Monday, January 16, 2006

Carpe Diem

I have this teacher who pisses me off. I've been grumbling under my breath about her all semester. Her focus has just not been on her students. She doesn't really seem to care about how well we do. She teaches us what she is supposed to teach us, seemingly to cover her professional ass, and hands out pre-fab tests with vague, imprecise questions that in no way show how much we have learned. None of us are getting the grades we deserve in her class. (Well, maybe some of us are... if you know what I mean.) She isn't open to discussion of results or validity of test questions, or anything along those lines. There are no opportunities for extra credit or special projects, or anything to show that we are better students than our grades show. I've said to G in disgust a number of times that she is immature, lazy, defensive, and uncommitted.

I learned tonight that my teacher has good reason, as of late, for not being entirely focused on our class. Her best friend of around 25 years is in a specialty hospital, having recently undergone two brain surgeries in a week. She almost died. As of tonight, she is still in the hospital, conscious, but unable to see, and very weak.

This is her best friend - that friend that, if you're lucky enough to have one, you know you can tell everything to, things you'd never tell anyone. Someone who knows you better than you know yourself. Someone no one else can replace. Someone you can't imagine not being in your life.

Tonight, she shed a few tears as she briefly apologized to our class for not showing up last Monday. We knew she had a personal crisis going on, and we all figured she had a loved one in the hospital or something like that. We didn't ask for details, and she didn't give many. She simply made a quick statement, and a heartfelt apology. There was no need for her to apologize, but she did anyway.

This is a woman who keeps her appointments. She always shows up to work, even when she's sick, even when she's got other stuff going on. She's always there. So for her to miss a day, we knew it was something big. But this floored us all.

After class was over, a few of my classmates and I sat with her and listened while she told us the whole story. I was stunned. She has been dealing with this situation since the holiday. She has been driving back and forth to South Jersey and Philly, being with the family and other close friends. Her friend has been in and out of the hospital, and had symptoms that pop up, then go away, then something else happens, then vanishes.

I am familiar with the specific neurological syndrome that her friend is experiencing. It's a rollercoaster, to say the least. It is very serious. It's not cancer, but no one knows how long she will live. She could have many long, happy years ahead of her. She could have a few days. Or, she could lose her sight. There is no way to know.

She told us that a couple of days ago, for the first time in her life, she had an impulse to call her friend and talk about something, and realized that her friend wouldn't be there. We all stood there, stunned, understanding. Feeling.

I saw my teacher tonight in the full light of humanity, as we all stood around her listening, empathizing, being there for her as much as we could, in friendship and sisterhood. We all prayed for her and her friend, in our own silent way... I could sense the spiritual outpouring from the other five women in the room. She may not be our favorite teacher, but she is one of us. I feel bad for my grumbling.

My heart skipped a beat tonight when I realized how lucky I am. I don't just have a friend like that - I have two.

We three Queens of the Cornfields
have been friends for so long, the very thought of losing one of them makes my throat constrict. I honestly do not know what I would do if I couldn't pick up the phone and call Lisa for advice, or call Kristin and rant about something. I don't know how I'd get by without my sisters. I don't ever want to find out.

Tonight, when I got home, I emailed them. We are planning a get-together in May of this year. I will be turning 35 this August. I am the youngest of our little trio. I feel it sometimes, in the sense of a little sister who looks to her older sisters for clues as to how life works. They probably have no idea just how often I have asked myself what I could do to be more like them. Lisa is so practical and just so damn smart. Kristin always knows what to wear. I always say and do clumsy things. ok, maybe I'm the entertaining one... but I know people laugh at me more than with me. But not them. They have happy marriages. They have houses and kids and their parents' approval. I still want to borrow Kristin's sweaters and make copies of Lisa's records.

I love that.

I love you two, sisters of my heart. I swear, you have no idea how much. Please always, always remember that. Both of you.

See you in May.

2 comments:

_____Aaron said...

Carpe Denim darlin' - I find a new pair of jeans is a good distraction when I think about loosing friends and all the other stuff that prevents me from comforting denial. Didn't anyone tell you that shallow is the new black?

I'll be grateful for the day that I can hear or read about a brain ailment and not automatically turn it into something that's all about me/my history. But since I am thinking about it; I still can hear your voice so clearly in Memory's ear calling to tell me you were looking forward to seeing me less lumpy (glug, glug). Should your friends ever suffer anything severe at least you'll be their to provide some healing laughter and strength. That may just be the super powers you and I possess - the ability to make others laugh out right from the gut. No prescription needed. Side effects - well there's the sore belly and in a few cases liquids spewing from the nostrils.

Why am I happy right now? Well a little bird, actually it was two grown men, told me that I get to see you the weekend after next. That's cooler than Cloris Leachman in a toga!

I love you darlin'.

Amanda said...

This makes me happy, well the sister part does. I don't know what I would do without my sister.

And I'll send happy thoughts and prayers to your professor. That's heart breaking.