I walked in on John McCain in the bathroom. He was standing at the basin washing his hands, casually he glances over his shoulder to see my horrified face. I couldn’t move, my knees locked. Inside I’m screaming, “Run, a$$hole, run.” Yet, I stood frozen in my most embarrassing moment in life.
Wait, let’s back up. That story really began about five years earlier when I attended a fundraiser for Jan Goldsmith for District Attorney and met this well put together lady named Jean Freelove. She was plucky, keen, never missed a nuance in any conversation and she laughed with her whole self. Jean also had a great way of being pushy and somehow, I found myself working voluntarily on a number of her races. I didn’t need to do this kind of work… it often went late, tallying totals and cleaning up all the donor paperwork. But I actually loved it and what I really loved best was Jean.
With her, I worked to elect and re-elect Goldsmith, former Mayor Jerry Sanders and Sheriff Bill Gore and others. She taught me much about the numbers game of politics. I learned her process, the breezy style with which she could squeeze donations for her candidates and support their causes. She was a warrior for the party, at the campaign front lines of every level including presidential. To say she was good at her job would be an understatement.
We fought once. It was my fault. I arrived late (me?) to a fundraiser and she quickly took me aside, explaining the facts of life while the candidate gave a stump to the group. Something made me argue with her and she gently put up her hand, “Erica, you made a mistake. Let’s just move on.” And we did.
She advocated for me to work on paid gigs too, one of which landed me on an all-star team up with awesome people like Dennis Hollingsworth, Jason Cabel Roe and Chris Brown.
Together, Jean and I had marvelous times.
So, back to my story, there I was at a Carly Fiorina for Senate fundraiser where I was managing the VIP reception with the very person I just walked in on in the bathroom. After I received the famous McCain hand shake, I managed to stammer out, “I pictured this moment differently.” He laughed out loud, “Well, now you have a hell of a story.”
I ran off to the check in, grabbed Jean’s arm and pulled her off to the side to tell her what just happened. With a twinkle in her eye, she said: “He was at the…?” I replied, “Sink. Washing his hands.” She quipped back in mock surprise, “They do that too?” Naturally, everyone knew the story by the end of the night and the only one who enjoyed it more than McCain himself, who teased me repeatedly, was Jean. After the race ended, Carly took her fundraisers to a “thank you” spa day and asked for them to share their best stories. Before the turn came to Jean, another fundraiser told my story and she proudly claimed, it was quite accurate.
Over the years, we’ve called each other to catch up, talk about life, family, politics, the general state of the world. I always loved seeing her name on my phone. When I finally got pregnant, she bought me my first baby clothes for Dagny and gave me a card that said she’ll always be a piece of my heart walking the planet. As usual, Jean was right.
Last month while catching up with a mutual friend, I found out my Jean was sick, the details were limited. Few seemed to know much. Another mutual friend managed to get more information, the worst news possible, she was entering hospice. I was in absolute disbelief. Not my Jean. Who was less a friend and more a mom-figure. The idea of her suffering broke my heart. I prayed she was as comfortable as possible, that she knew how very much she was loved. But then I realized, that’s silly. She knows. Jean always knows.
This morning, I found out she’s gone home to the Lord. A piece of my heart has left the planet. I know one day, we’ll see each other again… in the meantime, she has plenty of stories for heaven, including a pretty good one about John McCain.