Saturday, March 25, 2023

It still hurts, but that is natural. It's going to be all right.

 It's difficult to believe that Dad died four years ago. This week marked that most terrible anniversary. 

The week of March 22 in 2019 was a spate of the most beautiful spring days imaginable. The temperature was perfect and it was sunny, but gentle breezes kept the days from feeling too warm. It was perfect weather for gardening, or just for sitting out on the porch. The loss of Dad in some way put what has felt like a permanent damper on the enjoyment of perfect spring days, March 22, and even Fridays. For four years I've felt like the very best of life was behind me. The parking lot at the post office near my house will always be the place I was when the call came in from Mom telling me that Dad had collapsed and was in an ambulance en route to the hospital, but that it didn't look good and to prepare myself. I fairly flew the three blocks home, threw together my suitcase, gathered a few dresses, some black, and shoes and anything I might need. Maybe 10 minutes later, I was back in my car, starting the engine to leave when Mom called to tell me that they couldn't save him. I remember going back in the house and sitting down and just bawling my eyes out. 

A long time ago, someone told me that people freak out about their own mortality when their parents die, because in some way the parents were a kind of psychological buffer that obviated the need to think much about their own death. The effect for me was opposite: the loss of Dad made me feel less connected to this life. It made me feel much more at ease about the prospect of my own demise. My only caveats are that I don't want my Mom to have to go through losing a child in this lifetime, and I also want my pets to be loved and properly cared for after I'm gone. 

Fortunately for me, I was working on my Master's and I had the freedom to take care of everything that was going on with my classes, so I didn't have the stress of having to negotiate my absences with an unfeeling employer. It was actually quite fortunate that I was running on rails in a way with my degree plan, and it gave me tasks to complete and things to do that in some way kept me occupied even as I was in a traumatized state. 

I think of Dad all the time. It feels so wrong to be in this world without him. I know I am not special and that everyone who loses a beloved parent feels the the loss mightily. I know Dad would not be surprised or disappointed that we all love him and miss him so dearly, but it has dawned on me that he'd be aggravated if I just give up on myself and my own purpose in life. I'm not going to apologize for the way I've dealt (or not dealt) with this grief. I think grief is different for everyone, and we all just have to experience it, and get on with life as best we can. We don't get over it, but we simply learn to live with it.

It would be so easy for me to say that losing my Dad was the worst thing, but there are many far more worse things. It would have been worse to have a terrible father, or no father. It would have been terrible if he'd had a lingering illness that made a man of incredible vitality into an invalid. It would have been worse if I'd not lived into my 50s with my Dad in the world to give advice and to share my joys and comfort me in my times of disappointment. I've been so richly blessed, so I don't have things to regret about my Dad, who he was in the world, or the state of our relationship. The truth is that every kid on earth deserves a father who is so loving, kind, and true. I won the Dad lottery, and no earthly riches could ever compare to that wealth of experience. For that I am grateful.

I've been trying to get my house in order. I'm naturally chaotic, and my things get messy far too easily. I've been sifting through the paper glaciers on tables, and it looks like the real disarray (based on envelope postmarks) dates from (surprise!) March of 2019. It was messy before, but that time is the real moment the whole shebang climbed into a handbasket and went to the place where handbaskets go.

I've had many quiet times at home recently to sort through things and work on cleaning and organizing, and today I was doing just that, listening to things on YouTube as I worked along. A video came on that pricked up my ears. Professor of Rock interviewed Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins about their hit from 1979, "This Is It". I've heard it in the background many times, but never really listened to it. They collaborated to write the song and kind of wanted to write it as a romantic relationship song, but Kenny said it came into focus for him because at that moment, his father was undergoing a health crisis and having a serious surgery. He said he wrote the song as an encouragement to his father. 

Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle? Stand up and fight.

I needed to hear those words, and I needed to hear them today. I feel like Dad put a bug in the ear of the YooToob algorithm fairies to put that video in my queue. Life is not perfect, and it never was, and never will be. It's true that the shine has gone off of many things since Dad is not here to share them, but I keep thinking that I want my beloved family members to make the most of their own lives, even if I check out early. It's nice to know we are loved, but I would never want misery or despair to cloud the days and haunt the nights of my dear ones. I am at peace with my father's destination, and I have blessed assurance that I'll join him there. The outcome is decided, but the middle bit is unknowable, so this will be interesting. He would want me to make the most of whatever time I have left to me.

I'm also remembering the poem Dylan Thomas wrote when his father, a vibrant man, gave up on life after receiving a bleak medical diagnosis. Dylan wanted his father to fight to hang on, to stay here and to not meekly accept that his death was soon, even if it is certain for all of us. 

Dad wanted all his loved ones to make the most of our lives, and he would not want any one of us to give up. I've been sitting on this fence for four years. It's time I hop down on one side or the other, and act more like every day matters. Yes, I'll keep running on rails with my overcommitted life, but I think I can cram a little more living into my days, and maybe jettison a bit of the sadness. I know that the point of life is not to just be comfortable and indulged and spoiled. I've dwelt on the sad truth of this situation for long enough, so what am I going to do now? 

I'm going to live.

Everything's all right. 

Monday, February 20, 2023

And February is flying out the door

 How'd that happen?

This is week 6 of the semester, and I've learned that I'll be employed by my school for another year. HUZZAH! I'm so glad, because I'm really enjoying teaching. Also, I have two classes that are astonishingly good writers, so that makes the work that much easier. One spends SO much more time grading when the papers are badly written. At least, I spend more time on those students, because it's my job to help nudge their writing in a stronger direction. I don't feel like my job is to "weed out" a weaker student. I feel like my job is to help them improve their skills so they can earn the degree they obviously wanted when they signed up to go to school. Honestly, I take a dim view of the weed out concept in general. It's insulting and snobbish. Life is too short to be so hateful and dismissive of others. 

