Wednesday, April 10, 2013

WNBP: Sheep Interrupted

Let's do this one straight up tonight, sans bullet points if you will.  It somehow seems like that kind of day.  It's healthy to interrupt the schedule sometimes.  Other times, it is simply out of boredom.  And I guess it's appropriate at times too, now that I think about it.

So here's your Wednesday Night Bullet Post, now, for a limited time only, in a Bullet-Free formula:

I am a SWOC.  (Single Without Children)  As such, I generally find myself in the minority. Even if there are other SWOCs around, they are almost always decades my junior and there isn't much common ground. Unless, of course, I am willing to be one of those oldsters who pretends that age is just a number and that one can "blend" by merely using enough of the current vernacular or wearing skinny jeans as if gravity is just a concept and not a reality after 40. 

I know better.  Sometimes I forget for a little while, but I like to think I've caught on by now.  I am a SWOC without delusions of grandeur.

Truthfully, I am more of a SWOCAPHWTTYVM (Single Without Children And Perfectly Happy With That Thank You Very Much).  However, I find that this is a very long title and that the time required to explain it often sounds to others like a justification of one's lifestyle and that just defeats the whole purpose of being "Happy With That, Thank You Very Much." 

Mostly I just keep my head down and pretend to be fascinated with tales of potty training or priceless heirlooms used as fort building material.  As a coping strategy, it has served me well for quite some time. 

I knew that the Maine Autism Leaders Team conference was going to be more of the same.  Even if I hadn't already gone to an earlier session, I could have predicted it.  It's a numbers game.  The likelihood that I'd be trapped for two days at a table full of mothers is fairly high if everyone going is female.  Mentally, I braced myself for the maternal deluge. 

It was as I thought.  Lots of kid talk and me with nothing to offer save a one minute and twenty-two second video of my Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty foiling the locking mechanism of the automatic feeder I tested over the weekend just to see what really happened when I set the stupid thing.  And I doubted if anyone would be interested in that.  Oh, they'd watch it, just to be polite.  But, frankly, there is nothing sadder than a SWOC pushing cat videos on the general public.  It's worse than stuffing a middle aged butt into skinny jeans and pretending to know what a Kardashian is. 

By day two, I was getting pretty good at smiling in all the right places while not really listening.  Besides, I was genuinely busy by then.  I had a whole flu situation in China that wasn't going to monitor it self, after all.  I'll admit I almost missed it when the lady to my right commented on how her daughter didn't want her to come to the conference this time.  I was a little late with my perfunctory, "aww," but I don't think anyone noticed.

She went on to say how strange it was.  "Mommy," the little girl begged, "I don't want you to go all the way up there because I am afraid you are going to crash on the highway and DIE!"

Well, that got my attention.  Crashing was a little more immediate and personal than the flu in another country, after all.  Sure, we'd made it up there in one piece, but now I had the image of a little kid going all "oracle" in my head and that is not the kind of thing one wants to be considering right before we pile into our cars to make the drive back.  I think we all felt kind of the same way because it seemed like a very half-hearted attempt to come up with a reason why a little girl would suddenly get all maudlin without warning.  She is, by all accounts, a generally cheery little tyke, at least according to her mother.

Best to just file that one under Funny Things Kids Say and get back to talking about where Johnny pooped that time we went to Grandma's.  That is Normal Parental Chatter, in my experience.  But maybe I'm just hanging with the wrong crowd.  At any rate, we left the conference and prepared to go back to school on Wednesday feeling fairly confident in our chances which proves that some things are best left unexamined.

At least most of the time...

The superintendent sent the mass email before noon today.  Within seconds, every staff computer in the district was Googling and soon the details (or at least what was known at the time) were common knowledge, complete with images.  It was Life Interrupted.

It happened sometime around 8:00 this morning,  probably on her way to drop the kids off before heading in to school for that first day back. Just like lots of people did this morning.  Just like me, except for the kids part.

Except we did it without the unexpected disruption in the plan.

 It had to have all happened pretty quickly, at least that is what I'd like to think.  Maybe even fast enough for the kids to have not seen.  Maybe their injuries were the kind that left them unconscious.  That would be better, if not exactly good.  It would give purpose to their pain.

She was a good teacher, very good.  In fact, she's the kind of teacher I thought I was going to be once upon a time.  At least until I tried it and realized that my skill set lay elsewhere.  She was funny and really excited about going to The Olive Garden for dinner on Monday night.  When we weren't working on our comprehensive plan to revamp our services for students with Spectrum disorders, she was on her laptop pulling together the five million things that need to get done for the Special Olympics next month.  Her team t-shirt design collaboration is going to be kick-ass. 

Many of her students won't understand what happened.  They are young, but also the kind of kids that make other parents hug their own offspring and think, "there but for the grace of God..."  They won't understand, but they will miss her and some will wonder why she said, "I'll see you on Wednesday," but then never came back. 

We weren't friends.  We were colleagues and we were both on the same committee.  But, I liked her as far as that relationship went and it is surreal to think someone you spent two days with could be gone less than 24 hours later.  Just like that. 

As far as her daughter 's fears are concerned, I chalk that up to coincidence.  Horrible coincidence, I grant you, but coincidence nonetheless.  The sort of thing that happens sometimes even if it shouldn't ever, ever happen.  That, to me, is preferable to the thought of a little girl believing that she is somehow responsible for a tragic, three car wreck that took her mother.  I think she probably has enough on her plate without that. 

Coincidence.  It's quick, it's random and it's ruthless in its desire to interrupt the best laid plans. You never know when your expectations will be suddenly sidelined or that you'll sort of wish you'd gone along when everybody headed out to The Olive Garden instead of staying behind to watch TV because you were tired of being around mothers for a whole day.  That's just the way it is.

But I think I'm maybe going to be a little more open to getting to know my colleagues better and perhaps even listen more fully, even when they talk about their kids.  You just never know when the next interruption will come.  Or if you'll be able to resume the conversation.



Elaine said...

Oh dear. There are no words....
I am so sorry.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing and so sorry.

mrichme said...

Very sad news indeed! Keep you chin up and ears open.

Donna Lee said...

It's a bit strange when a colleague dies. You're not really friends bit they were still part of your daily life. Good luck with the kids. They're lucky to have you to help them through the hard parts.

Anonymous said...

Very sad news. I am so sorry, too.


Julia G said...

So, so sorry - such a terrible loss. The family is in our thoughts and prayers.

lobstah said...

I saw this in the paper, what a heartbreaking story. She sounded like a kind and special person. I was struck by two things--she is the same age as me; and she reminds me of my best friend, who is a special ed teacher for profoundly disabled children and has a son and a daughter too. Definitely gave me pause.

I am really touched by your thoughts about stopping and appreciating the people and things around us, even though we don't always feel like it. As a child-free by choicer who often feels "stuck" in similar conversations, I think I need to work on that too.

Take care.

kmkat said...

Life can indeed change completely in a second. It is so precious.