I’ve never seen “The Godfather”. But, I have seen “You’ve Got Mail”. Many, many times. In the movie, Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen, is at odds with a big businessman named Joe Fox, whose company is about to put her’s under. Unbeknownst to the both of them, they are each other’s secret online love interests. Joe Fox, played by Tom Hanks replies with the following message to Kathleen when she asked him for business advice:
“Go to the mattresses. You’re at war. It’s not personal, it’s business. It’s not personal its business. Recite that to yourself every time you feel you’re losing your nerve. I know you worry about being brave, this is your chance. Fight. Fight to the death!”
This post was a tricky one to write. There are so many variations of what it means to fight. You can fight for an injustice, for someone’s well-being, or for something you believe in. My family has been tackling some of those lately.
My first lesson about “Going to the Mattresses”
For my entire life, I have been terrible at all sports. Awful. I have no business being on any sort of field or court in a competitive setting. However, in 7th grade, I signed up to play on our middle school soccer team. Every sport I had played leading up to this, I had been coached by my dad or his friends at the rec department. That wasn’t the case this time.
During one match, our team was winning 7-0 and we were in the final minutes of the game. The coach called my name for the first time that day and put me in as fullback. The whistle blew and an opposing wing came at me with the ball. I managed to take it away and kick it in the opposite direction. A few seconds later the whistle blew again and I had been replaced. As I came off the field I saw my dad get out of the car and start walking towards our sideline. I thought “he’s probably coming to tell me what a great job I did, kicking that ball away.” I was mistaken.
“Darci! Get your shit, we’re going home!” I stopped in my tracks, shocked. He didn’t stop there though. He then turned to the coach. “Hey! You’ve got an awful lot to learn about coaching!” he said. “You’re up 7-0, and you can’t leave her in there for more than 30 seconds? You’ve been playing your first string the entire game!”
That was the end of my soccer career. I was so embarrassed. I remember crying and dreading going to school the next day. We are from a very small town where everyone knows everyone. I knew kids and their parents would be talking about it. Later on that night, dad came to have a talk with me about what had happened. I believe this was after he had had a phone call with my former coach. While I don’t remember his exact words, the moral of the story was “That wasn’t right. That’s not how to be a good coach. And she needed to know how I felt” My dad lacks subtlety, at times. It’s a blessing and a curse. But, I’ll never forget that day and the lesson I learned. He fought for what he believed. It’s a story I tell often.
Our family has fought our share battles recently. All of the varying levels of intensity and for different reasons. Some have been fought as a group and some have been taken on singularly, and even internally.
My mom, for example, has fought for my step-dad every day since September 1st. He was in a car accident and has been in the hospital since then. Most of the time he hasn’t been fully awake. She has fought for an adequate level of care. She has fought to keep him alive, more than I believe the doctors have since the first days after the accident. She has been at the hospital (with the exception of when my brothers’ accident happened) every day she could since the beginning. My mom with her vigilante style bedside monitoring, and her demand for answers. She’s fought real hard. He woke up last week, and I got a phone call from him. He said, “What’s going on, kid?” That’s always how he started a phone call with me. It was probably the most amazing phone call I’ve ever gotten in my life. Unfortunately, he did have a bump in his recovery road a couple of days after that phone call. But, he’s still here. He’s still fighting.
Today is the 3-month mark since JJ’s accident. There is no way for anyone to really understand what he must battle with every day. There’s no way to measure how much he has to fight on a daily basis. Even in his first days in the hospital, the doctors and nurses all talked about how tenacious he was. How much strength and determination he had. And all that was said before he was able to talk. My family knew he had all that in him. But I never truly noticed the degree of it until then. When he would insist on doing things himself when he had 6 very willing family members in his room to help. When he would surpass every expectation the doctors had set. Stand with almost full weight on a leg that he doesn’t have full feeling in. And most recently, when he was told he wouldn’t be on a snowmobile this year. He showed them all just how much fight he had in him.
Just from a personal standpoint, my brothers fight aside. This is what I’ve learned in the last 3 months: Fighting is hard. It is exhausting and often tear-inducing. And because of the recent uptick of occurrences in which going to battle is required, I’ve had to pick them more carefully.
My brother is home from the hospital. And everyone in the family is ecstatic. We have been looking forward to this for three months. We knew that the transition would be tough, but I was totally unprepared for how tough it would be at the beginning. In one week alone, I have cried at 2 different pharmacies trying to pick up my brother’s prescriptions because of issues related to billing. I’m sure I looked like a lunatic. And then, inevitably feel immediately embarrassed and start pleading my case as to why I’m not a lunatic and then probably look like even more of a lunatic then I did at the beginning. It’s a vicious cycle. Anyway, One of the battles we’ve taken on is making the house handicap accessible. We have been begging for 2 months for someone to come in an access our house. Get it set up for him so when he got home, he’d be able to be mostly independent. We were met with every stall tactic and excuse they had. And I, having never navigated through anything like this before, fell for it. At this point, there are 5 or 6 different people or companies involved in this. The caseworker, the caseworkers assistant, the insurance company, the contractor, subcontractor, and as of today the owner of a very large home modification company. Everyone is pointing the finger at the other as to why this is taking so long. I make multiple phone calls a day trying to figure it out but usually end up more confused than I was at the beginning. Today, I made an extra phone call. To a lawyer. As this process goes along, I’m seeing that sometimes you can’t fight your battles alone. And I need help fighting this one. There won’t be many more niceties. It’s not personal. It’s business.
I have yet to find a manual or script anywhere to offer me any guidance on how to fight. The desire alone, to fight, comes from within. It’s propelled by a person’s heart, gut instinct, and moral compass. And not very often, do those 3 things combined steer you wrong.
“If you’re feeling froggy, go ahead and leap” – Butch Hanson