I began my career with hospice in the front office. Bob* and I were two sides of the same coin: I handled internal admin support, which included personnel files, the calendar, booking meeting locations, orienting new staff, etc. Bob* handled external admin support and tech issues. With her background in Silicon Valley start-ups, she had the skills to save the Rube Golberg-ian computer structure from itself. I imagined it eating us all like the machine in Superman II.
Our office was a three bedroom house near the local community college. We were squeezed into every nook and cranny of this place. Nurses’ station in the garage (converted, natch.) Medical supplies in the bathroom (don’t forget to put the lid down, or the gloves will fall in!) In spite of the haphazard infrastructure, the atmosphere was wonderful. The front office was located in the living room, with giant sliding glass doors looking out onto the backyard. There were always fresh flowers, and snacks in the kitchen.
And I was the baby. At 23, I was the youngest employee by almost 7 years. Out of about 50 employees, 4 or 5 of us were under 40. A wonderful environment to learn from strong women about how to be a strong woman. Exactly what I needed…
Our leader, Violet* (not her real name) was the kind of person you are lucky to meet in your lifetime. Funny, compassionate, highly organized and wickedly smart. After a short while with her, you felt that she knew you, as she did every single other employee. She asked about your kids, your spouse, your recent vacation. She was often found after hours in the kitchen, finishing up the last of the day’s dishes. Or missing the Christmas party, because she was the shuttle driver between the office and the party location.
Her death in 2003 was devastating for hospice and all it’s employees, and radically changed my life.
Her picture holds a place of honor in our new location, on the award plaque bearing her name.
See Part I here