as Joe gets sicker. I know Kay is extraordinarily supportive of Joe, though she has only known him a year and a half, which helps me tremendously. And she doesn't seem to take my snapping at her personally or at least with equal and opposite rancor, but patiently and without responding angrily herself. All of which is very helpful in the situation, both for me and for Joe.

So I'm going to reserve judgment and let time show what Kay is like. After all, friendships can grow and develop out of shaky beginnings, and you don't have to instantly be sympatica, I learned that long ago when I made friends with my worst enemy. So if my enemy can become my friend, maybe Kay and I can find a friendship that is mutually worthwhile and satisfying. It would be great, if possible, and I would gladly welcome it. But I can't push it; I can only wait and see what happens.


*BTW The conversation Joe couldn't have with Kay was probably about engineering and inventions...Which I have patience for and interest in, but which Kay is at least honest enough to tell him bores her. It is probably only that engineering bores her that makes Joe say that her conversation is of no substance, since nothing but engineering interests him when all is said and done! BD

Posted by pamwagg at October 10, 2006 06:56 PM


Pam, Kay does sound admirable. I often find that, even if I am not particularly fond of someone initially, their once-annoying habits and characteristics tend to become tolerable and even endearing with further acquaintance and the passage of time. I would definitely make Kay an ally if I could--it will be great for Joe, too, if two people for whom he cares deeply can work together on his behalf.


Posted by: Cynthia at October 11, 2006 09:19 PM


Yes, Kay is Karen, but let's call her Kay from now on, for reasons of privacy. I'm working on our friendship and trying not to be short with her. She is pretty easygoing, despite my fits of pique, which is most admirable I must say. If I were she, I'd probably get angry back. Instead she just tries to calm me down and stays calm herself...As I said, pretty damned admirable.


Posted by: Pamwagg at October 11, 2006 08:47 PM

Hi Pam, loved your open and honest blog tonight. I hope you do become friends with Kay, as I think it will be such a great help to you with Joe's illness. I glad to hear that you enjoy her company and that she has been in your apt. these are such positive things for you!! Give it a try, you two may end up being great friends. See you soon, Sue M.

Posted by: sue marasciulo at October 11, 2006 08:43 PM

Dear Pammy,
I echo Kate's confusion as to whether Kay and Karen are one in the same, or two different people. As a matter of fact, when you began to write about Joe's illness, you included Karen so naturally that I felt as if I had missed something. I had not previously known that Joe had another friend in the building, but I just took it in stride since the concern was Joe not Karen, Kay, Susie, or Penelope. It also seemed to me that Karen was a friend of yours as well. This blog is the first time you've expressed difficulty in your relationship with her, primarily concerning different information on how Joe's care should be managed. My instinctive tendency is to say that JOE should be the captain of his own ship, however, since you pointed out that his interest in engineering takes precedence over investigating the best way to manage his disease, I assume he has delegated that responsibility(a BIG one at that) to his two very caring and admirable friends.(Do you think I will ever be cured of my inability to express myself in shorter, more pithy sentences? But I digress.)
In any event, it appears to me that no good can come from the two of you being at odds with the appropriateness of Joe's care. United we stand. Divided we fall. I seem to remember hearing that somewhere. I think you are making strides in your effort to be friends and communicate openly and honestly about the best way to help Joe. After all, it is he who has brought about this necessary collaboration. I know how difficult it is for you to trust anyone or anything. Please don't forget that trust freely given, usually is returned in kind. At least that has been my experience. Go for it, Feebe. It may prove to be the best solution for all parties.

Your kind and open heart is so dear to me,
Perkless, the ex-ET

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at October 11, 2006 12:53 PM

Dear Pam,

Are Kay and Karen the same person? Regardless I am glad that Kay there to help Joe and you. You need someone to turn to as Joe declines and she probably will need you, too. Of course I wish you had a large circle of friends to rely on, but lacking that I guess Kay will have to do. Her life and travels do sound interesting and maybe you two will get closer over time. I hope so. And, of course, you have us, your online friends and we'll be there for you, too.

Kate :D

Posted by: Kate K. at October 11, 2006 11:13 AM

Hi Pam,

If I had to compete with you in the charming, witty and intellectual department, I'd loose big time. Your smart, warm, witty and kind. You are handling your feelings towards Kay very honestly and like you said, who knows, she could become a very good friend of yours.


Posted by: Yaya at October 11, 2006 08:59 AM

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