As many know, I have been on leave from the school in which I had been teaching since we found out about my wife's cancer. I had been prepared to return as soon as Wednesday, but knowing that I would periodically have to take time off - for example, when she begins chemo next Wednesday.
I had informed the school that I would not be returning for next year. It is not a great fit for me, even though they were quite pleased as what I had done with the students.
In order to be eligible for rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, one must have worked worked for the employer for at least 12 months and in the 12 months immediately previous to applying for FMLA leave have worked at least 1250 hours. Since I went under contract after Thanksgiving, I had no rights under the law. Were I planning to return next year, perhaps they would have made a different decision, perhaps not.
I would not have been paid for any additional time off I took, but I could have earned money to help cover our additional expenses. We are not sure what will happen next financially, but we will work our way through it.
Please keep reading.
The leadership of the school feels I should focus full-time on my wife. There is a rationale to that, although she no longer needs me full time.
At the same time, ironically, the piece I did for Academe, which I crossposted here at Daily Kos on February 5, was also picked up by Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post where it has gone viral - as I write this, it has over 2000 comments on the Post website, and has been tweeted from there more than 2,000 times and recommended on Face Book more than 62,000 times. And today Diane Ravitch featured it on her blog.
That has lead to radio interviews and a request to film me for part of a documentary.
None of this represents income, but at least it keeps me connected with my educational activism.
Whether this will open any doors for possible income I do not know. I won't worry about that now. When we found out about her illness, my beloved and I agreed we would make whatever lifestyle changes were necessary. The only firm things were that we would stay together and we would find a way to keep our cats. Everything else - and I mean EVERYTHING - is disposable or negotiable.
IT is now Tuesday morning. In a few hours we will go to a class on nutrition during chemo. Chemo will start on the 19th. Between now and then her dental work has to be brought up to date, because she cannot have dental work other than a cleaning during chemo.
On Monday, besides her normal radiation treatment, my beloved had extensive xrays taken of those parts of her skeletal structure that had not previously been filmed. Her oncologist wants to be sure no possible impact of the blood cancer on the bones has been missed.
We walked from one part of the hospital to another.
She is getting used to "Gregor" her back brace.
I am getting used to putting it on and taking it off.
As she has turned herself over to trusting God, a decision she made even before she knew she had cancer, I am going to let go of my tendency to be what she sometimes calls her small boy tornado. I will take some deep breaths and take things one step at a time.
MY friend and mentor Parker Palmer was once wrestling with a difficult decision. He went to consult with an elderly wise Quaker woman. He was trying to get a sense of direction, what we Friends call "way opening." After he poured out his feelings and concerns to her, she remarked that she had never experienced "way opening."
Parker wrote that his heart fell - if this spiritual woman had never experienced it, what hope was there for him.
But then she went on. She told him that she had experienced "way closing" and sometimes that was just as good.
I have just experienced 'way closing." I was wrestling with how I balanced a commitment to students who needed real continuity and my primary obligation to my beloved. It was going to be a very interesting challenge.
That way is now closed.
And now I turn and perhaps see for the first time possibilities I had not previously considered?
We will get through this.
We have each other.
We have the support and love of the various communities of which we are a part.
We are learning what participants in 12-step programs already know, the importance of letting go and letting God. For me that means to trust other people, to not attempt to do it all myself.
This evening I had a conversation with a woman who is very dear to me. I have in recent months been present as a friend to help her, although she has not always availed herself of that friendship. Tonight I told her I was prepared to accept help and support from her, something I probably was not before.
I am learning.
As acquaintances with whom we have not had recent contact learn, they reach out to us.
we are learning to take the time to let them express, to try to find ways to let them give to us.
A person who has had a stroke often has to relearn basic things. We can see something similar in watching Gabby Giffords learn to speak again, to walk again.
We have suffered a shock, my wife far more than me.
Our shock is mild - I am not comparing it to having a stroke or being shot, but point at those as vague parallels that we find relevant to us, that perhaps can help us explain to others.
We have already started to relearn what it means to love one another.
there is no "til death us do part" in this.
We are also having to learn what it means to be a friend. The easy part is giving of onself to others. The hard part, especially for me, is being vulnerable and surrendered and letting others give to us.
One might say that my school decided to terminate me.
I look at it that they decided to give me the gift of focusing on where my heart really is, with my wife.
I thank them for that.
And I thank you for being patient these verbal meanderings.
In sharing I am letting go and trusting.
So is my beloved.
She is trusting me, giving me the gift of allowing me to do this sharing, even as her own sense of privacy might have her communicate far less.
We are what we are, what we have been, and from that we will go forward to what we can still be.