Monday, March 27, 2017

Marking Time

Good morning.

Our first week back at school post-Spring Break was ho-hum. Actually, it started with a bang & ended with a whimper. The first half of the week unfolded beautifully. The kids were happy to be back in their routine, & I successfully supervised my first (but hopefully not last) field trip. At some point last fall I mentioned to my AP students, whom I teach around lunchtime, that in the spring, as we worked our way toward their AP Exam, I'd take them all to lunch. Those plans snowballed into an afternoon movie, & so last Tuesday I left school in the middle of the day to go see Beauty and the Beast with a handful of teens who proved to be high quality movie companions. Thankfully they were all on their best behavior because my supervision consisted of glancing around to make sure they all made it in the theater & then diving into my large popcorn.

Wednesday afternoon I got a text from Trey stating that he was coming home from work early because he felt weak &, in general, terrible. Since it's late March & he did have a flu shot, I assumed he felt bad due to the sleep he lost Monday & Tuesday night while he was awake coughing violently. On Thursday afternoon when I retrieved Henry from his classroom I could tell he did not feel well. He was the picture of, "flushed with fever." He did have a temp, & - you know it's coming - by noon on Friday both Trey & Henry had been diagnosed with Type A flu.

Thankfully Trey stayed home with Henry &, along with my mother-in-law, got Henry to the doctor, & so Reagan & I didn't have to miss school Friday. I raced home from school Friday afternoon to drop off some liquid Tylenol, see that Henry had had a dose of the Tamiflu he'd been prescribed, & then Reagan & I hightailed it away from the sickies.

Our first stop was Chili's. It was Reagan's decision, & it was a good call.

We left Chili's & headed back to the school for the band & choir's Spring Concert, which was a nice way to spend a Friday evening until the end when they recognized the seniors. 

I came home to a well-rested, lively Henry who, full of Tamiflu, stayed up way past his bedtime & played with cars while I read & alternately took pictures of his cars, per his request. 

By Saturday Henry was feeling much better, so much better, in fact, that he snuck into Reagan's room with a big, waxy blue crayon. Luckily for Henry I quit caring about this rug a few years & several urine & vomit incidents ago. Unfortunately for Henry, his father, ever the legal eagle, was concerned about the precedent it would set if we didn't punish Henry for defacing a rug, & so Henry got a spanking & spent some time in his room thinking about what he did. 

The portion of the weekend not dedicated to doling out Tamiflu or cursing Paul Ryan (you thought I was going to dedicate today's blog to the healthcare legislation, didn't you?) was spent alternately thinking about various anniversaries & about poetry. Last week a young man asked me to help him hone his poetry analysis skills. My immediate thought was of my grandfather (actually my immediate thought was, Oy, & then my mind shifted to my grandfather). My paternal grandfather spoke of poems with an insight and reverence I doubt I'll ever mimic. I wish I could bring him in the classroom & turn him loose with a poem. I know he could teach them things I cannot - about poetry, life, the difference in a republic & a democracy, etc. 

Prior to my student's request my grandfather was probably, if only subconsciously, already on my mind for a variety of reasons. This week marks six years of blogging for me. Six years. Where did they go? This was my first blog post, written on March 29, 2011, on what would have been his eighty-fourth birthday; I posted it for public consumption the following day. If you click & skim it (it's short . . . I've become considerably more verbose as the years have unfolded) you'll see I was thinking about him & his love of poetry then. This Wednesday he would have turned ninety. 

A month or so ago I wrote an acknowledgements blurb for my book. I am not going to copy & paste the whole thing for you, but included is a shoutout to my grandfather. I split his name, Jesse James, (yes, his name was Jesse James) to name the two male characters who become a part of Edie's world when she moves to Boulder. I think he'd appreciate my attempt to include a couple of John Donne poems in the book. It was a failed attempt as the poems cannot be reprinted in their entirety without jumping through flaming copyright hoops, but still a part of what will be the finalized text are some of my favorite Donne quotes as well as references to his poems.  

Friday morning I sent my mom & my sister a group text message that began, "I don't know what our tomorrow will look like," & proceeded to inform them of the sick men in the house whose eventual diagnosis prevented us from attending my nephew's first birthday party on Saturday. I don't know what our tomorrow will look like. That's basically been my motto since Reagan arrived back in 2010.

My grandfather never met Reagan. In the years since her birth, in search of intellectual stimulation & in an attempt to assert my individuality lest it be swallowed whole by children, I stepped out on a couple of limbs that have brought considerable meaning to my life: I began blogging in March of 2011, & I joined my book club in March of 2012. Both of these were outside my comfort zone. When I began blogging, I hadn't written much since graduate school & what I wrote in grad school was, of course, of an academic nature. I've no idea how long I will blog, but even if I gave it up today, it has meant a lot to me these past six years & I am so glad I took the leap. I hope you've laughed or cried or learned a little something along the way, but I doubt anything I've written has been as beneficial to anyone reading as it has been for me. To quote Ray Bradbury, "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." It is cheaper than therapy or alcohol, after all.

