September 2005 Archives

September 25, 2005


Seems Ophelia left some lingering effects here in NC. DSL was FUBAR for a week and now I can't be online for more than 10 minutes without getting booted off.

My favorite monkey is coming to do a system restore this week and, hopefully, we will be good to go here by the end of the week.

Lots to tell, very little time, so maybe this is a good thing. In the meantime, visit the lovely people in my blogroll and tell them I said "Hey!"


September 11, 2005

In the beat of a heart

No matter how well we think we have things figured out, how prepared we think we might be or how comfortable we might get in the ordinary day-to-dayness of life, it can all change in a heartbeat. One beat can dislodge a clot so tiny, sending it hurtling toward the brain where it gets hung up, causing a short-circuit, a siezure, a stroke, a coma or worse. One quick beat and our best laid plans are laid to waste.

'What is she on about now?' I hear you asking. No worries, I realize that this is coming out of left field in much the same way that tiny blood clot did. It will be clear soon enough. Or not.

Two weeks ago I was driving to karate when my cell phone rang. Odd occurence, as no one ever calls me on that phone except my kids and T. I had the kids with me so I picked up expecting T's voice. I didn't expect it to be a co-worker.

It was Melissa, the 'specials' team leader. She had gotten some news about a co-worker and, since I worked closely with this person, she thought I should know as soon as possible.

When I met Gail, she was pregnant and proud. I didn't know much about her except that she wasn't married and she was a couple of years older than me. It took me a while to get to know her since she was an assistant in a classroom and I didn't see her very often except to pass in the hall. It wasn't until last year, when they made her the In School Suspension (ISS) assistant that I had more one on one time with her. On days that she had no students, she came into the media center to help me out.

Last spring, she got married to her baby's father and they became a family. I've never seen anyone so smitten, so over-the-top happy, so suprised to finally have good in her life as Gail was. Until I look in the mirror, that is. I totally know where she is coming from. When you live your life with nothing and finally get something good, sometimes you are in shock, unable to believe that you deserve happiness. You call too often, email constantly, surround yourslef with tangible reminders of your happiness, think/talk/daydream about being happy, as if it is as foreign a concept as walking on land is to a fish.

Sure, YOU come up with a fresh analogy on 3 hours of sleep ... I dare ya.

So there I was, driving 70 down the highway, listening to Melissa telling me that Gail's husband had a massive stroke and is in ICU, that they don't think he will make it through the night. After I hung up, I turned up the radio and cried the rest of the way to karate. I explained to the kids as best as I could but I couldn't tell them what was going through my head. I struggled with my emotions all night, breaking down in tears several times, including once on the phone with T when I tried to explain why I sounded off.

How can I tell him that this shook me to the core without exposing my soft underbelly? How do I explain how scared I am of how easy it is to lose what you waited your whole life for?

Gail came back to work 2 days later. Jeff continues to improve but the road is a rough one for all of them. She is dealing with her 2 year old who doesn't want to go near her daddy (she was in the room with him when he had his stroke) and her husband at the hospital who doesn't want to be there and she has to be at work when all she wants to do is to be with her family and hold on.

This past Friday, dress-down day at work, Gail was in the media center with me all day. She was wearing a t-shirt and someone said something about how the color looked good on her. After they left, she said "It's Jeff's shirt." and my heart absolutely broke. Wearing your husband's shirt to work just so you can keep him close and gather strength from it is one of the most romantic things I've ever heard of. Akin to taking a shirt that was left behind and putting it over your pillow so that you can sleep on it ... yeah, I know that kind of fear, that kind of love.

Jeff looks like he will be ok. Gail will be fine, no matter what. Me? I don't know. How can anyone let themselves fall in love when it all could be taken away from them? My life has been so chaotic lately, so stressful, that I am finding myself with only one thing to cling to for my sanity. I just hope he doesn't mind.

Tell the person you love that you love them. Go. Do it now. I don't care if they are sleeping. Wake them up. This is important. I'll wait.


There. Don't you feel better? It's important that we do this. We need to love the people that we are with and, even more importantly, TELL them that we love them. The worst thing that I can imagine is ending a conversation with harsh words or going to bed angry and waking up to find that your life has been turned upside down in the beat of a heart.

Less than three, T ... it's that important.

September 5, 2005

Not for nothing

It's overwhelming. I know, we are all feeling it. I just can't talk about it. Please click on the link to the right to give. I'm trying not to cry, k, so I'll leave it at that for now.

I went to dinner last night at a friend's house so I'm going to talk about that. This friend is one I wrote a book with. Our kids play together. We have walked through the aftereffects of a devastating flood, rescuing things from the second floor of condemned house before everything succumbed to mold. We have gotten drunk off our asses together on more than one occasion, not at rowdy parties, rather quietly with a close circle of friends, to mourn a loss or to mark a life passage. That was a while ago, though. I don't drink like that now. And she's the only person from that time in my life I still talk to.

