Swimming Upstream

sardines

The phrase “packed in tighter than sardines” was in my head as Meghan and I tried to navigate the overcrowded local middle school fair tonight.

It was hot.  Hotter than it should be October 9th, but exactly as hot as an overcrowded Public High School cafeteria is on your average fall day.  It was stuffy, humid, and uncomfortable.

As we traveled from table to table, remarking how much easier it would be to see over the never-ending crowds if there were some signs indicating which school was where – we just tried to get a feel for the place, and for each table.

We went interested primarily in two schools, but open to read and learn about more.  One school is small.  It works off a lottery and opens only 150 seats a year.  The other school has over 1100 students.

And as I pondered some pros and cons based on size alone, I was reminded of something a friend from work said a few months back. I may not have her exact words, but it was something to this effect,”The problem with where we live is that something becomes popular, just because a few people go there.  Then it gets more popular, and more people go, but no one ever investigates the quality.   It develops a reputation based on one feature, and people don’t look farther.”

lottery

There I was, one of those people.  I kept saying I wanted my kid in the lottery for the school, “because its small.”  I was not impressed by the people at the table.  I was not impressed by the lack of information about the school.  I was not impressed at all.  I may still go to their open house, but it will be with a very open mind.

Then there was the other school. The one with 1100 kids and the principal himself standing in front of a well constructed information board.  He answered questions, clearly, honestly and patiently.  He spoke with confidence about the school.  He invited parents in during the school day for tours.  He looked every parent in the eye and spoke as if their child was the most important thing on his mind right then.  And, even if he doesn’t remember any of them tomorrow, he proved himself to me.  It’s difficult to fake the sincerity involved with shaking someone’s hand and looking them in the eye.

And we were about an hour in to this ordeal when Meghan’s knees began to give her trouble.  Still pressing on – because that’s what she does – I knew time was of the essence.

I also knew it was time to have the conversation about “barrier free” schools.  See, in the city of New York, most schools have multiple floors.  This is fine for most kids, and for general physical fitness.  But when your 10- year -old has already endured 4 knee surgeries…

There will be discussions about the IEP, about the 1:1 health paraprofessional, about the physical therapy, and about the appropriate placement for Junior High for my girl.  Because wherever she goes, the Cowden’s Syndrome goes too.  So we need to find a place where they are BOTH welcome.

whatplan

Every which way I turned tonight I ran into old friends.  There were some I haven’t seen since preK, and others we connected with at various points along the way.  The kids are older now, almost young adults.  I can still see them running on the lawn after PM session, or on the soccer field.

All of us looking, somewhat stunned, somewhat unsure of what the right place will be for our child.

deer_headlights

As I drove past Lowe’s this weekend I saw a Christmas tree and almost got sick.  “Wishing our lives away,” I thought to myself.  Except tonight several hundred parents and children stood, on October 9, 2013 contemplating placements for September, 2014.

I find this just so ironic, considering mine is clearly not the only life that can’t plan a week in advance.

I put Meghan in a chair to rest her knees while I finished the last of my conversations with two lovely, helpful women.  And as we began the trek back to the car I had a million questions racing through my head.

Question-mark-sign

There is clearly a lot to do, and a lot to think about.

But, that will have to wait.  Tomorrow’s appointment is in Long Island, and even when they try to fast forward my life, it reminds me that we can only travel one day at a time.

 

Friends…

It was hard to believe it had been so many years since we were all together.  It was even harder to imagine it was over 15 years since we all shared space, time, and our souls in SUNY New Paltz.  It was a far cry from most of our late nights at P & Gs.

As a matter of fact , as we sat across from each other at The Cheesecake Factory in New Jersey, two of them pregnant and all of us chatting about our children, and old times -often in the same breath- you never would have imagined the amount of time that passed since we last spoke – face to face.

But the food was decent, and the conversation refreshing, and I found myself wishing it could happen more often – or last a lot longer.  It hardly seemed right to get up when only a few hours had passed.  But each of our lives called us away.  To children, and husbands, and lives that needed tending to.

As we hugged each other, and I watched my two friends ‘baby bumps” bang into each other, I was reminded of the reality that real friendships truly do last forever.  We picked up with each other as though graduation had been last week, and although there was so much more to say, there wasn’t a moment that lacked conversation.

Facebook has been a blessing for us.  A way to keep tabs on each other, and keep track of the major happenings.  These ladies used Facebook as a means of support for me over the last six months, when some days it seemed the sky was falling.  They reached out to me – as if we were still next door neighbors in New Paltz.  Facebook arranged our meeting last night.  As a simple group message “Hey can we pull this off?” – and I am so grateful we did.

See in order to stay sane, life has to be about more than Cowden’s Syndrome.  It has to be about more than knee pain that wakes my girl up in the middle of the night after only 4 days without her Celebrex.  (At least we tried!)

Life has to be about more than infections that scare me half to death, viruses that take hold way too fast, and doctors that want to fix it all but don’t know how.

It can’t always be about tumors, and, “Are they growing or not?”

It can’t always be about the tests and the screenings, like tomorrow’s colonoscopy.

The recovery room at tomorrow’s colonoscopy site!

Those things are always going to be part of our lives – forever.  They aren’t going away.  That is the reality of Cowden’s Syndrome.

But the real reality, in the world where we know too well that “Everyone has Something,” is that it is necessary to make time to hug old friends.  It is helpful to the soul, to relive old times, and to sometimes sit and have dinner with people who stood beside you years ago, and who have made it clear they are prepared to do the same now.