Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stepping into Line

Hola! Today I searched diligently for a pair of black pantyhose decent enough to wear with a skirt. I don’t wear them often and the pair I’d purchased before Christmas ‘just in case I might need it’  was donated to the Kinskey Daughters Christmas Outfit Fund. A worthy cause, but it still left me without and a bit frazzled this morning. I attended a funeral and raced back across town to engage once again in the battle for covered parking at the local Jr. College, from a visitation line to the emotional roller coaster of college education in midlife. The bleak dichotomy of the morning farewell and the new beginning of the afternoon was softened by a beautiful, thick snowfall. It was the sort of snow that renders the landscape quiet. I hoped it would provide much needed respite to my friend Colleen’s battered family. Her brother, Michael dropped dead last Sunday at age 49 with no warning. If he’d had chest pains or other symptoms, my friend didn’t know. All she knew was that on Sunday night, she answered the phone to receive the news that her brother was dead. No last breath, no good byes, no time to search a bit longer for that childhood picture he’d asked for that she couldn’t find. Just gone.

I’ve received a few of those calls myself over the years, the ones that change the flow of time, and make the air around you feel substantial, but you aren’t sure if it is holding you up or pressing you down. I was relieved to have my friend Liz with me during the service. Colleen was our second mutual friend in a week to lose a sibling to an unexpected illness, so Liz and I could shoulder the weight of knowledge together. Maybe our collective prayers could somehow lighten the atmosphere that shrouded Colleen and her family, especially her mother. St Peter’s Parish, familiar prayers, and the knowledge we have grieved together and shared much joy together before and surely will again -- this will be enough reassurance to make the atmosphere habitable for the human heart. God’s mercy promises that. Life and all its demands don’t allow me much time to visit with my friends, as a new beginning beckons me.

This was the first day of the second semester and the ‘traditional students’ otherwise known as ‘students who are attending college at the appropriate time in life’ perpetuate the irritating habit of attending class for the first few weeks of each semester, creating an increased shortage of parking. The snowfall intensified the demand for a covered spot. One poor young woman, obliviously a rookie, thought she could back her way around the parking lot to beat me to a spot I had been hovering for over ten minutes: lesson learned --beware the old woman in the mini van.

Spanish Two was located in the same building as its predecessor, but not in the same hallway. Before checking the room number, I went to our corner; the group of chairs where eight or ten of us met every morning before our 8:00 am class last semester - no one was there. Ugh, change, change and more change. I felt that familiar sensation: dread, anticipation, and excitement all firing off at the same time. Outside the room Tyler and Justin were already there and I realized how much I had missed all of this – school, the challenge of learning something that I was really ill equipped for, new friends. As I slipped in the back row with Tyler and Holly, I shed about three decades of maturity and composure with my coat. Still dressed for a funeral and older than most of the other students parents, I realized I didn’t actually blend, but there weren’t any mirrors in the room so denial reigned unchallenged for the next 50 minutes.

Attempting to learn Spanish and complete four semesters at the college level feels like standing in line for a roller coaster. I have a life long fear of heights. I make myself ride roller coasters when the opportunity presents itself in the spirit of plowing through a bucket list. I don’t really enjoy them, but usually, unless my equilibrium is completely shot and I have a nauseating headache for the remainder of the day, I feel a joyful sense of accomplishment. Spanish class is my mid life crisis roller coaster, with benefits. There is something about this type of learning that is energizing. For the next five months I will experience the fear and thrill of waiting in line for the roller coaster everyday as I sit in the back row trying desperately to recite in my mind how I will respond if Professor Gonzales calls on me. And he will call on me.

I wrote down everything the Professor asked the students before me and wrote my responses so I would have them ready. Me llamo Ana. Donde de Overland Park. I could tell you the names of my children and how old they were. I knew how many classes I was taking and whether or not I worked. So of course he asked me if I was “A Senora or a Senorita? Easy right? You don’t need a semester of Spanish to answer that one, but my “Why did I get in this line face” suddenly appeared as I mentally had to write down the question in my mind to respond. As you might of imagined, I do provide comic relief in Spanish class.

Class ends and as I walk down the corridor I see the snow fall has increased. Memories of the funeral, prayers for my friends and their families, and my own personal losses and past grief fall gently around me like the snowfall. The world is quiet and my heart has time to somehow weave the joys and excitement of the new beginning that college endeavors offer with the comfort and grief of life experience that encompassed my morning. Try as we might to be prepared for such days -- we exercise, watch our diets, buckle our seatbelts and stock up on black pantyhose -- life still catches us feeling off guard and ill prepared at times. God is always one step ahead. He is gracious and through the mystery of faith we have not only courage enough, but anticipation for a positive outcome, to step back into the line each day and persevere toward the front. We never ride the roller coaster alone. To top it all off, tomorrow will be a Snow Day – God will not be outdone!

1 comment:

  1. obliviously a rookie... love that phrase. Was she oblivious of the fact that she was a rookie, or was she just obviously a rookie, and oblivious at the same time?

    By the way, ever find the black hose? Because in my world, hose is a relic of the past, something never to be purchased, never to be worn. It is as archaic as the high heels women still wear to adhere to some outdated view of femininity, regardless of the side-effects of such wearage. Come on now... Feminists unite! No more hose, no more heels, no more makeup, no more hair dye. Embrace the ideal you, the one that does not require hours of prep work, hours of your life you'll never get back. Shower and go, that's my motto :)

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