Once upon a time, pH was in daycare at a facility adjacent to kH’s work, which was great. kH took her to daycare and spent his lunches and breaks with her and picked her up and took her home. I was doing civil litigation, which is not at all friendly to new mothers.

At least, until the awful year, the year of two back surgeries, the year it came to light that his employer had been doing illegal things and started to–the process is ongoing–retaliate against him when he did what he does best, which is being a lightning rod doing the right damned thing when no one else will. This was the year when all the responsibilities suddenly fell upon me, when even though I’d never asked for help, I actually asked my family for help.

They said, “No.”

I did my best: I took care of pH and kH and I worked and I ate and I drove and JHC I took a lot of  depositions–but I didn’t do much of anything else.

The world as we’d known it came to an end that year. Somehow we survived. Friends helped in ways I don’t remember because I have done my best not to remember that time. (I do know I’m grateful, though.) I pretended it was okay. Eventually it was okay, kind of, except for the employer and the stress and the endless retaliation.

It took me until this year to look at pictures I’d taken then. (And it’s not like this one’s been a piece of cake.)

But to go back to that year, when I was still doing the dropping off and picking up, I became friendly with one of pH’s caregivers, who was not long afterward treated very badly by her employer. I ended up being one of her references. Actually, I was a reference for at least two jobs for her. This person is smart and capable but was not politically savvy.

In addition to job references, I gave this person a very expensive piece of child-care equipment. I did this because when pH was born early, we had to do and purchase, almost nothing. My friends–and I am still amazed and awed and will cry if I think about it (damn it, I am crying now)–took care of us so we could care for pH. Afterward, I decided I would give everything away when it was our time, because you can’t repay that kind of gift in any other way.

Also, that is simply what one does.

Now, the caregiver wasn’t pregnant. I don’t even remember if she’d gotten married yet or was still engaged. But she was planning on kids someday, she’d asked for the equipment, and so why not? I gave it to her. And then she started asking me about the rain cover. I looked. I couldn’t find it. I had bigger things going on, and heck, she didn’t even have a kid. I apologized and said I’d try to find it.

Years later, an ultrasound picture appeared on Facebook. I congratulated her, on Facebook. When I had time, I looked for the rain cover. Amazingly, given we’d moved twice at this point, I found the rain cover. I went to tell her…

…to discover she’d unfriended me on FB and Instagram.

I put the rain cover back in the closet, because while I’m nice, I’m not that nice.

Friending, unfriending, following, unfollowing–unless I feel like I’ve made some horrible faux pas or insulted someone inadvertently, I don’t really care. In life, most people come and go. (This is why I don’t understand trolling on websites. Hate requires so much energy.)  I tell pH that it’s okay to like different people and different things, and no, you don’t have to like everyone and no, they don’t have to like you, either. You have to be polite to everyone, though, which is why “Isn’t that nice?” and “Bless your heart” were invented.

I said this was a cautionary tale, but the real lesson is there’s nothing that would have changed in this story if we’d known the ending. kH acted according to his principles, even though it brought down the wrath of higher-ups. I acted according to mine. Sometimes you do the right things and petty people will, well, still be petty. Employers doing illegal things will still be retaliating, even when Congress and the press are watching.

What can you do? Document, record, and smile.

Bless their hearts.