Friday, September 21, 2012

Sometimes life asks a lot of you

It's Friday and another week of school has come and gone, like the waves on the beach, only maybe not quite.  I hope I am teaching somebody something.  Originally, the thought of having to prepare for four different classes scared me senseless, but after a couple of weeks, I find that one of my biggest challenges is keeping a consistent pace between my two classes that are supposed to be the same.

Now I have two full, beautiful days wherein I will not have to handle chalk or breathe chalk dust.  For these two days, I can sleep in, which now means until 7:30.

My sister has breast cancer.  That is what I alluded to earlier, a few posts ago.

Her prognosis is good.  They caught it early, and she had three surgeries to remove all the cancerous tissue until there were what they call "clear margins."  Not being a doctor, I imagine "clear margins" to be areas of tissue around the cancer sight where there is no cancer.  I think of MLA margins, the kind I try to teach my students to use for their papers, one inch at the top, the bottom and down each side.  Empty space, free from text.  Clear tissue free from cancer cells.

My students might appreciate the parallel between text and cancer cells.

Meanwhile, my sister is losing her hair.

She never really liked her hair, and she was able to buy a smashingly cute wig.  Even so, there is something about running the comb through your hair and feeling, watching the hair come off in the comb.  Clusters of it detaching from your person, lying prone and dead on the counter like some sort of amputation,  It isn't pain, like a a stubbed toe or a pin prick or a bee sting.  It's just sickening, a sensation that takes your breath away like a fist in your gut, but less sudden.

So many drugs.  Poisons.  The stuff organic chemists make a career of developing.  It is so weird to think that my daughter is developing these medicines, and my sister is having her body pumped full of them.

A professor of Shannon's once said, "It takes a poison to kill a cancer cell.  If you could heal cancer with vitamins, there'd have been a cure long ago."  So they research and design and create medicines... medicines with cloaks that allow them to travel right up to a cancer cell and recognize it before they "uncloak" and attack.

I want to be with my sister.  We are a very unhuggy family, which is sad, but it is the way it is.  So I probably would not hold her, and we would not cry together.  Instead, I would tell her how nice her new wig looks, and we would run errands together, and I'd find ways to help her rest when she was tired.  I'd make dinner and do the laundry because that is what I do.  I'd chat with her while we walked the dog.  I'd drive her to her appointments and make lame jokes while the drugs were running into her port.

I don't know if I could actually say the words "I love you."  But I would do my level best to live it out.  Because I do love her.

It's so hard to be so far away.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

School has started

Today was my second day of school with kids in the classroom.  It was Jonathan's third (as a kid in a classroom).

I like teaching.  I feel pretty good at school, pretty natural, pretty in-my-element considering we haven't even cracked a textbook yet.  I did hand most the textbooks out, though.  I wasn't planning to until tomorrow, but I got ahead of my plan, and it felt good.  I'm still trying to get to know the kids and learn how to take attendance.

At the end of the day, I sat over my lesson planner and tried to gather my thoughts.  It is Thursday, a marching band day.  On Tuesday, Jon's first day of school, I didn't even have students yet, but I didn't get home until after he had gone to marching band practice.  Today I called him at about 3:30.

Yes, he was going to a sectional, early.  He would be gone before 4:30.  I still had lessons to plan.  By the time I finished and drove the thirty minutes home, there would be no way I would see him.

My throat caught as I tried to stay upbeat on the phone.  "Are you finding good, nutritious stuff to eat before you go?  I miss you, Buddy."  A tear rolled down my cheek and I grabbed a tissue out of the box on my desk, a box donated for extra credit which I need to figure out how to enter into the computer grading system.  I am keeping meticulous paper records.

I held my breath and tried not to let him know his dumb mom was falling apart.

"Yeah," he told me, "and I'm going to the gym with Dave after practice."

"Well, stop by at home and say hi to me," I somehow squeaked out with a modicum of composure.

Hanging up,  I gave the tissue a real workout, holding my breath, hoping not to make a sound.  There were people in the hall, and my door was propped open for air.

Good grief.  He is 17 years old.  How do moms do this with their little babies?

Maybe it's because they aren't on the last year before the child leaves for (possibly) ever.