Beware of Essays!

Ativain this morning? Yes, please. I’ll have it with that microcup of brown water you call coffee. Oxycontin? Yeah, well about that . . .

I tested the waters with the nurse. “So, I got up to use the bathroom last night and got pretty dizzy. I thought I might pass out.” Translation: I don’t know how long I was unconscious on the floor. “Do you think that was the tumor or the Oxycontin?” She thought it was probably the Oxy. Okay, then, remind me to save that for special occasions.

Matt must have taken the boys to church that morning. I think they said an intention for me during the Prayers of the Faithful. We are part of a fairly large parish,  it’s a close knit community, but it is still a large parish. If they are announcing your name at mass, then you are in serious trouble. I was in serious trouble.  Matt brought the boys by after church. I don’t remember if they brought me Tim Hortons or if we went down to get it, but I’m sure there were donuts involved. My mom, stepdad and grandfather must have spent a good portion of the day with me, too.

But it’s later that afternoon and evening that I remember. Julie came. Julie is a parish music director and mother of five whose husband works with Matt at the university. I adore Julie and enjoy her company when we are having drinks and appetizers with our little “wives’ club” at the end of every semester, but this wasn’t a visit I was looking forward to. You see, Julie is also a cancer survivor and I had asked her to come talk to me about life without hair. I was still cautiously optimistic that perhaps only a small section would be shaved, but I wanted to be prepared just in case. We agreed that a wig would probably not be needed. She had been through chemo in the summer and remembered how hot a wig was. We talked about hats and how to tie scarves and she gave me a few of hers.

Shortly after Julie left, two more of the “wives’ club” came by, Michelle and Joyce. They weren’t there to visit (although we did). They were there to rescue me. Funny thing, even though my life ran off into a ditch and my world stopped turning, no one else’s did. The semester was still ending. I had two final exams scheduled, one on the morning of my surgery. I had grades due. As always, I had been less than religious about recording grades during the semester. None of my computer files were complete, there were numbers scrawled on roll sheets and scraps of paper.

There were essays everywhere. They had been left in my bag for days and (as all teachers know) when you leave essays alone for any amount of time, they breed. By the time we opened the bag (which I assume Matt brought to the hospital), there were at least eighty kajillion essays in there. When I opened the bag, I’m pretty sure one or two jumped out and started trying to suck my soul from my body. Have I mentioned Ativain causes hallucinations? We wrestled them back down and started making piles. So many piles. Luckily, quite a few were already graded and just had to be recorded. Joyce manned the keyboard. Michelle helped me to skim (and by skim, I actually mean carefully read every word of every essay because anything else would have been irresponsible) what wasn’t graded. This whole time, my head was throbbing. I had a brain tumor, you know.

Thanks to Joyce and Michelle, we tamed the wild essays. Luckily, I had taught both classes before and had drafts of the final exams that were easily modified and emailed to Matt (who gave the Monday night one) and whoever ended up giving the Tuesday morning one. That night I also prepared an email to my students explaining to them that I was in the hospital preparing for brain surgery and would not be at the final exams. I instructed them to get any remaining work to Matt and to have as much patience as possible when it came to inquiring about their final grades. Since it is a Catholic university, I asked for their prayers for myself, my husband and my children. I told them there was a good chance they would be filed late. And they were. But they were filed. Thank you again, husband of mine.

Sure, they warned us in grad school about getting involved with another grad student, especially one in your program. Who needs one PhD in Medieval Studies, much less two? For the entirety of our nearly 14 year marriage, we have been barely treading water financially. One full time professor and one adjunct is not the equivalent to one full time and one part time job. Adjuncts make almost nothing here in the U.S. But, with both of us at the same university and with the same background and teaching the same courses, there were other perks. My husband has been able to cover for me three times: when our second son came early, when our third son came even earlier and when a brain tumor took me out at the end of the semester. When the babies came, I was still able to do the final exam grading, but this time that all fell to him.  I don’t know how he got it done. I don’t think he knows how he got it done. But it got done.

Ativain? Yes, please, the essays are trying to suck my face off and it’s making me anxious. Oxycontin? Sure. My brain is trying to escape my skull. Just let me use the ladies room first this time.



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