Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My Second Family

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Losing Another Father

My current professor looked at my blog a few weeks ago and observed that every single entry begins with the disclaimer about how the postings are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions....How closely identified you are with the company just by virtue of that disclaimer, he observed.

I thought about how being an IBMer has, over the years, become part of my core identity: Jewish, American, lesbian, IBMer. If he worked for IBM, it would make sense to him. Many of my colleagues feel like a second family to me -- and most often, a healthy one.

Yesterday morning, I cried while driving up 287, hoping for invisibility to the cars in the other lanes. Last night, I had to go to the retirement party of the leader at IBM, who I've most admired, Doug Elix, who was my second father, it felt like.

Doug, for a little while longer, leads our sales organization worldwide and is the senior executive sponsor of the GLBT community at IBM, and still sponsors a global sales team dedicated to the community...which I helped start up in 2001, and about which I've written here before.

He was like the father I got to meet in 2000 at the Millennum March, and got to keep having, since I lost mine at 17, since he was so supportive of my people and me.

While crossing the Tappan Zee, I dialed my mother and said, "Mom, I don't want to talk about us and any tension now [we've been having trouble around mutual frustration at her sudden immobility, and I'm the one, who will need to lose my tension ultimately, since she's the more understandably frustrated of the two of us]. I need to tell you about a loss I'm feeling." And I told her how I felt grief-stricken at the proximity of Doug Elix's retirement.

She understood because she has praised me most of all for my work whenever it has enabled me to advance human rights; his sponsorship of the GLBT community at IBM and beyond it enabled me to do that work for three solid years, till I made room for others to lead the mission.

Last night, I couldn't tell Doug that he felt like my second father, as he's only a few years older than my partner and I didn't want to be hurtful, though it has nothing to do with his age, but rather with his wonderful protectiveness and championship. Instead -- and I posted about this in our GLBT community database at work earlier today:

I went up to Doug's wife at the end of the evening and said, "Robin, I met you at the Equality Forum [in Philadelphia]."

"We loved going to the [GLBT] dinners."

"You'll have to keep coming then!"

"We'll be there if you invite us," she said, "We enjoyed them."

And then I hugged Doug and kissed his cheek and said just, "I love you, and I have to kiss your other cheek, too. I adore you!"

We looked at each other, I want to believe, both sadly, and I said goodbye.

My First Family

On the phone yesterday morning, in response to my expressing my sadness and sense of loss about Doug Elix, my mom said that the next generation picks up where the prior one left off.

I cried really hard, and said, "I don't think you're dying, Mom, but I do feel a loss from before the accident and after it." I felt so much relief. We talked until my 8 am call with my colleague in India, who I gave an earful before we could talk business.

More of my second family: My colleague said, "You know, it really just is. You don't need to forgive anyone for your being in the position you're in because that presumes someone needs forgiving. So you just need to forget it. Not forgive it, which it isn't yours to forgive, but simply forget it. It's just karma. Really.

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