I kept wondering at different points during this week, just how does one reflect back upon the kind of week that I've just experienced. It was challenging, wonderful, surprising, sad, joyful, heartwarming, and bittersweet all rolled into one. I can sum it up in a few words: "What a roller coaster ride."
As I sit here with my tired self parked on the couch at 10 p.m. donning a pair of my new PJ's and snuggled up to my favorite pillow , I'm wondering why in the world I am not in bed at this moment. I am utterly and completely emotionally drained from the ride, and yet, I intuitively know that there's still more to come...only it'll be different over the next week.
The beginning of the week started out witha sense dread. I just plain didn't want the end of this week to come. My brain had convinced itself that Friday was going to be absolutely unbearable. In my classroom, I began to feel the effects of the kids unhappyness about me leaving. Instead of having a class full of kids moping around or clinging to me, I noticed that even some of my normally well behaved kids were starting to act like hammerheads. What the heck? Who snatched my kids? To add insult to injury, it seemed to get a little more pronounced the closer Friday crept. At one point on Thursday, I had one girl literally shout out, "This is boring! Is it almost time to go home!" Holy cow...are you kidding me?! In all my 14 years of teaching, not one of my students had ever said something like that in my class. I kept thinking "Please...give me a break guys...I have just a few days left and now I have to deal with icky behavior, too? Be nice to me! I'm leaving soon. I'm going to miss you and you know you'll miss me!" Of course, I didn't really say that out loud, but boy did I wish that they could know how it was affecting me. I understand that kids act out as a way to express their feelings when they don't know how to deal with what they feel. I see it a lot teaching at Fort Lewis, when a parent deploys or returns from a deployment. It's so hard on families, especially the kids. In thinking about it from that perspective, as a teacher, I've become someone whom they've come to know and love. Someone they see on a daily basis, who now happens to be leaving them. I'm sorry guys...I wish I could stay. I'd probably act out too if I were them.
A funny thing happened Tuesday night. Although I have a Facebook account, rarely do I login from my computer. I get automatic updates on my Blackberry. As I was writing my last post Tuesday night, I heard the familiar "pop" of a Facebook instant message. It was my long lost buddy Wally, wanting to know how things were going. I ended up explaining all that had happened recently. He hadn't been following my Facebook posts, and couldn't believe we were leaving Saturday to get ready for the transplant. Wally's (who is Walt now, but will always be "Wally" to me) is the kind of friend that you have forever. You know the kind. It's been ages since you've seen each other, but once a year or so, one of you picks up the phone and just calls the other out of the blue. The two of you chat on the phone, catch up on all that's happened in the past year, and it's as if you just picked up right where you left off the last time....only the funny thing is Wally was my boyfriend in 9th grade. It was a relationship that didn't last long. We were better as friends, and friends we've stayed since I was 15 years old. To top it off, we hadn't seen each other since 1988. So, guess what I did Wednesday night? After all these years, Dan and I went to meet up with Wally and his wife for dinner. As he said to me during dinner, "Why the heck did we wait so long to get together?!" I wondered the exact same thing. What a cool and unexpected moment in my week.
And if that isn't enough for one week, right after my post, I received a private Facebook message from my good friend Lisa, my old next door neighbor in Lacey whom I've known since 1989, wondering if I needed some help Thursday night baking those cupcakes for my early "birthday" celebration at school on Friday. With all of the gazillion things I felt like I still needed to do, I could have easily rationalized that I should make the cupcakes myself while multi-tasking on packing for the trip and cleaning house. But I didn't. I really wanted to see Lisa, as we hadn't seen each other since March of last year. I am SO thankful that I asked her to come. While Lisa came bearing gifts, the most precious gift to me was the gift of her friendship and her willingness to drop the plans that she may have had to come and be with me before we left for California.
That brings us to today. Friday, the dreaded Friday. Yes, definitely bittersweet. I had a bad dream last night. I can't quite put my finger on what it was all about, but I remember jolting wide awake with my heart pounding. Trying hard this morning to remember what it was about, I recalled looking into my own face. When I told Dan about it, he jokingly said, "That's scary." I said, "Actually, it is if you think about that I am me...how could I have been looking at my own face when it wasn't a mirror?" Whew...I was happy to be awake.
My morning commute consists of a stop at Starbucks, since our espresso machine is on the fritz, about 15 minutes of residential streets, followed by a daily ID check through the back gate at North Fort Lewis. It's a great start to every morning...no, not the coffee, although it's pretty great, I'm talking about JC. My most favorite guard guy. Funny, it wasn't until today that I knew his name. He always takes time to say hi and chat a bit, even if there's a line behind me at the gate. When Cayden got sick in February, I mentioned the situation to him in passing. He always took a minute to ask me how things were going. I think people don't always hear how what they do impacts the lives of others. Today on my last day through the gate, I gave a thank you card to "my favorite guard guy", to let him know how much I have appreciated his friendliness each morning. He's an all around nice guy. I'll miss seeing him every morning on my way to work. Thank you to the JC's of the world, you make it a better place!
School today was filled with hugs, "I love you Mrs. Luce", love notes from kids, pictures, flowers, more gifts and cards, and yes, more icky behavior. Oh well, I guess I should have expected it. The kids were so excited for cupcakes, and being the smart person that I am, I hid both trays of them in my cabinet so I wouldn't get the infamous "When do we get to eat the cupcakes?" and "When's the party, Mrs. Luce?" from my kids every thirty minutes. Saying goodbye at the end of the day was tough, but I did a pretty darn good job holding it together. A few of my moms whom I love dearly were teary-eyed as we hugged before they left with their children. I got choked up when I said goodbye to one of the dads who's son I've had since first grade. I made the kids promise they'd email or send me letters while I was in the hospital. :)
Saying goodbye to my friends on staff was tough, too. It was all I could do to keep myself from crying each time. I didn't get a chance to see everyone after school, so if any of my school friends are reading this...I'll miss you guys!!!
When I arrived home, a beautiful bouquet of flowers sat waiting for my on my front porch. Sheila, a good friend from church and also a teacher, had left me a little pick me up, knowing that today would have been a tough day for me at school. Thanks, Sheila! :)
Finally, my last hurrah before leaving. My best friend Tammela and I had a fabulous dinner together this evening. We have been friends for 14 years and started our teaching career at the same school. If you've never been to Asado on 6th Ave. in Tacoma, you've got to have the Hangar Steak and Poblano Polenta. It's a great "last hurrah" dinner. The only thing that would have made it better would have been a nice glass of Malbec. Perhaps after my left lobe grows back?
Well, it's off to my last night in the comfy Tempur-Pedic bed, soon to be traded for a stay in a hospital bed. Lots of appointments next week, and I am sure, many interesting things to post. Thank you to everyone for your continued prayers, words of encouragement, and positive messages. Thanks for such a wonderful send off this week...next post from sunny (hopefully) California!