Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where each week begins with gratitude from my life, which for today is for my friend Debbie from Massachusetts, someone who’s remained an active part of my life for over two decades.
I think it’s important to say right off the bat, that there’s only a handful of people who have stuck around the life of Andrew Arthur Dawson for 20+ years and Debbie is one of them, something I’m extremely grateful for given how volatile my existence was over the years.
I first met Debbie in October of 1997 when I was hired into Arbella Mutual Insurance in Quincy, Massachusetts to do Y2K conversion programming on a COBOL mainframe system. At the time, I actually resided in Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, and was looking to do a geographical cure, as my life there was totally out of control. I honestly thought back then that moving to another state would solve all my problems. Spoiler Alert. It didn’t. But that’s a story for another time.
Nonetheless, the team I was hired into at Arbella was led by Debbie and she became my day to day supervisor. From the onset, I really connected with her and truly enjoyed working on her team. She always had a good sense of humor and regularly took the time to connect with me, especially whenever she noticed I was feeling down. How Debbie and I went from being co-workers to friends though is another big reason why I’m grateful for her, and it’s actually quite a comical story.
One day, I came to work after having a huge verbal fight with my then partner and was beginning to realize that relationship wasn’t working anymore. Debbie saw how distressed I was and asked if I needed someone to talk to. I decided to take her up on the offer and we went into a nearby conference room. I wasn’t fully out of the closet back then, yet I finally worked up the courage to tell her the truth because I was convinced she was a lesbian and would understand my issues. As I sat down and began to out myself, telling her everything that was going on in my unstable relationship with my partner, I told her I felt comfortable saying all this because she was a lesbian. When I was done, she smiled and gently responded by saying she wasn’t gay, but thought I was attractive. I probably turned the darkest shade of red that day, yet she totally took it in stride and it became the very thing that would bond us for decades to come.
Towards the tail end of my brief time working with her at Arbella, we took a business trip together to Des Moines, Iowa, where I would experience a complete nervous breakdown on our flight back, as I had decided it was finally time to end my relationship with my partner. When she heard me crying profusely several rows ahead, she ended up moving her seat next to me and spent the entire flight offering plenty of comfort and reassurance. Shortly after that trip, I’d quit Arbella and do another geographical cure by moving back to Virginia, to the same vicinity I had just left about 10 months prior.
I’d remain in Virginia for the next 10 years, but Debbie and I never lost touch during all those years, even when I lived through one addictive mess after another. Always praying for me, always doing her best to lift me up, and always offering me many reassurances upon reassurances that God and she loved me unconditionally. Most people over those years gave up on me, but Debbie never did and anytime I’d take a trip back to Massachusetts to visit my sister, I’d spend a little time with her, reconnecting and feeling very grateful that she was still a part of my life.
In 2007, when I lost the bed and breakfast I owned, faced financial ruin, saw the end of an almost seven-year relationship, and had nothing left really to offer anyone, I moved again back to Massachusetts where I’d finally begin my path to recovery from a life of addiction. Debbie became a regular part of my life again after that.
Over the next seven years I remained in Massachusetts, Debbie opened up her home in Braintree to me, as well as her second home on Cape Cod, a place I found great respite in on many a weekend. I loved visiting her there, as there we’d go to the beach together, chat late into the night about so many spiritual topics, enjoy coffees and desserts at an awesome place called Hot Chocolate Sparrow, play some games, watch movies, dine out, and simply appreciate each other’s company. It was during this time that Debbie became family to me, something I don’t take lightly given how little family I’ve had in this life.
It’s been over five years now that I left Massachusetts, and I’ve only seen Debbie twice since then. Once, because she drove through Toledo and stayed with my partner and I, and once because I returned there last summer where I got to spend an afternoon and evening with her doing a whale watch and having dinner, both of which provided me lasting memories. Yet, even with the long gaps of time in between seeing each other, I remain close to Debbie, as she has offered me a number of consoling conversations over the phone on high physical pain-filled days.
In the end, as I reflect upon a woman I certainly have much to be grateful for, the thing about Debbie to be the most grateful for is simply this. She is one of those people who tend to see the best in someone, even when they’re at their worst and someone who never gives up on you, even when you may have already given up on yourself. I love Debbie for this and felt it was time to express some much-needed and long-overdue appreciation for a woman I hope and pray will remain my friend for the rest of this life…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson