Sunday, September 30, 2012

Missing Mom's house

I’m heading over to my parents’ house today. I haven’t been there in two weeks, and that’s the longest I’ve been away from their house in years.

When my Dad got sick, I made sure not to miss a week. Many of us gathered at the house on Sundays anyway, so visits were easy to plan. Pretty soon, I found myself making a weekday trip as well, just to check in and see what I could do. Dad often had a task waiting for me – clean out his electric razor with the little air compressor downstairs, empty the dehumidifier, show him something on the computer, take out the trash. Often, we just had lunch or coffee together. I would chat with my Mom about whatever was going on in the greater family, talk local politics with my Dad, assure myself they were well and head home.

The sicker Dad got, the more frequent my visits became, until for the last few months of his life I was there daily.

When he died, I kept up my Sunday visits with Mom. I saw her once during the week as well, then twice, then three or four times. During the last week of her life my sisters and I lived there, each of us finding a spot to sleep; none of us sleeping much at all.

When Mom died, I still went over on Sundays to be with my family.
But last Sunday, I just needed to stay away. I’ve been struggling with my loss – it doesn’t get easier right away, you know, it actually gets harder for a while.
But, this morning I’m heading over again. And, I’m actually nervous about it. I’ve been so sad this week, that for a while I thought it was because I missed last Sunday’s visit. But now I think my problem is that I haven’t been able to wallow in my sadness. I want to crawl under the covers for three days and do nothing but cry and eat ice cream and potato chips. But I’m a Mom and a teacher so there is no time for that. Would it make me feel better anyway?

When I go to my Mom’s house today, I’ll be cleaning up her things, sorting through memories. It’s been a blessing to have those memories stirred, and to have my sisters and brothers there to share them. But it’s also been exhausting and I come home longing for that blanket and ice cream. I don’t know how my Mom ever survived the loss of her own parents when she had all of us demanding attention from her, preventing her from mourning the way she wanted. I wish she was here to advise me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Painful grading - a slice of a teacher's life

My wrist hurts, but I’m happy.

My wrist hurts because I have carpal tunnel syndrome or some sort of repetitive stress injury; basically, I write too much.
But I’m happy because I have been writing on student papers. My college freshmen turned in the drafts of their first formal essay. I’m about a third of the way through them and I have been writing all over the papers. I scribbled in the margin when a paragraph lost focus. I circled details and questioned their necessity in moving the narrative forward. I made my confusion known when important details were missing.
I am also gathering my thoughts for class on Friday, when I hand these drafts back. Most students will look at their papers, covered in my pencil scribbles, and panic, thinking they have to start all over. But, the thing is, I’m happy despite my wrist pain because this is a great group of drafts. Sure, they all have revisions to consider, but most everyone is working from a solid beginning. I am very impressed.
Friday’s class will focus on organization and paragraph focus. And, hopefully, they’ll see exactly what I mean with all that writing. This should be a much less painful project for them, than it has been for me.
Short slice this week. Did I mention my wrist hurts?

Check out all the Slice of Life posts at Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

visit at a railroad crossing (Fiction Friday, a day late)

She heard the bells before she crested the hill to see the arms lowering, blocking access across the railroad tracks. She sighed and looked at the clock, wanting to be home now. She thought briefly about turning around and going the long way but decided that, while the movement might feel good, it would take just as long to drive around as it would for the train to pass. So, at the bottom of the hill, she turned off the engine and picked up her phone to send a text and let her daughter know she was running late.
She was surprised when she heard the passenger door open, but not startled. He sat down and closed the door.
“Don’t worry, she doesn’t even notice you’re not there. She’s texting her friend trying to find out what that boy she likes was saying about her in the cafeteria. Sad thing is, he wasn’t saying anything about her. Didn’t seem to notice her at all. Her friend is trying to say that in a way that makes her feel good.”
“Oh. What? How do you know? Who are you?”
Be nice to everybody, for he could be anybody.”
          "Father Barton."
          "I always liked him. And he always was, even when he didn't know."
“So, what’s today? Why now?”
“Today is Wednesday. Just an ordinary Wednesday.”
When he sat down in the car, she noticed his beard, the sort of beard her brother always wished he could grow, but couldn’t. His would stay patchy and ragged, but this beard was full and neat.
“Why didn’t you speed up when you heard the bells? You might have made it through.” He looked straight ahead as he talked, the way drivers do who are not in movies. She hated the way directors forgot their characters where supposed to be driving a car and let them take their eyes off the road for long stretches, until she added in a crash scene to the story line, knowing that had he really been driving downtown he would have hit something or someone by now.
“You know why,” she answered.
“Yeah, just the thought of it is gruesome. Still, lots of people take the chance. I’m glad you didn’t. Gives us a chance to catch up.”
“How are they?”
He paused, the slightest smile on his lips. “In love. It’s so beautiful to see. He waited there for her, you know. He watched her with such a look on his face. I went to him often so I could feel it too. Many times, he reached down to stroke her hair or touch her hand. She felt him. It’s why she refused treatment. She didn’t want to keep him waiting. They miss you all, but, well, they are together and that’s a better place to be. I rarely get to see such love. They’ve given me a gift.”
She smiled. She cried. “And you have given me one.”
She looked up when she heard the bells ringing to signal safe passage. By the time she turned her head to the passenger seat, he was already closing the door behind him, though she hadn’t noticed him getting up to go. She started the engine and drove the rest of the way home.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

making the cut

I was nervous coming home yesterday. The director of the middle school play was due to post the list of names of those who made it past the first audition process. My sixth-grader auditioned.

This was the first time she’s ever had to compete for a spot in anything. The soccer league takes everyone who signs up, the school band welcomes all who commit to practicing, and last year’s chorus was open to anyone who could get to rehearsals before school once a week. When she participated in a community theater group, everyone got some sort of part to play; no one was turned away.

But the directors made it clear at the information night that not every name on the sign-up sheet would appear on the cast list. And, since Anya is only in sixth grade (the school goes up to eighth), I figured her chances were fairly slim.

So, driving down our street, I steeled myself for a sad greeting; I practiced comforting lines designed to boost her self-esteem. When I got home and heard from her sister that Anya had already left to walk the neighbor’s dog, I assumed she was looking for a little canine comfort.

Boy, I should have more faith. She made it to the list, though there were plenty that didn’t.

I am thrilled for my girl; excited by this opportunity to build her self-confidence and explore her creative side further. I was also happy to see the empathy she showed for those who didn’t make it, and hear about the comfort both my girls tried to extend to friends who had been left out. Made me remember that she would have made it through, had this been a disappointing day.

I know that speech I practiced will be used sooner or later. We’re all left off the list for something. But I’m happy I can file away my words of comfort and use congratulations instead.