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The last couple of weeks have been phenomenally busy at work, but it’s not like I didn’t know they would be. Much like all my instructor friends know the last few weeks of the semester mean spending all their time in grading jail, I know the first couple weeks of the semester mean spending all my time doing the “Come to the Writing Center” dog and pony show. The goal is that by the end of the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the semester someone (90% me) visits all the English 100 and 101 classes. Yes, Virginia, at a school with an undergraduate population twice as big as that of your home town, that is A LOT! You know what else it is? It is exhausting.
Yes, I do this every semester. Yes, I know it is coming. There just isn’t anyway to prepare for the amount of energy it takes to give a 10 minute monologue to different audiences 3 times an hour. In a way it is like grading jail, just front loaded.
Surprisingly, this post isn’t really about complaining. I know. Shocker. It’s about what I’ve come to realize, over the last two weeks.
- If I ever have a nervous break down it is going to happen in the middle of one of these visits. I’ll be in the middle of the “Here’s why you should use our service” spiel, and I’ll just throw up my hands and walk out. I may or may not mutter obscenities under my breath.
- This is the semester that the consultants put together a welcome video that we can shop around to hopefully lessen the number of human visits. I’ve given them no choice, and a deadline of April 15th.
- Oddly enough, when that happens I plan to use that time to start a classroom visit campaign to another set of classes. Have we discussed my masochistic nature? I’m pretty sure we have.
- If I ever finish the dissertation, and get my ‘real’ degree, I’m going to have some serious soul searching to do about whether or not this is the place for me.
- Also, I’m pretty sure you know you are a writer, when not writing/writing very little for two weeks gives you ulcers.
Really, all this week I’ve had stomach issues of one kind or another. Today they culminated in dull pain every time I ate. So, for the next week or so it is all bland food/and herbal tea for me. The caffeine headache ought to kick in tomorrow afternoon in the middle of a writing binge fest.
For some unknown reason the DH and I were sitting on the couch doing other things while we watched football. Football. To say we never watch football is probably an understatement. The DH only watches when his home team plays, and hardly ever even then because his home team is terrible. They must have been playing though, because there was definitely football on the television.
The DH could have been drawing, or pouring over his book of 501 German verbs. If I remember correctly he was obsessed with German at that moment; and, all the man needs to learn a language is a 501 verbs book and a dictionary. I distinctly remember that I was working on another job letter. I’d just put the final touches on everything, and hit “send” for my online application. At least I assume I hit send, because I did eventually get a rejection letter from that school.
The memory isn’t all that clear because it was about then that my phone rang. When I saw that it was Dr. Phoenix I knew it wasn’t going to be good. I remembered sitting at the high butcher block table in her kitchen while Dr. Phoenix explained to me why she hated the phone. “Calling someone just seems rude. You never know what their doing, and you might be interrupting them. I prefer email because then they can respond to you on their own time.” An unexpected call from Dr. Phoenix on a Sunday. It was never going to be ‘good news.’
The shock and confusion of hearing someone else respond to my tentative “Hello?” must have registered on my face because the DH immediately muted the television. Nimue told me in a shaky voice, “Dr. Phoenix and Fender are okay.”
“What’s going on?” I demanded.
“It’s the Spawn. He’s dead.”
To this day I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation. I remember asking if I needed to come over, and what I could do. As if there was something anyone could do.
Others who were closer to Dr. Phoenix were already at her house, and others who knew Spawn better would be grieving more, would need support as well. For that night, and days to come, I did the only thing I could do – I cried.
Spawn and I rarely came into contact. In fact, it seemed impossible to me that the rosy cheeked, precocious child I met when I began my graduate work was the young man who had to bend over to hug me the last time I saw him. He had the most amazing smile. As little as I knew him, he was always kind and generous to me.
Nothing in my life, not even learning to walk again, has been as hard as seeing Dr. Phoenix’s pain – as wanting desperately to bring her peace, and knowing no one can.
All I can do is remember. Remember the child who made me laugh. The family that made me want my own. The first house I encountered that felt so much like a home that being there made it easier to breathe.
There is a a picture. Dr. Phoenix and Spawn, very young – maybe 3, in the last of the sun on a windy beach, with a dark gray sky in the background. They are laughing, smiling, and he is reaching toward someone out of the shot. It is the most perfect moment of joy. It is what I choose to remember.
As far as cruelty goes April has nothing on January. Back in the day when I was a teaching assistant January wasn’t so bad. You could always count on student loans to get you through the drought between December 20th and January 31st. Now that I just work for a university, and there are no loans to be had as I try to stretch a check that barely makes it 4 weeks into something that will last 6. I can’t think of an adjective to describe how poor we are – skint seems to come the closest.
As you can imagine anyone in my life with a January birthday pretty much gets the shaft. Sorry folks. Couple that with the fact that January is a busy, busy month for me at work, and everyone is pretty lucky just to get a text on the day. Oddly enough before grad school January was just a prep month for me. A respite between holiday shopping and the horror of February’s birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries. Seriously, in February it’s easier for me to count the days that don’t involve celebrating.
The assault on January began with Poppa G, my brother-in-law. One birthday in the whole month. It wasn’t bad. Then my sister-in-law got married, whoops there’s another one. My brother got married, and suddenly the month is getting down right crowded. Suddenly, the poorest month of the year is also the one rivaling February for gifting obligations.
There is, however, really only one birthday in January that matters enough to make me regret my inability to lavish my friends with tokens of my love – January 21st is the day to celebrate ma fille, the Ouiser to my Claree, the Cajun Princess.
Born on the opposite ends of the Mississippi – literally, yet I can honestly say her people are my people, and if I could ever get her north of the Mason-Dixon I know she’d feel just as at home in Frostbite Falls. It is strange and remarkable to think that I’ve only known her seven years; and, can in fact, remember seeing her for the first time at orientation, sitting in that stifling hot room looking around trying to figure out who to hang with. As in most social situations by break time I ended up outside with the smokers, and I’m pretty sure that from their our fates were sealed, not by ease of conversation, but by easy silence. It’s unbelievably difficult to find someone you can just sit with.
It is even more difficult to find someone willing to find your husbands car, visit you in the hospital every day, learn to be your “gentleman caller” as you go up and down stairs. There is no way I would have made it through the last three years without her. There are not enough words in English or French to describe how our lives have become entwined, or how much it blows that I can’t throw her a costume partyor bake her a bleeding armadillo groom’s cake.
Since we are stuck in separate cities today, and I suck at actually putting cards in the mail, I thought the least I could do was publicly declare my undying love and devotion for a woman who has been a sister to me.
Bénédictions et la joie de vous aujourd’hui et toujours.