September 6, 2010

Saturday, Sr. Wantabee had a mornin cup of coffee with her daughter overlooking “the mighty Mississippi.” She thought both were sad as they tenderly sipped some last moments together and watched the boats float by, dredging up memories. Was she there when….? Did she remember…? In the back of their minds was the realization that Monday morning the daughter would climb on a plane to fly across country to her new job.
“Mother! You make it sound like I’ll never return. It feels like death. I’ll be back in two weeks, having rented an apartment and gotten a feel for my new job and then I’ll take my stuff but really, I’m only a short flight away and I’ll be back. This is not forever!”
How beautiful thought Sr. Wantabee. In the transition experience chart she has taught for years, her daughter is exactly stage appropriate. She remembered back to saying farewell to her mother when she had gone to Africa. “We’ll write, AND I’ll be back in four years. If you need me, I can come!” Denial is the process. The person is not really leaving because they are stil emotionally connected. They are not dying. They are just accepting the adventure. “We’ll meet again soon.”
Sr. Wantabee’s mother did not write for eight weeks. When she did she shared how she had experienced it as a death and had to grieve for awhile. Now, Sr. Wantabee was on the being-left-behind end of the emotions.
Sr. Wantabee had been taught fresh out of college and working for the Probation Dept. that kids in lock-up who are released have three ways of saying goodbye to their friends they are leaving behind. Some pick fights to justify moving on cause they didn’t like those friends anyway. Some sob and cry and take drugs and wallow in the separation. The healthy way is somewhere inbetween where grief is acknowledged, appreciations are said, and blessings are counted as each releases the other to their spot in life.
Sr. Wantabee explained to her daughter that she had just been in a group meeting where one of the younger participants shared that she had left her home to come, realizing that her mother would not approve and knowing that their family did not talk about emotions, by sending her mother an email. The woman had burst into tears and run from the room, sensing her mother’s disapproval. Inwardly, Sr. Wantabee had gasped. That mother had never had a chance to say farewell to her daughter, nor try to talk out their differences!
Sr. Wantabee affirmed her daughter’s stage appropriateness and explained that she too was trying to say those things that we often wait until death to say, to affirm relationship and memories and confidence in the loved one, not because she believed she would never return, but to try and do a healthy farewell on her side, realizing that each day is a gift.
Sr. Wantabee knew the daughter was returning in two weeks, only to leave again, but the leaving was the growth into her future and an express of her talents that Sr. Wantabee believed in. But likewise it is an end to a phase of life for which Sr. Wantabee is deeply appreciative and that appreciation needed to be shared.
How can so much sadness contain so much blessing?


September 2, 2010

Last night Sr. Wantabee was teaching ESL. She had been teaching a unit on food and nutrition to a group of level 2, fairly low level speakers and it was just hard going. The unit is just soooo American. The food pyramid would not work where she came from in Africa where people lived on meat, milk and blood and had never seen a vegetable or fruit. Reading a recipe rather than watch your mom and how she proportioned ingredients seemed strange also. then in the middle of the recipe lesson, the students asked, “What’s that?” A fraction. They had never seen or understood fractions much less 1/2 teaspoon.
Sr. Wantabee decided a hands on recipe was needed and decided to try “microwave tacos”. When she pulled the onion out of her basket, their eyes lit up and they recognized it immediately. They quickly learned “to grate” the cheese. No problem “slicing the watermelon” for desert or “chopping the tomato.” We crowded around a table and ate a bite together. The lesson was a success. But what touched Sr. Wantabee was the comradery and all the young women joining in and helping just as it would have been in Africa. they may have enjoyed the lesson but she enjoyed the memory of a joy gone by.