My father started a business when I was 10. He started it with a partner and a woman whom he brought from his previous office to do the administrative work. I did a little filing that first year just a day or two but from the age of 11 until I left for college, I spent my summers working for LaVon. Technically I was working for Dad but I reported to LaVon. The company moved from 11th East to 7th East, the partner left, we moved to a bigger building on Highland Drive and LaVon got an office almost as large as Dad’s, decorated the way she wanted it.
At 16, I expanded from the summers to after school as well, I had moved from being a file clerk, to the mailroom, to data entry and that year LaVon taught me to process claims. The funny thing is my dad doesn’t remember me spending every summer of my childhood at the office. LaVon remembers though.
When I got married and tried to leave the family company, LaVon was the one who told me I was selling myself short by taking a $6.00 an hour reception job (minimum was $3.65 back then) and offered me better wages than my dad had ever offered me to come back and be a processor. LaVon fought for me and gave me my breaks, promoting me to auditor, workers’ comp processor and telling me that I needed to learn everything I could about claims manager from her so I could take over when she retired.
She’s also the one who later told me that my father and brother would always undervalue me and that I was not imagining it when I felt they weren’t listening to a word I said. She taught me how to use other people to promote my ideas which would benefit the business when it became clear that if I proposed it they would ignore it.
As a teenager, I spent more time talking to her than I did my biological mother. But I’ve been a remiss adoptive daughter and not visited her as much as I should after she retired. Her grand-daughter is closer to me than my own sisters (we have more in common and are only a few years apart compared to the decade that separates me from my blood sisters) but I haven’t visited them as often as I should have.
LaVon has always been a force to be reckoned with, an unstoppable power, a woman with a style all her own. She speaks her mind and people listen and obey. She stands up for what she thinks is right and doesn’t let anyone push her around.
And in the last year, she became old. I don’t know how it happened but somehow, overnight, she got old. During the last 2 days, I’ve spent several hours at the hospital with my 2nd family watching her trying to breathe, knowing that if she wakes up she won’t be the same person that we know and love. Like Dylan Thomas wrote though- she will not go gentle into that good night, she is raging and it is painful to watch and I cannot bring myself to say good-bye or good-night.
The doctors keep saying it is moments away, she’s outlasted them as if to say, it’s my time and my choice just as she would if she were awake. After all, as a claims manager she knew how to get what she wanted out of any doctor, why should she stop negotiating now?
I thank the Lord for my husband who realizes I’m losing my other mother. He’s been pampering me and doing what he can to lessen the stress. It takes me back to when I first got engaged and while my biological mother acted as if she hated my choice, LaVon told me I had chosen well and would be a fool to let him get away. 20 years have proven she was right as always. LaVon, I’m sorry that I never fully learned how to stand up for myself and what I deserve the way you tried to teach me. DH often listens to me talk of work situations and he asks me, “What would LaVon do in that situation?” I just don’t have the spine. I will take the advice that you gave me the last time we talked before you slipped away like this though. I will have the courage, I won’t let you down this time.
Edited to add: LaVon passed away Aug 22 around 10 pm, an hour after all the kids left for the evening. Just like everything in her life, it was at her timing on her terms.