Tuesday, April 23, 2019

SOL: Redbuds in spring

            The redbud is one of my favorite trees. I first noticed it when hiking in the Shenandoah mountains many, many years ago, in the early spring. In the mountains, these are little wisps of trees, perhaps grown from seeds dropped indiscriminately by birds or carried by the wind, slipping in-between and alongside evergreens and oaks, dotting the trails as you climb. They almost jump out at you, bursting with bright purple-pink color, as they move from their winter dormancy. I have never really seen anything red about them...I think they should be called 'purple bud,' but, of course, I was not consulted.

             About five years ago, having decided a small, flowering shade tree is exactly what we lacked, we planted a redbud in our front yard. From our living room window, I get the delight of watching it bloom and grow, throughout the seasons. Its early spring show, with its pop of color, blows away all the other seasons, in my opinion. I soon realized a downside of the redbud: that pop of color is very brief, with the bright blooms changing quickly to leaves. Walking by flowering redbuds on a hike, I never thought about that; they were simply beautiful to behold. Watching the redbud from my window these past few years, I've been more aware the bright purple-pink season is actually very short and I pay close attention.

              About ten days ago, my redbud began its gorgeous spring blooming - sweet blossoms emerging along every branch, dotting these in tiny petals. Then, we went away for spring break. We drove down to Georgia from our home in Maryland, along I-81, and I again marveled at the redbuds dotting the landscape, all along this mountainous route. Beautiful! Once in Georgia, I didn't notice the redbuds...out of sight, out of mind. Here, the dogwoods were in full glory. Ah, spring!

               First thing Easter morning, back in Maryland, my spring break over, I immediately noticed that my dear redbud's fabulous spring blossoms were fading quickly - oh no! I was not here for their full glory!

               I stood for a long while underneath the tree branches, noticing and devouring.

               Emerging from the end of each of the branches were small, heart-shaped leaves. These leaves do not simply replace blossoms, but seem to grow in addition, alongside, stretching new from the tree. As the blossoms wilt and fall away, more and more leaves will arrive. Looking closely at those blossoms one more time, I notice their small purple core, with two to three tender pink petals growing out of this. I notice those new heart-shaped leaves are pretty, too, bright and shiny, deep red in color.

                This same week of spring break, my granddaughter, "Frog," who is nearly six months old, outgrew the bassinet in her parents' bedroom and moved to her own crib, in her own bedroom. Do you know she also started to sit up? Babies, wow, how quickly they change. Somehow in the midst of the hike of parenting my own children, the changes didn't seem so fast as they do now, with Frog. She is stretching and growing, just like those blossoms and leaves, letting some things fall away, opening up to so much new. I get the delight of watching Frog bloom and grow.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

SOL: Parkinson's

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life.  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!

Seeing my Dad this past weekend was, once again, really hard. He is 89 and lives in a nursing home in Maine. He suffers from Parkinson's, and his decline continues with abandon.

I think about how I work with preschoolers to accomplish some small skill - say, printing the letters of their name, or zippering up their coat, or cleaning up their toys. Often, with practice, I see marked improvement very quickly, as they work on these skills. For Dad, with Parkinson's, his daily work is the mirror opposite - not skill-building, but trying to delay skill-disappearing. He works very, very hard to not regress in his skills. He wants to hold on to that which he can do - and, honestly, these past few months, it seems to be to no avail. Over time - over much too short time - he is losing his ability to do absolutely everything. As hard as it is for me, his child, to watch this, I know it has to be eviscerating for him to live it out.

An example:
Just three weeks ago, he needed my help a little bit to get out of his bed or chair, and then he walked with a walker. Today, I cannot coach him by myself; I need the assistance of a caregiver to get him up. I watched/assisted as she gave him step-by-step directions - "hold this," "reach here," "step here." It was clear to me that Dad could not follow her slow and clear words. Also, just three weeks from when I last saw him, he is no longer able to walk with a walker and now uses a wheelchair. Together, the caregiver and I lifted and moved him into the wheelchair, with little or no help from Dad, little or no ability from Dad. This decline is stunning.

My brother has done a lot of reading about Parkinson's (I probably should, as well!) and he says that the progression of this disease is uneven. Although there are specific stages of decline, these are achieved in irregular patterns - sometimes moving slowly and other times deteriorating very quickly. There is rarely any "bounce back," but a progression towards immobility. Since Mom's death in October, Dad's decline is like an elevator, dropping down rapidly. Grief coupled with Parkinson's, that's how I describe his condition.

This poem is my reflection on this new chapter in Dad's/my life.

How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

      down a slippery slope,
                      surrendering to

How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

Moving backwards
mind muddled,                           
 a mask of oneself,                                           

How can it be that
yesterday he could,
today he can't?

   forever gone.


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

SOL: It's 9pm

I am participating in the
 Slice of Life  
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day, 
on Tuesdays.

A big thank you to Two Writing Teachers for providing this unique opportunity
for teacher-writers to share and reflect!!

It's 9pm 
on a Tuesday.
It's 9pm 
on the Tuesday after the March Slice of Life Challenge.
It's 9pm 
and I have not written a slice of life.
It's 9pm 
and I have not even drafted a slice of life.
It's 9pm
and I wonder how it can be so challenging to write one slice of life, when I wrote one every day for 31 days without much difficulty at all?
It's 9pm
and I have 
babysat my granddaughter for one hour before school, 
because of a very unusual scheduling hiccup,
carried a bureau into my own classroom for the dramatic play corner,
because it sat there screaming "I'm free!!" from the curb in front of a house as I drove by,
launched a whole new professional inquiry project about restorative practice,
because of an excellent workshop last week,
taught a full day of preschool with paint, blocks, dress-ups, books, more,
because that's what I do,
worked closely with a very challenging preschooler,
because he bit a classmate once again and I can't figure out how he's ever going to stop,
entered edits on report cards during my lunch break,
because my principal got them back to me late and they were due last Friday,
ate too many pizza rolls leftover from children's lunches 
because I couldn't believe they wouldn't even taste them,
wrote a long note to families,
because we are going to do many exciting things in the weeks to come,
ran at break-neck speed around my school neighborhood with other colleagues,
because a first grader was missing and, thankfully, soon found safe and sound,
returned to see my granddaughter a little more after school,
because we gather there on Tuesdays for dinner,
showered and readied myself for bed,
because I am exhausted.
It's 9pm
and this is my slice of life.