Thursday, July 25, 2013

Already

 My friend Daniell is counting days.

In just a few short weeks, she and her family and wealth of friends will mark the one year anniversary of the death of her husband, Brandon. He was one of two St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's deputies killed in the line of duty last August, murdered by madmen with machine guns for no apparent reason.

Although she needed no reminder of the date, the last time I saw my friend I tried -- gently -- to get her to prepare herself for the inevitable onslaught-to-come of anniversary stories on the news and in the newspapers. And, because I know how we work, the slew of media interview requests sure to come as the date approaches.

"I can't believe it's been a year already," she said.

Me neither.

But a year has indeed gone by. A year of birthdays, holidays, and just plain old Mondays. And they have flown by, seemingly in an instant. But not the grief. The grief goes slowly.


I have been amazed by her grace every day of the last year, including that one. I imagine myself in that situation. On the floor. Screaming. Never wanting to get up. I feel that way sometimes now and all I lost was my job.

But she got up that day and every day since. She goes to work. She smiles at strangers. She holds their hands and makes their nails look pretty. She rubs my feet (when I let her). She runs (a lot). And she helps the world remember her husband. 

But the grief never leaves.

It was 12 years ago today that I got that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, telling me that my big brother had driven off a lonely highway and into a bayou down in the toes of Louisiana's boot. He had been on his way to the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo for a weekend of fun and fishing. Then he took his eyes off the road for just a second. And he wasn't wearing his seat belt.


I have spent the last 12 years trying to remind the world - or at least my blog followers and Facebook friends -- that I did, indeed, once have a big brother named Rhett, who picked on me and teased me and made me believe in the Boogie Man. That there once was a man who loved rock and roll and played mean drums on his dashboard. And fishing. And his wife and kids. I never want him to be forgotten.

Some may get tired of the annual ode to my brother and my memories of him. If so, feel free to move along. It's how I remember him. And it's how I grieve. And I still do.


He was my brother. The man who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, who stood there and said (enthusiastically) "I Do," when asked "Who gives this woman?" Who got sick later that night (heh heh). Who held my head the first time I threw up after drinking too much. Who drank vinegar and pickle juice. Who laughed when I fell in the bayou and told me the alligators were going to eat me. Who made my uncle let him jump ship the night we said farewell to our father, so he could be by my side.  Who showed me the shooting star across the sky. Who dropped everything to come to the hospital to wait with me as another woman gave birth to my child.


And he was gone much, much too soon.

So we have a date on the calendar, circled. Marked forever. And this weekend is the annual Tarpon Rodeo in Grand Isle, forever reminding us of where he was going, what he should have been doing.

But we need no reminders. It's only been 12 years. Already.












Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solve for x






 

Since being laid off from my job as an erstwhile news and sports reporter/overqualified clerk for The (some) Times-Picayune roughly eight months ago, I have pondered my future.

According to those who employed me for 26 years, it isn't very bright. The newspaper business is dying, they said. The digital age is destroying it, they said. And I can't keep up, they said.

Or else I'm too old.

And there aren't very many other games in town.

So I've had to take stock. Consider my options. It may be time to change professions.  There is a Dollar General across the street from my house. A deli next door. A Subway around the corner.  I did consider going into the funeral business. I mean, they'll never be put out of business. Right?

The truth is, a part of my heart has always wanted to teach. From the time I was a little girl who played school with my grandparents in their kitchen, I was drawn to teaching.  I pretended to be my own elementary school teachers -- well, some of them.  I imagined my classroom with bright bulletin boards. I imagined the bright faces of my students. Later I imagined a book-lined office in a college hall.

Although I always wanted to be a writer  -- a journalist -- in the back of my mind I also wanted to teach. So, after switching my major from Communications to English, I minored in Secondary Education.  The only thing I didn't do was student teach and take the old NTE exam.

I should have.

Because now, if I want to teach (and I really, really do), I have to pass the Praxis exam.

And I can't.


No. Seriously. I mean I really can't.

Oh. I breezed through the English and writing portions with no problems, getting my required 175 (plus) on the first try. But the math is another story entirely.

On my first try, I got a 173 -- just two points shy of the requirement. One more good guess and I might have made it. I actually felt pretty good about it. I mean, I knew there were some that I got right. I'm not a total idiot. But some of the questions were completely foreign to me.

 I had to wait 30 days to try again. In the mean time, my husband, The Coach, The Special Education Teacher/Coach, and my 12-year-old daughter tutored me. Mostly, they just laughed at me and my inability to solve for x. Or y. Or z. Or just about anything else for that matter.                                                                                                      
 I just can't do it. I look at the graphs, the charts, the x's and the y's, and it might as well be written in Russian. (I didn't say Greek because I actually took two semesters of Greek and can read it a little.)  I just can't wrap my brain around math. It makes no sense.

I mean I can add (a little). And substract (some). I can even multiply and divide.  I have been figuring out yards per carry, batting averages and time of possession for two decades. But when somebody asks me what time Train A traveling at 50 miles per hour and Train B traveling at 70 miles per hour are going to meet, I ask, "What time is deadline?"

And ask for Cool Whip if you offer me "pi."


And yet, the Powers That Be at The Times-Picayune put me in charge of the cash drawer in the River Parishes Bureau. Sort of explains why now they are The Sometimes Picayune. But I digress.


This is nothing new.   I started to struggle in math in elementary school. My mom got me a tutor in junior high.  I still failed Algebra I. And II.  Thank God there were no LEAP tests in my day or I might still be in the sixth grade.  I did have to take the ACT, of course. I scored a 34 in English! And a 13 in Math. Thankfully,  I only had to take one college math course, and I think the professor gave me the D I got.

 Everytime I see a math word problem it looks like this: If I have 10 ice cubes and you have 11 apples. How many pancakes will fit on the roof? Answer: Purple because aliens don't wear hats.

I had told my husband these stories, and he certainly knew I was mathematically challenged. It's why he took over the checkbook long ago. But he really had no idea of the depth and breadth of my problem until we sat together at our dining room table with the Praxis book and the practice tests. I won't try to recreate the conversations here. I'll just tell you that, on more than one occasion, he gave me that look that says, "Seriously?"

Seriously.

And on my second attempt, I got a 169. Yes, I went backwards. And I knew it even before I hit the "report scores" button.

But, apparently, there are Powers That Be who think I can't teach young children how to punctuate and capitalize their sentences unless I can find x and y. So I must try again for that elusive 175. And again. And perhaps again.

But there is hope. Today my husband came home and told me that he has found me a tutor, one who (I hope) will not give me "that look" or laugh at me when I can't find the x. That's probably a good thing, otherwise the Coach might become one.