The Changing of the Calendar

Every year, this same week, I sit down with my calendar, and one for the following year.  I carefully transfer all the important dates I need to remember.  I write the birthdays, anniversaries, and other important “days to remember.”  There is probably some much more high tech efficient way to do this on my iPhone, but this is a job I am not looking to simplify, or give up.  I enjoy the time spent reflecting on the year that passed, and wondering what the next year will bring.


calendar

During the course of the year, around all the birthday and  anniversary reminders, the basic events of life fill in the blanks.  I can look back on some weeks, and months – where there doesn’t seem to be an empty box, and wonder how we got through.   There are the basics, PT, swimming, dance class, music class.  There are some parties, and celebrations.   Around them are peppered annual exams, like the cardiologist and the eye doctor.  There are some “sick” visits with the  pediatrician in there too.

Celabration Cake.2 003

But last year was a “special” year.  Between us there were three surgeries.  Tonight as I reviewed the calendar I saw a higher than normal number of pre and post op visits.  I saw consultation appointments with surgeons, and each month seemed to remind me of a surgery that was, well life changing in its own way.  There were certainly a lot of firsts in 2012.

surgeon5bl8

And, sadly there were some lasts too.  I couldn’t bring myself not to write GGPa’s birthday on the calendar.  It would have been in just a few weeks.  Instead I wrote it with a heart around it.  This year he will have his cake among the angels.  Nor could I stop myself from remembering his and GGMa’s anniversary the same way.  It didn’t feel right to leave it off.  I am sure she will appreciate a call or an Email anyway.

GGPa, GGMa, Grandma, and Pop (left to right)
GGPa, GGMa, Grandma, and Pop (left to right)

I remember lots of birthdays on my calendar.  Some for the very young, and others for those quite senior folks I love so much.  But, even as I ink those special days into 2013, I know there are no guarantees.  I know that my writing their special date doesn’t ensure that we will all celebrate together.  It is reality.  It is sometimes tough to swallow, but we are not in control.

In Newton Connecticut many young lives were tragically altered.  “Calendars” forever changed.  No rhyme or reason.  No notice.  Gone way too soon.

I attended the wake of a colleague tonight.  A 45 year old, happily married father of three.  He died suddenly Christmas Day.  I can not say we were “friends” outside of work, but I can tell you not a person that met this man easily forgot him.  His every breath was consumed wither with song, or words of his love for his family.  And tonight as I paid my respects I carried a heavy heart, and the reality again, that there are no guarantees.

Meghan was sick this morning.  Sicker than I have seen her in quite some time.  I was home alone, as Felix works this whole week before New Year‘s.  As she lay screaming on the bathroom floor, begging me to make the pain stop, I was terrified.  I called my sister to bring me Pedialyte and some essentials.  We lay there for quite a long time, at points her eyes were rolling – reacting to the pain in her stomach.  I held her as best I could and I prayed, hard.  I needed guidance.  I needed answers, and I needed that pain to be relieved.  He heard me, as He always does.  She vomited several times over the next hour or so, eventually ridding herself of whatever she had eaten that was bothering her.  I hadn’t seen that agony since the days of the gall bladder attacks when she was three.

We had had plans today, to celebrate my grandparents 67th wedding anniversary with them.  Even as the color came back into her cheeks, and the spring back into her step. we stayed home.  The lunch date that was on the calendar – unattended.  Our warm wishes sent with a phone call instead.

Grandma and Pop in December 1945
Grandma and Pop in December 1945

The calendar is a nice guide.  A road map of sorts.  It tells us where we hope to head.  But, as every day reassures me – it, like life, offers no guarantees.

This week the phone will ring.  Appointments will be set.  A thyroid biopsy will be scheduled.  A surgeon for my spleen may even get written in to the calendar as “consultation.”  2012 for us will end as it began.

Although as I tossed the calendar into the trash tonight, I couldn’t help but feel… somehow older, wiser, and even more appreciative of those who somehow come across my calendar each year.

