A Teacher’s “Day Off”

These are the ramblings of an apparent crazy person – so beware.  My brain is still moving at the speed of work and I am recently delirious with lack of sleep.

I’m unwinding from end-of-year craziness at my job, which, for those who don’t know, is teaching 8th graders.  They are 9th graders now and to that I give a simultaneous whoop and sob.  It was an exhausting, lovely year.

Today is my first full day off.  I have no idea what to do with myself.

Guy is in Germany.  Garrett is in Costa Rica.  Luke spent the night with a friend and Natalie is at the lake with my mother.  I awoke to an empty house.

What does one do who finds herself explicably without teaching stuff to do?  It turns out she does the following:

Awakes at the familiar hour of 5:15am, as she has done for the past 10 months, because her brain is telling her she’s got papers to grade.  This is not the only time her brain will lie to her today.  It will tell her several times she has something important to accomplish.  LIAR.

Tries, rather unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep, only to arise at 7am having spent a couple of hours going over everything she could have done better in her classroom this year. Really, that is no way to start a day.  Feels a little blue.

Gets dressed in clothing she did not – I repeat, did NOT – set out the night before. This feels, somehow, like freedom with capital FREE.

Takes the dog out to pee, then takes the dog to a local walking trail.  Okay, it’s not a walking trail.  It’s a cross country trail used by our local middle-schoolers and which is not supposed to use for dog walking.  For the record, I clean up after my dog.  And I have no plans to stop this rogue behavior.

Buys an iced coffee.

Drives across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts to the self-serve car cleaning place and vacuums out car.

Goes to bank to get money she owes a friend.

Returns home.  Has a bowl of grapenuts cereal with banana and vanilla soy milk. Realizes this is the first breakfast she has had at her table on a weekday in … ten months.

Cleans the kitchen for an hour.

Sits at her computer.  Reviews comments on report cards for over an hour.  Yes, work is “over” – but it never really is, is it?  Answers email for another 15 minutes.  Sets a time with a new teacher to meet later in the week.  Work for fall has begun on day 1 of summer break.

Has a visit from aforementioned friend.  Laughs for a bit – feels a lot less blue.

Reads for an hour to prepare for her MFA residency which is in less than two weeks. Does this on the deck, in the sun. In a tank top.  This, too, feels like freedom.

Does two loads of laundry.

Opens all the mail.

Takes a walk to see another friend, whose daughter says she has gone to vote. Decides to go vote.  Votes YES! on the school budget and has heart palpitations thinking what a setback it would be if it doesn’t pass.  Sits and stares at ocean for 10 minutes.  Feels better.

Walks home.  Decides to do an Insanity workout.  Aptly named.  Feels like lungs might explode.

Drives to pick up Luke.

Drives to go get gas.

Arrives home.  Watches “The Barefoot Contessa” and is bored senseless.  TV has almost no draw for her, but she’s brushing out the dog so she finishes the show. Considers making a homemade chicken broth ala Ina Garten, but gets over it.

Showers.  Shaves.

Writes this blog entry.

Realizes how mundane this entry is.  Doesn’t care.

Drives to Thomaston for a Babe Ruth game and hopes to have ice cream for supper at Dorman’s Dairy Dream – a place she grew up going to after her softball games 30 years ago. Looks forward to it.

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad

Let me begin by saying that Father’s Day, though my father has only been gone thirteen years, does not make me sad.  That’s not why I’m writing.  I realized this Father’s Day how little I write about him, and I wondered why.

I wish it were simple – I wish it was because he was mine and I didn’t want anyone else to have him, like I am still four years old and having a tantrum.  (The truth is that when I think of my father I am generally around 20 years old, tender and eager, needing and not needing him all at once.  He is right where I need him to be, which is to say, within reach, but not holding my hand.)

It’s not that I want to keep him to myself, though.

It’s just that when I write about someone I love I want to get it exactly right.  So far, it’s been easier for me to avoid writing about things that are harder to say. I admire memoirists, but I just don’t seem to have that gene that allows me to delve into painful subjects and stay there, wringing out every scathing or excruciating detail.  I can’t live in that space.  I seemed to have stood in line on my way to earth with hand out for that one, only to be bopped on the head and told to get on with my badass self.

Also, it’s this.  When I write the truth, the fear of ridicule is so great and overpowering that it paralyzes me.

Fiction is different, obviously.  Non-fiction is as raw and exposed as a writer can be.

Still, here goes.

Before he died, my father promised me that he would communicate with me if he could – from the other side.  We talked a lot in those days, and he shared that he just didn’t know if there was an afterlife.  He said he’d let me know.  We’d laughed a little.

On the night he died, the sky was overcast.  Music played softly from the computer speakers in the corner, had been playing thusly all afternoon, and we surrounded his bed, taking turns holding his hands.  When he took his last breath, one tear fell down his cheek and he gasped.  Now I know the science behind both of these phenomenon – but at the time it seemed to me he had glimpsed the most beautiful of things, and was relieved.

He was gone.  Slowly, we said our goodbyes, made appropriate phone calls and peeled ourselves away from his bed and his body.  His pastor had stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, a ritual they shared on countless occasions.  He called me from the front yard excitedly.  I went outside.  Look! he said and pointed upwards at the clouds.

A break had occurred in the cloud cover, showing blue sky beyond.  The break was clearly in the shape of an outstretched angel.  I covered my mouth with my hand and stifled a sob.  And just at that moment, a shooting star dashed through the shape of the angel.

He had said goodbye. The pastor and I looked at each, at the sky, at each other again. Goodbye, Jim! he yelled, and slowly, the clouds filled in.

We were tired.  It was nearing midnight.  We carried ourselves back inside the house, met with the coroner and the ambulance crew.  I asked someone to turn off the music – it was distracting and loud.  But the speaker was already off, someone said, the cords completely unplugged.  The music had been playing from nowhere.  And everywhere.  From someone, somewhere.  In the busyness of the next hour, it stopped playing and we hardly noticed at all.

When I miss my father, which is daily, I think of this night:  February 25, 2002.  I think of his hug, and his piercing blue-eyed stare, and his sharp intelligence.  And I am sad only for my children not to have known him – and about the fact that if I don’t write it all down, they never will.  Capturing him on paper is like the shooting star he became – but I will continue to try.

He is within reach, in my memories.  He can no longer hold my hand, but he is here – and on another day, in another entry, I will tell you how I know.  What I wanted for today was to say Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and to know with certainty that he hears me.

 

 

 

Full Disclosure

Here are some facts:

1.  My next big travel adventure has arrived.

2.  I am on my way to the Dingle Peninsula, in County Kerry, Ireland!  I leave July 7th.  Guy and the kids will meet me on the 15th and we’ll be home in Maine on the 24th.

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Here she is.

3.  I don’t know much about Ireland.

4.  I know they drink a lot of beer in Ireland.

5.  I will very much like to also drink a lot of beer in Ireland.

6.  I happily enlisted the help of the only Irish person I know, a neighbor of ours for the past 18 years, called Declan O’Connor, and I realized something important:  I need to go to Ireland so I no longer only know one person from Ireland.

7.  Making new friends is not the reason I’m going to Ireland.

8.  I’m going for my Stonecoast residency, (I AM HALF-WAY THROUGH MY MASTER’S DEGREE!) to learn and to write in what National Geographic calls the most beautiful place on earth.  Which is really saying something, don’t you think?

9.  I.  CAN’T.  WAIT.

10.  I’m really going to Ireland to drink beer.

 

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Here’s Ireland. Here it is. Dec is pointing at the town in which he grew up, and where his family still lives — Milltown.

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Guy and Declan narrowing down the details.

 

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