The weather has been strange, and I had a rough headcold that was chased by lingering congestion and a hideous cough that is, frankly, frightening. It makes me feel like I could be on the verge of pneumonia, and I don't need any more of that stuff. Today was my first day back at the gym, and I coughed a little there, but no big coughing jags, so I guess I'm okay to work out. Looking forward to my breathing being back to normal.  

Sorry this is a silly post, but wanted to check in. Will try to post more and better, soon.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Let's get one more post throwed up before February, shall we?

Things have been intense, but good, at school. Moments of happiness have snuck up and startled me as I walk across campus to a lecture or have a great exchange wherein the students are engaged and seem to be learning as well as actually enjoying my classes. I feel so blessed, so fortunate that I had that right place/right time moment that allowed me to step into my dream teaching job at the last moment in Fall '22. Since I'm not tenure-track faculty, I don't have a guarantee of a job from year to year. I am hopeful that I will be offered a job for next year, but I'm also realistic about the space I occupy in the firmament, which is the last-hired. I'm just praying for another year (and possibly others) of riding this wave. If I'd had any idea I'd enjoy teaching at college level, I would have gotten it together decades ago.*

I am teaching some new classes this semester, so it's a bit of a scramble. I do far, far more reading and research, probably triple or quadruple the reading I assign to my students, but it must be done. And I am enjoying the heck out of it. I've spent about 8 hours last week doing research for a 50 minute lecture I'm to give on Monday and part of Wednesday. Worth it. I want to be clear and thorough, so I'm trying to front-load as much of that as possible. 

On the whole, it's been fun finding my way. I like this work, and even as I do this research and my own learning, I find that it's had a galvanizing effect on my own view of things-- I feel my opinions are on the most sound footing of my life. This is a good feeling. 

I will try to write again soon. It's nice to have this tiny little corner of the web to park my thoughts. It's nice to feel optimistic, and to feel that something into which I'm pouring my heart is having a positive impact on one or two students.  Onwards and upwards. 

*who am I kidding? I still would have been the cricket who played all summer. Anyway. Fun to play philosopher, in any case. 

Sunday, January 08, 2023

A bumpy start to the year...

    Four people I know or knew died in the last two weeks. Three were elderly, but one was younger than me, a wonderful person in great health, and died in his sleep. The elderly folks were the loveliest and best of people, and will be dearly missed by our church. It's a jarring start to the year, really.  I went down to the Dallas area late last week and had some precious time with Mom. We went to one of the funerals, but I will, sadly, not be able to attend the other three. 

    Meanwhile, Prince Harry is having a very public meltdown in which he has un-dealt-with issues lingering from many sad turns in his life. Many people who were young when they tragically lost a parent can relate to his grief over the loss of his mother. I'm sure that loss was compounded by the very public nature of her passing. But as Lottie says in Enchanted April, "it's important to get on with one's loving." Bad feelings happen in families and friendships, but it's crucial to face those situations, dismiss whatever is petty and may be ignored, and get on with agreeing to disagree, if necessary, and to love each other in spite of those differences. Life is simply too short.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 
Olde English Version
No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne 

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Happy new year, folks!

 Hard to believe, but here is 2023. May it be a better year for good people than was 2022.

School begins two weeks from Tuesday. A fair bit of time during the break has been consumed by unpleasant but necessary obligations. I did get to spend some nice time with friends and family, and that made the holidays more cherished for me. 

This morning I heard from a good friend in Belgium. I asked how all their folks were doing, mentioning I'd heard concerns for a cold winter and scarcity of or phenomenal expense of heating fuel. He said that it's been mild lately. I hope that's not just the calm before the storm. Brutal cold is terrible, I know, but it seems especially hard on the old and the very young. Also, the riots in Paris are troubling, perhaps mostly because they are being called "protests" when they are clearly, you know, riots. Footage of motorists being pulled from their cars and those cars set ablaze is to be found on some outlets online, but not the mainstream ones in the USA, as far as I know. We can't have people distracted from the narrative currently being advanced related to social engineering and all that sort of stuff. The "interesting times" of the Chinese proverb seem at hand, sadly.

Anyway, I spent today cleaning and cleaning and organizing. I have much to do in these two weeks, including a quick trip to Virginia for a writer's convention. I need to hit all the marks every day to make sure I don't drop any of the balls I'm juggling. Mostly, I'm blessed and am making progress, but sometimes, it seems slow, plodding. Not complaining, except for the bullet-train effect of the passage of time, particularly when one has a break from routine. 

All in all, though, as I said in the beginning, I am hoping for the best for all of us. I'm not foolish enough to expect the best, but I feel one should not abandon hope. 

In the words of Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us. But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us.”

I'm not driving blind into dark waters, exactly, but I am trying to learn from mistakes. I don't have control over the rest of the world, and how life will unfold for us as a civilization. I keep hoping that it will correct itself, that what appears mass psychosis in which we celebrate mental illness and vilify people who try to live by a strict and respectful code in life becomes something we're looking at in the waves behind us, disappearing in the rear-view mirror. But in the end, my own behavior is all I can control, and is the only thing for which I am accountable. I pray for self-governance, and to be a help and support to those I love. If I succeed on that score, I'll count myself doubly blessed for having been useful to those I most hold dear. I can't ask for greater than that.