Monday, May 25, 2015
RIP, MY SWEET SISTER
Every once in a while we are blessed with finding someone with whom we totally “connect.” Yovonne was one of those people in my life. She had a presence about her that was tangible. We worked for the same small non-profit company: I was the administrative secretary, given a great deal of responsibility by the boss, and she the warehouse supervisor. She was one of the main reasons why our facility ran so well. There was no problem so big or so small that I felt uncomfortable discussing with her and getting her “take” on the matter. I valued her attitude, her approach, her reasoning and her constancy. I felt she brought one of the few examples of professionalism to our operations staff.
I think one of the reasons I found her special was that she was competent and confident in her supervision. She made decisions without shooting from the hip or waffling on the reasons. I remember how the previous supervisor used to sit in the staff meetings and when the boss asked him about something, he’d get all mealy-mouthed and try to figure out an answer that wouldn’t come back to bite him. Yovonne’s approach was the exact opposite; she believed in her decisions and was forthright in her explanation of them. Dissembling was not one of her strategies; she told it like it was. I so admired her for that.
She knew what the goal was and how to get there. Many supervisors and managers trample people in that process but Yovonne considered her charges as valuable employees and worked to bring them along in every way. That she was supremely successful was testified by the number of “little people” – those hard workers who mostly worked behind the scenes – who came to pay tribute to her at her memorial service.
And she was such fun. She was one of the reasons I could get through each day at our facility. It was so hard those last couple of years; work had stopped being fun, but Yovonne hadn’t. She would fly into my office and say, “Miss Bobby, I’ve got a problem.” We’d sit and talk about it a bit, with her solving the problem in the process of ruminating about it. She didn’t need me. She needed a safe place where a sane person could be a sounding board. I was so happy that I was there where she could take a minute to restore herself. She felt incompetent to write a letter and always asked my help. She knew exactly what needed to be said. I simply put the words in some kind of order for her. That was my talent, and I thought of it as my tiny gift to her, considering the enormity of her own talent. It pleased me a great deal to do the simple typing for her. It is what friends are for.
Probably the one event that captures in my mind what Yovonne stood for was the time in staff meeting when we were all discussing which staff members should be CPR trained. Names of various people, all men, were being tossed around and everyone had a different idea of who all should be given that responsibility. I finally stated, “I want Yovonne trained, because with her I know she will get the job done. If anything happens to me, I want to be placed in her hands.” Everyone laughed, but they knew I was right. And she made all of us rethink our definition of gender roles. I’d stack her up with the best of any man.
I felt that she and I were like sisters, and I would have been proud to be her real sister, even though our skin was not the same color. I’m aggrieved that she had to suffer the terrible indignity of a cancerous brain tumor, and yet as hard as it is to say, I’m glad that she isn’t suffering any more. But that doesn’t take away the pain I feel. I am missing her a lot, still, after all this time.