She is going through a painful breakup of what I thought was a perfect marriage, a perfect life. She's a full professor in the English Dept. at the university I would kill to work in. She traveled to France to write, most recently on a Fulbright, has published books of poetry and been in anthologies. He is an artist, an excellent photographer. They met each other late in life (and my late I means in their 40's) and fell in love and it was just right. They had a daughter together, two houses, two cars, a great dog and lived surrounded by artwork and books, all wrapped in a blanket of contentment. And they were my friends.

And I was jealous of them. When I met them, we had just been abandoned. I was struggling to find two pennies to rub together. The flood had destroyed my business and made my house an unhealthy prison. I had nothing but my kids and my writing. And they liked me. To be invited to their house was to be let into another life, the life I wanted to rebuild for myself. I felt more at home in their houses than I ever felt in mine. I realized I wanted more.

She helped me see it was attainable. I started it by taking one of her classes. And I kept going. And I got my Masters. And I'm going back now. And I'm 'this close' to being able to teach at the university, to being her colleague.

So last night, we are sitting on the sublet porch of her friend's house. It's a nice house but it's not hers. I could live there in a heartbeat, if I could afford it, a nice little craftsman bungalow in the heart of the college district. But it's not hers. Since coming back from France, she has had to find a car and a place to live because both of their other houses are being rented out. I know, at least she has a place to live. I know ... but this is all very raw.

We were supposed to get together Saturday but her best friend is dying ... she knew it was bad just not how bad. She saw her for the first time Saturday and called to say she had to stay there because she's afraid she won't have another chance to see her friend.

A lot can happen when you are away.

I walked into her house yesterday and saw the copy of our book on her couch. She had just started going through it and she was furious. Her words had been changed, her experiences, her intention had been redirected to fit the planss of the group that published the book. They want to do book launches. We're not doing their book launches. We're doing our own. And we're telling the truth ... that people will take advantage of other people and their pain for the advancement of their own careers in a heartbeat. I just feel sorry I couldn't do anything to stop them.

A lot can happen when you are away.

She called her husband to ask him if he wanted to come have dinner with us. He can't bear to be in the same house with her for very long without being childish or drunk, which would lead to his being childish, so he begged off. She said she didn't care but she had to turn away after she hung up. She was breaking spaghetti to put into the pot and couldn't. Her hands were weak and swollen. I can't tell if it's arthritis or all the tears she has been holding back.

A lot can happen when you are away.

We wondered, later on the porch, listening to cicadas, if doing a book launch of our flood book would seem superfluous or insensitive, in light of what is happening now. I thought about it for a long time. So did she, smoking her cigarette on her subleased porch, homeless, adrift, abandoned, heart-broken ... she's smaller now, more frail. Vulnerable, that's the word.

We decided that our books need to get out, if only so that other people will see that you can recover after a devastating flood. We didn't offer solutions in our book but we told our stories. In times like these, all the public hears is the worst of it. They don't hear the small stories, the details ... and it isn't until they hear one person's story that they can ever imagine the horror of what they are going through.

We talked too long last night about FEMA and levys and comparisons to our flood. NO is Princeville, NC X 100, except engineers in Rocky Mount RELEASED the water before the levy broke in order to save Rocky Mount. The loss of Princeville was glossed over. The flooding of north Pitt County was an engineered flood. We had bodies floating in the water. We had coffins floating down the streets. We had looters, there just wasn't as much in Princeville to loot ... just people's personal posessions that they hoped to dry out and rebuild with. We had refugees on roofs being rescued by boat and helicopter. We had water lines and ice lines and tetanus shot lines and food stamp lines ... and yes, I stood in them all. We had the National Guard posted around the city to protect us, help us, feed us. We had anger and tears and politicians using our heartbreak for their personal advancement. We were certain people had forgotten about us ... but they didn't. We had rescuers coming from every state east of the Mississippi. It just took a while for the help to get to us, since all the roads into the area were underwater or destroyed.

It just ... happened ... in the middle of the night, without warning. The high waters of the river were receeding, just when we thought we had made it through the hurricane without too much damage. The river never would have reached our house. The released water from the levy, however, did. People woke up in the middle of the night to find a foot of water in their house and the sherrif in a boat, knocking on the door. Maybe they thought that by releasing the water at night, no one would notice.

We got out the afternoon before by chance. They were evacuating the neighborhoods behind us, the ones closer to the river, and, with a helicopter in our front yard, we realized it was only a matter of time. When we headed to town we had no idea we wouldn't be able to come back for almost 3 weeks or what we would find when we got there.

See, I said I wouldn't start and that's why. It's too much, it's too raw. I'll probably edit/delete much of this. It's just more than I can bear, keeping this all inside right now.

Saturation point of despair, that's what it is.

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