Posted in My Life

Strike Widow

I started writing this blog post over a week ago, right about the one week mark of my life as a strike widow. I just read the 1300 words I wrote that day and have decided to delete those words and start anew. Besides, I was one angry bitch a week ago and I’m not sure you are ready for the kind of loathing and hatred I was about to unleash on Verizon and their striking CWA and IBEW union workers. Actually, I think my ire was aimed at every union worker that has ever existed, my dad included, as well as every Verizon executive both past and present.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m still really mad at the things that have happened in the last 15 days or so but tonight, my mood is more hopeful than hopeless.

It’s been two weeks and a day since Gil left on his business continuity assignment for Verizon in the NE where union workers from Virginia to Massachusetts have been striking against what they perceive as unfair contract demands by their greedy corporate employer (their words, not mine).  Oh look, I almost let the anger creep right back into this blog.  Anger…be gone!  Okay, back to Gil. He’s been cursed at, tailed by angry union mobsters members (Damn. Sorry! There I go again.), and called a scab probably more times than he can count. He blogged throughout the whole experience and you can read all about his adventures starting with this blog post.  He’s had some really bad experiences in our 15 days apart but he’s had some really great ones, too. He was super blessed with his assignment and by that I mean he’s been in an area where the striking union members had some decency and common sense, he was assigned with a group of amazing people he’ll have a bond with for the rest of his life, and he got to experience the beautiful scenery and friendly locals of the Kingston, New York, area. It’s like he was on vacation but working his ass off the whole time.

For as much as Gil has endured and even enjoyed in the past two weeks, I’ve had my own moments, too. The first week was mostly spent ranting and raving about what was happening to Gil and many of his co-workers as a mob-mentality seemed to set in with striking union members. It’s so sad to see how much mankind is willing to demean, belittle, and bully each other when they are basically given permission to do so. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I feel the union leaders have done throughout this ordeal, and I’ve been on my little one-woman/wife/friend crusade to bring those stories to the public.  If you follow me on Twitter and decided to unfollow me over the past weeks, I just want to let you know the coast is clear and I have taken a half-step down from my soapbox. I’m not completely done but, I’ll be taking it down a notch or two if you’d like to take a chance to follow me again.

My ranting has not been aimed solely at the unions. I’ve been really angry about Verizon putting so many people in harm’s way without giving them a choice. I wonder how many non-union members would have volunteered to take on this assignment if the big red machine had asked for them to do so.  Unfortunately, we’ll never know because this was not a voluntary assignment. Men and women were forced to leave their homes, wives, husbands, parents, friends and children. They were told to go or face disciplinary action. I just pray that these people will be protected should there be any future reductions in force (RIFs). I also hope that this corporate giant remembers what their non-union employees have done for them in the past few weeks, and I hope that they have a true sense of gratitude for the sacrifices these men and women have made for the company.

So anyway, I found I had this voice, which I never really knew before. I am one person with one voice but I was not afraid to use it. I’m not sure what my tweets and messages may have accomplished over the past two weeks but I know that I connected with people in places I never would have otherwise. I felt a kindred spirit with a husband whose wife was on assignment and being tormented every day. I felt a connection with a striking union worker whose wife was also a union member on strike and they were scared of what the future held for them.  Whether I was DMing with a news outlet, being retweeted by a Boston mobster (former mobster, of course) or asking someone within Verizon who had the power to help when Gil and his coworkers needed it, I felt like I was making a difference. And all I needed was my voice. I’ve never been one to keep my mouth shut when I felt a need to speak up but this was a feeling of usefulness that I’m not sure I’ve felt before. My motivation was deeply rooted in helping my husband and spreading the word about what was happening to them.

Besides finding a voice I never knew I had, I found something I had been looking for since I moved from small town America. I found community. I’ve talked about it before with the Hazelnuts but this was something even greater than that. This time I watched as Hazelnuts, coworkers, fellow church members, social media friends and complete strangers poured out their support for Gil, and for me. I never once had a sense of being alone during this time. I had Facebook messages, tweets, text messages and phone calls coming in non-stop, just to check to see if I was ok, needed anything or simply to let me know they were thinking about me (us). I felt prayers lifted for us in ways that I had never felt before. I felt a genuine love from the people in my life and it filled me with a peace that I needed more than ever before. I came to realize that I don’t need someone bringing me dinner when I’m sick or arranging potlucks after a funeral to know community. In today’s world, my community is only a tweet, poke, IM or phone call away. And I’m really ok with that.

Speaking of prayers, I feel a need to say a very special thank you to our pastor, Paul Wirth. Just hours before Gil boarded his plane 15 days ago, we stood hand in hand with Paul in the moments before service that Sunday. That day, Paul delivered a message to the church audience about using our talents for the kingdom of God.  I don’t know for certain what my talent is but there is no doubt that Paul used his very God given talent to provide us with words of comfort, love and grace that morning. It was such a testament to Paul’s ability that when he said amen, a feeling of warmth and easiness washed over me. It was so real that I felt it in my flesh and in my soul. I will never forget that moment and will always cherish how close I felt to God in that little 3-person circle we formed. I believe in my heart that Paul summoned a guardian angel that day and he/she’s been with Gil since we walked away from that prayer.  Paul, thank you for sharing your talent with us.

Have I mentioned the strike has ended and Gil’s coming home Tuesday (TODAY)??!!?! This is clearly the reason I’m feeling less hopeless this final evening of my strike widowhood. Verizon and the unions still have a very long way to go but for now the union members have agreed to work with a previsou contract extension.  But, I really don’t care tonight. I may care again in a few days but for now, all that I care about is that my husband is coming home.

I’ve found it funny the ways I’ve missed him. The silliest way I’ve missed him is how I could barely bring myself to sit at the computer in our (his) home office. This has been the one room that’s been the loneliest for me during this time. I’ve wanted to write and catch up on emails and complete some online classes I registered for but I just could not bring myself to sit in this room without Gil. This is his space and I miss him the most when I’m in here. This is where we sit so close but don’t have to talk or touch to feel the other near. This is where we share our online and offline worlds with each other. We have deep, meaningful conversations within minutes of laughing our asses off at some crazy cat Youtube video. This is the room where he spends his days when I’m at work, this is where he is when we have most of our telephone conversations.  This is the only room in the house that’s ours; that we put our hard work and sweat into remodeling and making our own. I have missed his presence the most while in this room. However, tonight is different. I almost felt a need to actually be in this place, in his place.

In about 12 hours, I’ll be in his arms again. It’s only been 15 days but it feels like an eternity to me. I have a much greater appreciation for couples who have these separations on a regular basis. I’m just not sure I could be one of them. I have thanked God many times in the past few days that this is temporary and that when he comes home, he comes home for good. In addition to finding my voice and my community, I’ve also found out that I have no desire to do this life alone. I need Gil by my side to complete what’s not whole inside of me. I need his touch and his heart to fill me with love every day. I need his presence near me so that I can feed off of his beautiful, positive energy and continue to become the person I’m supposed to be, because of him, with him.