Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Invisability Cloak

I was in my old stomping ground this past long weekend. I stopped by the lab on Monday and visited with a lot of people. Many old faces greeted me. Some new. As I was sitting in my old supervisor's cluttered office I spotted him. The tech who had lost his twin son to Trisomy 18. His twin daughter survived and is around the same age as Henry. My former supervisor had sent me an email asking my opinion on how to talk/comfort him during this time. I encouraged him to find a support group, online or face to face. The isolation would be too unbearable, I had written. But when the babies were born, and his poor son only lived 3 precious hours, the tech called my former supervisor and said he wanted no one to be told of the details of his son's passing. And he wanted no condolences.

It was an awkward move, as no one felt they could approach him. Many of these people were the very ones who sent cards and letters when Ronan died. They wanted desperately to tell him they were so very sorry, but honored his wishes to never speak of it at work.

I watched the tech work. Going through the motions of looking at specimens. Heart broken, the world so heavy on his shoulders. I wanted to go to him. Light that candle in the darkness. Show him some blogs of people who had been in his shoes, who are raising one while missing their twin. But who am I to tell this man that his method of grieving is wrong? I had offered to talk to him back when his wife had the amino to confirm the suspicions of Trisomy 18. He declined.

I hope he is ok. I wish I could have told him that he wasn't alone. Because he looked so alone....

Monday, April 16, 2012


When he walked into our conference room 1.5 years ago he was dressed to the nines. He had on a smart tie, everything was properly ironed and the creases in his clothing were were the designers intended them to be. I, on the other hand looked like a slacker in comparison. He had his resume neatly bound together covered in a smart sheet protector. He called me ma'am 138 times in that interview. You could tell he actually rehearsed what he wanted to say, carefully highlighting his strengths and pointing out his awards and references (which were all glowing). I liked him immediately. I mean, how can you not like someone who is that kind and gentle?

I asked him why he wanted to move from his section to ours. He said he heard what we did over here and he wanted to learn and be challenged. We all walked away knowing that he would be our new tech in Ohio. He officially became mine in May, and he has fit in well. Then one minute he cornered me when I came back from maternity leave and asked if he could talk to me. He looked so serious, I was sure it was going to be the most awful news. I prepared for the worst. Cancer? He found a better job? He dropped a bomb on me when he asked to be reassigned from his current project. I had placed him in a more research based project, with no clear answers. I did this so he could find his groove, and learn something new. It was a bad call. He was overwhelmed.

We talked for a while and hatched out a plan. I assured him that I was not disappointed in him or the work. It killed me to see him looking so sad and defeated and blamed myself for perhaps giving the illusion that I was a hard ass, when in all reality, I'm not.

I should've known that something was up. He started isolating himself. I was really busy so I didn't check in like I should have. This past week he flew home for a family emergency and it was unfortunate timing because I had to turn in something with his data. I texted him to try to set up a time to talk and he ignored me. Which is not like him. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assumed that it was just an overwhelming time for him. He was due back Monday, so I figured we would catch up then.

He walked in, closed the door and prepared to hand me a letter of resignation!!

I was like wtf?! I KNOW I don't give off the vibe that if you ignore my text I'd fire your ass. And secondly, I work for the feds. I can't Donald Trump anyone. There's protocol. And it can take months to fire someone for truly legitimate reasons. Which not answering a text was not one of those reasons! There is something deeper going on here. So we talk and I tell him we were completely changing direction, putting him on a path in which he can feel more confident about his skills. He stil looked defeated again. But in light of the whole suicide cloud lingering over my group, I was hell bent to make sure he understood I was ok with his work and what he's been doing. He doesn't have great data yet, but hey that's science for ya.

I paired him with another tech, and I pray that at the end of the day he felt better about things. But something tells me that the greatest challenge will not be at the bench with his hands, but rather something that I may not be able to fix with better data.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Won't Someone Think of the Children?! :)

My sweet boy who is always giving smiles....

Siblings! :D

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Wearing the Face He Kept in a Jar by the Door...

He told us he sold a property that he owned with his first wife when he was stationed in Germany for $3.0M dollars.

He mentioned it in a non-chalant kind of way during lab meeting. Like it wasn't a big deal.

"What did you do this weekend, B?"

"Oh, sold some property and became a millionaire."

No one knew if they should believe him, but we eventually did because he talked about all the cool things he bought, the money he gave away to each of his siblings, even though they didn't deserve it. He had a 3 year old boy at the time from wife #2, whom he lavished love and attention on. The boy, not the wife. They were in the process of getting a bitter divorce.

His ex brought out the worst in him. There were too many times I heard the words bitch and whore yelled into the phone in a crazed voice that sounded nothing like his normal voice. Many afternoons were spent in talk therapy style about his options for custody, calming his worry about his child's welfare, and when he was ready to start dating again, the exhaustive 'what do you think she meant by this' talks. Being divorced and mid 40s did take a toll on his ego.

Then about 6 months before we were scheduled to pack up the lab, something changed. He stopped doing any real type of work. He started picking fights with people. We caught him in more lies than I cared to mention. There were questions about whether he really had any money as he bragged. He supposedly bought a big house, but quickly sold it before anyone could visit. People were sick of his laziness, pissed at me for not stopping it, even though I had no power to stop it as I was not his supervisor.

When it was time to decide whether to stay or go, he stayed behind for his son, he said. We were relieved. He tried for months to get a job but got angry that no prospects were out there. He finally got hired and started his new job last week. He went to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. He didn't show up Thursday. His brother found him dead on Friday. He had committed suicide.

We were floored when we heard the news. Assumed in our child-like minds that someone was playing with us, but we finally found out it was indeed true. Saddened we took up a collection for flowers. He had a short service on base in Texas. He was a veteran, and was buried with a 21 gun salute and a flag. Thirteen people showed up. The only flowers that were there were the ones we sent. These little details made me the saddest. That and knowing his five year son was in attendance.

I wish that he was stronger, healthier, and happier. I wish all hell didn't break loose before we left, because in the beginning we were all pretty good friends. My friends with letters behind their names who have studied human nature assure me that it was all signs showing that he was mentally ill, and in a downward spiral.

Doesn't make the image of his poor son alone without a dad any easier to swallow.....