My daughter is a reader. She eats books up. One after another. I have pleaded with her to use the kindle, just to avoid the sheer volume of books in the house. I lack the responsibility to be a good library patron, as my brain can’t remember even one more thing. So the books build up. There are gift cards, and sales. And I never say no to a book. Ever.
Her early childhood teachers nourished
a love, no a passion for reading. They gave her the skills to decode, to comprehend, and to find her genre of choice, and her escape. She has needed that escape so often through the years that I find myself grateful for how easily the reading comes to her, and forever grateful to those precious teachers who likely have no idea how deeply they have impacted our existence.
This was a weekend full of homework. It was a culmination of a month that began with being pulled from class for play practice, and continued through her surgery on May 6th, and seven days absent. There are 4 honors classes to maintain, and for a perfectionist at heart, striving to get it all done has been nothing short of horrendous. All the classwork, all the homework, all the projects, every last bit of it to be made up.
And I understand, to some degree, why nothing was forgiven. Why she had to do it all. I have sat in the seat of the teacher for 19 years and the reality is absent or not, sick or not, they are responsible for the curriculum. That didn’t stop me from questioning the VOLUME of work and how it differed drastically from unbelievable to totally reasonable. And it didn’t stop the stress and bitterness of the last few weeks from taking a toll on both of us.
I hate having to be the “heavy” all the time. But, I was the one who had to put the books in her hand days post-op. Still working the anesthesia and narcotic pain relievers out of her system, it was time to get started. Knee elevated and iced, we talked through one subject after another.
Normally she manages all her schoolwork alone, and does it quite well at that, but this month I needed to stay with her. Make sure all the pieces were getting put back in place. Junior high is a step closer to the “real world” I guess, and while there was some awareness of her absence, life marched right on.
She hopped in and tried to catch up at school. She spent the entire week there, despite my knowing by Friday she probably should have been home. Friday night the fears were confirmed, as the classic sore throat began. Honey syrup lasted through the night until the pediatrician was able to declare an ear infection, and likely strep throat. She was cultured. The script was filled, and even as she took dose number one, the books were open.
She worked in my office this weekend, so I could oversee. Laptops side by side. Lots of togetherness. But, one subject at a time, it got done. The notes were put into notebooks, packets were completed, homeworks were stapled together. A science book was created and a newspaper for English class too.
And slowly as the last staple went into the last assignment, a smile crept over the corners of her lips. Her throat felt just so much better, and there was this notion that the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. There may be more to do this week. The year is not over quite yet. But finally, she is all caught up.
So she retreated to her favorite spot on the couch today, alternating between reading, and watching a series on Netflix. She brought me her book, “Gathering Blue” by Lois Lowry. “Hey Mom, listen to this…“Take pride in your pain,” her mother had always told her, “You are stronger than those who have none.”
She offered me a free hug and a smile. Then she was gone, back to her day of much-needed peace, healing and rest.
But, the depth of her quote resonated with me. Not only in amazement that she is able to extract such meaning from the context she reads, but also in the context of today, Memorial Day 2015.
When I started writing this blog it was all about therapy for me. It was all about our journey, and what we were going through. And still, so much of my day, so much of our lives, are consumed by Cowden’s Syndrome, its ravages and its effects, that leaving it out of my writing would be impossible. For while it does not, nor will it ever, own us, or rule us, it had shaped us as we grow through this disease together.
Along this journey we have learned so many lessons. We have learned to have a keener eye to the suffering of others. We have embraced the reality that “everyone has something,” and we have a deep appreciation for the many blessings we have.
I spoke several times today with one of my Dad’s Marines, “Uncle Alan.” I learned about lowering the flag to half mast till noon to remember the fallen, and then raising it to honor the living. I learned about some more Marines, and for a short time I was able to provide an ear for someone whose grief on Memorial Day bears more than general images, but actual names and faces. He speaks with such grace, such poise, and such a deep connection to his “brothers.” I can not help but admire him, even as we have yet to meet.
I put together this picture last night. All four of the veterans I love so dearly, only one of whom is still with us here on earth. My Pop, pictured with my Grandma, almost 70 years ago in the top left. At 95 his wit, compassion, faith, and humor still inspire me.
I took some long walks today. I had a few long talks, with God, and with my Dad, and some others gone too soon. I embraced the beauty around me. I gathered my inner strength to handle whatever life has waiting in the wings.
“Take pride in your pain. You are stronger than those who have none.”
Remember THAT. Always.