I am equally thankful I said yes when a friend asked me to join a group of ladies to see The Hunger Games five years ago this month. That Saturday afternoon movie was the beginning of something wonderful. We saw the film & then went to Chili's to discuss the film (& its deviations from the book) & I was so happy to have been a part of a riveting discussion about a book I almost cried on the way home. Since then I've missed two book club meetings, one because Reagan was hospitalized & one because I was hospitalized.

It has been a struggle lately to get the books read, but I am persevering because I absolutely am not going to quit. These ladies, most of whom were mere acquaintances five years ago, have become my good friends; they are the reason I finally read the Harry Potter series & how do you even begin to express the love & gratitude you feel for the people responsible for that? We've read a lot of books over the last five years & discussed a lot of heavy topics. We know more about WWII than you might think. They've read things I suggested that I know they absolutely did not want to read, they've listened to me rant, they surprised me with a baby shower before we all went to see Leo in The Great Gatsby, & they kept right on discussing the book of the month while I nursed a tiny Henry at a couple of meetings. Our numbers are swelling & I truly cannot believe it's been five years since I hesitantly left Reagan with Trey & met them all to see The Hunger Games. I love y'all so much. I am not always the most pleasant book club member (I can be incredibly opinionated & since August I've been kind of tired & that is a lethal combination). Ladies, thank you for extending an invitation to me five years ago. I didn't know, you know? I didn't know how desperately I wanted to join a book club until the invitation was extended & I took a couple of shaky steps forward & accepted.

You've been good to me, March. We mark anniversaries as a way of marking time, I suppose, but truly what we're reflecting on is what has unfolded in the interim, from one year to the next. I am proud to say that while time has left his mark on my forehead in the years since I turned thirty, I have pushed back, & pushed back with gusto. I miss my grandfather; he died when I was, I think, on the cusp of becoming the person I am today. I was somewhere in the middle ground of a twenty-something who's a little lost but meandering toward becoming a wife, mom, blogger, English-teacher, book club enthusiast, &, maybe what I'd most like to tell him, a published author.

What I've decided to end with today, six years after I first shared memories of my grandfather on the blog, is a letter I've written him. He was a letter writer; he wrote you if he loved you, & he wrote you if he was irritated with you. We called him Dadoo, which was some phonetic concoction of mine, me being the eldest grandchild.


I am now thirty-six. I think you'd recognize me, but my life doesn't much resemble the life I led in July of 2007 when last I saw you. Trey & I married in October of 2009, the seventeenth to be exact, as LSU had no football game that day. We have two wonderful kids, one named for Trey & one named for Ronald Reagan. Like you, they have fair hair, blue eyes, & are loud & opinionated.

You'd not believe who was elected president last year. As you could've predicted, both major parties are useless & policy-wise are virtually indistinguishable from each other.

I left ULM to teach at Delta Community College, which was my work-home for six years. I am now teaching English at OCS, a decision I made because it enables me to be near Reagan, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January of 2014, about a month after she turned three.

Due to the subject matter that is now a part of my daily life, I think of you often. I've been charged with preparing fifteen young people to take their Advanced Placement Literature & Composition Exam, which draws nearer by the day. A component of the exam is a timed poetry analysis, & so you see why my thoughts turn to you. As I age I appreciate some of it more, but I doubt I ever embrace poetry with the gusto with which I approach prose. You would be heartened by these young people; I am. I would enjoy listening to you converse with them, & I would just listen because between their intellect & yours, there'd be little I could add. 

In addition to the kids & my work, both of which dominate my time, I joined a book club five years ago that has become one of my favorite indulgences. There are so many books we've read you would enjoy - enjoy reading or enjoy picking to pieces. We've read a lot of historical fiction, a genre I've warmed to immensely in the past few years. Last spring we read a recent Pulitzer winner, All the Light We Cannot See, which I think you would enjoy. 

I wrote a book that will be published later this year. Like most things that are worthwhile, it was an arduous process, a process that I suppose continues as I write this. I began writing on a whim one day when Reagan was small & dabbled for a year or more until I was satisfied. I left it alone for a bit. I returned to it. I bit my nails some & finally let a few friends read it. I won't bore you with further details, but after my fair share of rejections, I found a small publisher with whom I seemed to click &, long story long, your surname - the perfect James that I wore for nearly thirty years & which I miss so much because everyone can spell & pronounce it - will appear on a real book (sandwiched between Anna and Zeigler) that will be copyrighted & all that jazz. How about that.

I love you. I miss you. I think of you often: when I read, when I write, when I struggle with poetry, when I down a stream of hot coffee. Thank you for being a wonderful Dadoo. 


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