Sunday, November 15, 2015

Heroes among us

Sometimes I'm amazed at the great people I know. And disappointed in how I sometimes take them for granted.

Thank goodness for Karin Ogden who reminded me about this last week without even knowing it. The great person in this scenario is Betty Cockrum, who heads the Indiana-Kentucky Planned Parenthood operations.

I've known Betty for a long time. She was a key player in the O'Bannon administration and joined Planned Parenthood after our time in the sun was temporarily dimmed. Betty doesn't come from great wealth or one of those families who run their corner of the world. She's made her way in this world on her own chutzpah and charm. She was born with extra measure of each.

I know some of you automatically connect her organization with abortion, and I know some of you are opposed to that procedure. You know that I adamantly prefer abortion over abuse. And sure, adoption is a wonderful alternative, no question. If only we had as many people actively engaged in that effort...

What you might not know is that abortion is a tiny fraction of what Planned Parenthood does and I know dozens, hundreds probably, of women who've received crucial (non-abortion-related) services from this organization. It's important. It's needed. And I'll advocate for it to anyone, anywhere anytime.

So when I had an opportunity to attend a small fundraiser, I invited some friends. Karin and Hannah Ogden joined Alison and me. We ran into great friends there and made some new ones. And it was there that Karin inadvertently and virtually smacked me upside the head:  "I want to introduce you to a really great woman," she said to Hannah, introducing her to Betty.

I know Betty is a great woman. Ali has chatted with her a bunch of times. I think Betty -- creator of the Redheads for O'Bannon group -- has a special affection for my little one. Not just because of her hair, but because she and the other Skirts were there for me when I had her. And the issues that came before Alison's arrival.

But I don't think I ever adequately described her to Alison. To Ali, she's just Betty; a friend of Mom's.

Ali and I talked a little bit about Betty and the challenges facing Planned Parenthood on the way home from the event. Per her usual, Ali volunteered to stand watch at Betty's house to protect her from anyone who'd protest against her there. She understands that no one celebrates abortion, but that everyone deserves good health care. And in those instances when abortion is the choice, that it should be done in a medically safe way. Am I indoctrinating Ali into my liberal world? Probably.

But this is the kid who spent nine years in catholic school without assuming the party line. I think she'd push back.

Alison also met my friend Helen Small recently. She's Bobby Small's wife and a strong woman who made her mark in the arts community. Ali met Helen in the most trying of circumstances: while Bobby was in ICU at Methodist Hospital but like me, years before, fell instantly in love with her.

I never really thought much about this 'It takes a village' kind of thing but I think I'm getting it now as Alison is really becoming a young, independent woman. I'm fortunate my village has tons of awesome, strong, funny, smart women she can learn from. I need to do a better job making sure Ali recognizes their strength.

Speaking of fine young women, Hannah Ogden is constantly amazing me. She's two years ahead of Ali, and I remember back when Ali and Alex were thick as thieves in their toddler days. We didn't really know Hannah much. I was planning on having Alex over when Hannah became available as well and was interested in coming along. We had the best time and it led to Hannah always being invited.

We had awesome summers with the three of them. Now, she drives and has a boyfriend and a job. She's so near an adult that it hurts. But she's still sweet Hannah Rose. A few weeks ago, after an unusually stressful week with Ali, she texted me to say she'd enjoyed my blog and she was sure that Ali would one day be happy I insisted on taking photos of her in her first school dance outfit. She's 16! Who does that?

It's OK to go "Awww" here in your head. I did when I saw that note. You don't get to be that thoughtful on your own. Karin just may be approaching hero status, too.

The Planned Parenthood event wasn't just a Eureka! Moment. It was fun, too. My friend Heather was there. When she told Ali she knew her as a baby and that we'd worked together in the governor's office, Alison immediately apologized for peeing on the governor's couch. (True story.)

The two of them trotted off to the bar where Heather introduced Ali to some funky tea drink and the two of them charmed each other's socks off.  I drove down home for my niece, Annie's baby shower where my sister Debbie threw everyone's gift under the bus with hers: a 6-foot-tall giraffe-shaped piece of wood that she had hand painted, installing a yard stick to make a growth chart.

I can never move from this house because Alison's growth chart is marked on her bedroom wall. I guess I could take the wall with me, but who knew you could have a piece of hand-sawed, hand-painted piece of moveable art? Debbie is an amazing artist -- as gifted with a paintbrush as Donna is with a needle and thread.

I got home just in time to join Ali and Jeff in a walk to Fat Dan's Deli -- never my choice given the menu items reflect the name of the place, but the two of them love it. We had to wait forever for a table but even at 14, Ali bore it well. Possible better than me.

While we waited for service, she slipped away and Jeff asked me where she'd gone. "Probably to get a beer," I joked as she'd headed to the bar. Turns out she was after chalk, which is an homage to Matt Elliott, who once operated what we called "The Newspaper Stand" when Ali was small.

We met Matt when I was home on maternity leave and in search of exercise and the Sunday paper. Ali honed her color skills as a toddler sorting Matt the Newspaperman's candy. He gave her her first candy -- a lollipop she consumed on the way home promising all the while not to tell Dad that she'd violated the "no sugar" policy we had going. She of course ratted me out first chance she got. Matt was unapologetic and continued to slip her candy every week.

She later drew in his sketchbook as kids were wont to do there. He, sadly, passed away and the deli has taken his space. It offers chalkboards by the tables and our hangman games attracted players as they passed by. Alison's "Donald Trump Needs to Go" was perhaps the winner of the night although my "Today I saw Black Jesus" won Jeff's vote. (Long story, but again, true.)

We capped the night off with a no-TV evening upstairs where Alison celebrated her love of classic rock music and the imminent arrival of sanctioned Christmas music. Jeff is trying to hold her off, invoking the  after-Thanksgiving.rule. Sunday has been largely uneventful other than me mulching another 17 tons of leaves.

We have another couple of weeks before the arguing over Christmas music will end. Ali's started calling him Scrooge instead of the Captain. In the meantime, she's dancing to classic rock and continuing to deride country music. That's one bit of indoctrination she's proven immune to. So far.

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