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Reflections

I can remember as if it were yesterday, walking the halls of the elementary school where I am a teacher, in the hours after I had heard of the horrors of 9/11.  I attended the same school as a child.  I knew that the lives of the young second graders I now taught would never be as happy and carefree as mine; some 20 years prior to that day when everything changed.  It was an eerie feeling.  One that I knew would be realized gradually.  It was a moment I have reflected on countless times through the years.

Friday was a busy day.  I never stopped for lunch, and it was 6th period before a colleague mentioned the shooting in Newton, Connecticut.  At that point the details were still extremely sketchy, and while I was troubled, I was not nearly as disturbed as I would come to be over the next few hours.

As the details of what had transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary school began to unfold this weekend, I was, like any other compassionate human, horrified and appalled.

I send my child, my heart and soul, to a school a few minutes from where I work.  The  staff is dedicated, and caring.  Honestly, I never gave her safety a second thought.  But, after visualizing the entrance to her school – so close to the cafeteria, often full of children.  Well, my mind when left unattended can do some awful things.

And then there is my own school.  The school I attended as I child.  The school I have taught at for 16 years.  The children who are the siblings of others I have taught.  The families I have known for years.  I think about these children often.  I talk about them at home as if they are part of my family.  I live each day with the knowledge that I am entrusted to educate, and keep safe, someone’s “heart and soul.”  This is not a responsibility taken lightly.

I know the exuberance of a room full of 6 and 7 year olds. I know the electricity in the air in the weeks before Christmas.  I know the love in a teacher’s heart when she hides her students in closets, or tells them she loves them.

What I do not know, what I can not imagine or comprehend, is the heart of a man who walks into a school building and kills – 20 children and 6 adults.  I can not know.  Nor do I want to.

It is not my place to judge him.  It is not my place to publicly state his wrongdoing.  I have a strong faith, and I leave the sorting out of all that to God.

I know with confidence that those who died, as young innocent children, or their protectors, were welcomed warmly though Heaven‘s gates.  They are not the ones I worry about anymore.

As a parent of an ill child, especially one that suffers with a ruthless rare disease like Cowden’s Syndrome, I do not know a day of peace.  I worry from sun up to sun down about tumors, and growths, and headaches, and hot flashes, and lingering maladies that don’t suit a 9 year old.  I am always at the ready because I don’t know what we will be fighting next.  But I can tell you this- there is no part of me that would trade places for a second with these families.

I have the blessing, if you will, of knowing something about our enemy.  We have the ability to be proactive.  We can battle.  We can prepare.  We get tired, but we can win.

Evil ripped these lives from their families.  There is nothing they could have done better. or differently   There is nothing they could have fixed or prevented.  They went to school.  They went to work.  And they died.

So, what can you take from this whole nightmare?

I will take from it that I need to do more of what I do every day.  I need to hug my daughter and my husband.  I need to tell them I love them every time it crosses my mind.  I need to serve ice cream for dinner sometimes, because its fun and silly.  I need to look less at the clock and more at them.

I need to prepare for the holidays with a different mindset.  I need to organize, but not to a fault.  If the cookies don’t get baked – I need to buy them.  If the cabinet’s don’t get cleaned, I need to serve extra wine so no one notices.  If I can’t cook it, I will order it.  And come Christmas Day we will sit as a family.  We will count our blessings, and remember our lost loved ones.  We will understand that we are all different – and we are all the same.

The battles we face in our house are real.  The journey is not always easy, but every day that we are together is a blessing.  And there is no promise of tomorrow together on this earth.

Monday will be here in a few hours.  I will send my little girl on the bus to school, with an extra lump in my throat.  I will head the short distance to my school where I will look at everything with an eye towards awareness.  I will look at my students and remember the lumps in their parents throats.  I will look at my colleagues and respect that we all have the same goals in mind.

And when my phone rings, and I get the news about my spleen – bad or good.  I will take a deep breath and keep on swimming.  No matter how tough things can get, it could always be worse.

May God, and all the angels above surround the families and friends of all the victims.  And may they all rest in peace.