Home > Learning, Love, Personal, Reflections, Youth > I still want to be Bill.

I still want to be Bill.

“Have you ever considered going back and taking the Bar so you can be a child advocate?” my husband, Anthony, just asked.

The truth is that I think about it all the time. But when I do, I think of the divorce attorney whose advocacy inspired me to go to law school.

Before I’d even graduated elementary school, my mom started sending me to talk to Bill. She found him intimidating and couldn’t understand what he needed from her. The law was scary, its words too daunting. I acted as go-between, unwillingly at first, and then, increasingly, willingly and even happily.

Bill didn’t talk down to me. Quite the opposite, he treated me as if I was a competent, capable human being, tempering his hard truths with a softness he reserved for children.

With humor and grace, he taught me not to take other people’s bad behavior as a reflection of anything wrong with me. It was all on them, all their choice and the consequence of their own struggles that had little to do with me.

When my dad tried skipping out on my medical bills, Bill was there to lend a hand free of charge.

Having lunch to celebrate my college graduation, he urged me to skip law school and law.

“But I want to be like you,” I told him. “I want to be for other kids what you were to me!”

“You can find another way. You will find another way. One that’s better for you.”

I told my husband about Bill, and how he ended up being right. Practicing law wasn’t for me.

“How about social work?” Anthony offered.

“I think about that, too.” And I do. At some point, when my kids are a little older, I will go back to school to pursue a career in some kind of healing profession.

Because my husband is right. My passion is the safety and well being of children. I can be engaged in and challenged by other endeavors, but the welfare of children is what stirs my soul.

For now, I try to make things better for children through my words–e.g., “Woody Allen & the solution to violence,” “‘How are you raising him?!’” and “Portrait of a Pedophile.” But there is coming a time where I will need to use more than words.

Having seen and done and savored many things in my life, it’s the memory of Bill that evokes the stirring sensation of being pointed the right direction.

All these years later, I find that I still want to be Bill.

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  1. February 9, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Never under estimate the power of words. Good post, many of us struggle to find the best path. You have already started to blaze your way.

    • February 9, 2014 at 8:22 am

      Thank you, both for your thoughts on this post and on the power of words in general. Words have changed my life. They shouldn’t be minimized.

  2. February 9, 2014 at 8:20 am

    The last time I saw Bill was at my foster sisters graduation from high school. He had told me that in all his years of working with the foster system, my in-laws were the best family he had ever worked with! He said I’d married into a good family (which I already knew). One way to help childten if ypu are able is to be a foster parent.

    • February 9, 2014 at 8:26 am

      Anthony actually suggested fostering children, too. That will be a ways down the road, but I do see it being in our future.

      Before posting this, I looked through my box of letters and my email outbox. I found one letter from Bill to Dad (which Anthony advised against sharing, ahem), and found one sent email in particular that made me choke up:

      I wanted to let you know that Mom [] is within a couple of days of succumbing to neuroendocrine cancer. We will provide memorial details when everything is said and done, and would love to see you there. You played such a positive, important role in closing out the horrible “Dad” chapter of our life, it would be healing to have you be a part of this closing, too.

      I’m debating emailing this post to him, but . . . maybe this is one it’s best he find (or not) on his own.

  3. February 9, 2014 at 10:47 am

    This is a beautiful tribute to someone who made a difference in your life. Also, just knowing what your passion is like that and what you want to pursue is huge. I’m searching for that, myself.

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:01 pm

      For a little while, I did lose sight of what my passion was. Rediscovering it the last several months has been such a gift. I hope you find it, and enjoy the process of the finding!

  4. February 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Deborah, I live by a proverb ” Life is too short to read bad books”. You will know what is right, when it is right. Just follow the sun..da.da.da.da.B

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I used to force my way through the bad books, but a friend pointed out–rightly–that I was depriving myself of time to read good books. Now I don’t do that anymore. It’s a little more complicated in the world outside books, but a little complication is no reason not to take those baby steps the right direction. 🙂

      • February 11, 2014 at 8:37 pm

        So true Deborah, life is complicated and our choices are guided by our circumstances. Sometimes however, choices themselves are the complication. Thanks for replying.B

  5. February 9, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    There is always that one person who inspires, who shines a light down a path for our feet to dance on. There is always that one person, not a parent who makes the forest less scary. I love you met that one person when you were so young and that he continues to inspire your passion.

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      I’m kinda glad I came to thinking about him in such a mood. This could have been a lengthy post recounting what I recall of our every exchange, but this . . . this is better. It feels right. I’m glad I had Bill, and glad, too, for the countless other kids whose lives were brightened by his care. Though we didn’t meet often, how he was in those moments of meeting have helped me in so, so many more moments since. ♥

  6. February 9, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    As a young lawyer, I am just curious how you know it isn’t for you if you didn’t practice? Some days I’m not sure it’s for me, but I’m trying it on for size. There are so many possibilities.

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Oh, I think it’s possible to know! It would take a long, long post to address this question properly, so I’ll just have to give this a highlights level answer.

      I think most people of my proclivity are smart enough not to go to law school in the first place, but it took being there to understand just how little I cared to spend life diving into details. It’s really that: I like looking at the big picture, with only very slight detours to look into the minutiae. Having a livelihood based upon examining the minutiae was exactly the wrong approach for me to take.

      Now I’m glad to call upon the knowledge I gained in school, but equally glad I only have to call on it for small portions of what I do.

  7. February 10, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Those kinds of role models really do shape our lives. What a beautiful picture of the man who gave you so much.

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:10 pm

      They do! With that kind of caring presence, it’s not the quantity of time but its quality that counts. Bill made each moment count, even those first ones where I found him intimidating. Which now seems preposterous! 🙂

  8. February 10, 2014 at 7:19 pm

    I never had a ‘Bill’ in my life. You’re fortunate to have intersected paths with someone who treated children with dignity. You never know why people are put in your path. Even if it’s for a limited time. There seems to be a greater purpose for these connections.

    Whatever course you take, I’m certain your words/deeds will affect many.

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      You’re fortunate to have intersected paths with someone who treated children with dignity.

      This is the perfect way of expressing it. Growing up poor and standing out amongst my peers and neighbors for how strange I looked, it was such a gift to find someone who didn’t care that I was young or oddly dressed, but saw who I was beneath all that. It remains a rare gift to be seen in such a way, and have that seeing reflected outwardly.

  9. February 11, 2014 at 5:10 am

    As Bill was to you, you are the “Deb” to more that you know. Continue to be the best Deb you can be. Life has a funny way of unfolding and placing us in the lives of those we are meant to touch. I’m so glad your life has touched mine. xo

    • February 11, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you so much for putting it in this light. This is so heartening to read, lifting me up when my grand intentions are tempered by very, very real tiredness.

      Life has a funny way of unfolding and placing us in the lives of those we are meant to touch. I’m so glad your life has touched mine.

      Ditto that. So much.

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