A Photograph of me without me in it

A Photograph of me without me in it
A photograph of me without me in it

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer #16: Shame on You!

Summer #16: I got kicked off the plane on my first international flight, from New York JFK to London Heathrow to Dublin, Ireland. When I boarded the gigantic plane, a woman was already in my seat. We had matching tickets, except for our names. The nice attendant said they'd get it straightened out, no worries. Just wait right here. Just off the plane. About twenty others joined me just off the plane; the attendants blocked he doors like they were storm troopers, and we were herded back to the concourse. "Our computers have been sabotaged," claimed a Hogan's Heroes caricature with round glasses and an exaggerated German accent posed as an airline agent. Pan Am agents rebooked me and my peers (we had become peers) onto a flight going from New York to Germany to London and from there I would continue to Dublin. I sat in the upstairs area with a high school wrestling team. In Germany, a bomb went off in the airport, though I didn't realize that was the cause of all the sirens when we landed. Finally, I flew to Heathrow and on to Dublin where my friend Sara did her best impersonation of O.J. Simpson (before the slow chase days) leaping over obstacles to greet me a day later. Mom wrote a letter to Pan Am, closing, "Shame on you!" They refunded the price of my ticket, and this flight prepared my for low expectations when I fly, an attitude that has come in handy.

About ten years ago, Ann and I had a more frightening ride on  a small Costa Rican airplane. We had been to the Pacific Coast and took a taxi to our "terminal." The taxi left us off at a meadow in the middle of what seemed to be nowhere. We stood in the field with our suitcases and gradually about ten other Americans joined us. Eventually, two small airplanes landed in our field. An overweight pilot took our bags and the bags of four others and started shoving them into the baggage hold. One woman had a suitcase as large as my mother's suitcase, and the pilot grunted and sweated so much that we feared he might have a heart attack. We boarded the six-seater and prepared for take off. No drinks would be served on this flight. As the pilot took off, I wondered if the red flashing light was important and was then distracted by the mountain that we were headed towards. At what seemed like the last minute, the pilot banked, and went at it again, this time clearing the mountain. As we flew, the plane kept hitting air pockets and the plane would sink. Thinking we might die, I was thankful that this flight was at the end of the vacation instead of the beginning, and I wondered if someone would develop the pictures I had taken with my new camera. Deep thoughts for a dying person. Everyone else, somewhat green, had their faces in their barf bags. I doubt their thoughts were any deeper. When we finally landed no one cheered or even looked at each other. We got our bags and shuffled off to find our next flight.

On another miserable flight, not scary but unpleasant, we were returning with our friends Marion and Wolfgang to Seattle from our Mexico vacation. We landed in an intermediary city, maybe Phoenix, and found that our flight to Seattle would not be going. Everyone on this flight would need to rebook. The next flight to Seattle was in three days. We booked a flight to Portland, tried unsuccessfully to find a hotel for the night, and finally slept on the airport floor. At least we had our luggage with us since the airport was cold at night. We put on all our clothes. The next morning, I sat with Ann's and my luggage as she went to find Marion and Wolfgang for breakfast. Aware of all those airport announcements about unattended luggage but also experiencing Montazuma's Revenge, I dragged all of our luggage into the restroom with me. Whew. Made it. Finally, we flew to Portland, rented a car, and drove home to rest for our day back at work in a few hours.

A few months after my brain surgery, Ann and I flew to NC for the annual summer beach trip. Our seats were in the very last row. I sat in the middle, and when the attendant brought me a cup of ice-water at the beginning of the flight, I didn't notice that the tray was tilted. The cupful slid into my lap. That ice was cold, and when we landed my britches were wet. I was walking with a walker and could not see well, so as soon as we got to a bathroom, I tried to dry up. I could just see others in the airport thinking, "Oh, that poor disabled woman wet her pants."

This year, our flight from Raleigh to Seattle  wasn't as bad, and some of the misery was our fault, but the flying experience wasn't joyful. Confused about the day our flight left, we arrived at the airport about 24 hours late for our flight. After much hemming and hawing, the airilne reparesentative rebooked us on the same flight for that night. Ann bought a new ticket, but because I was flying using frequent flyer miles, I just lost my first class status. Because of mechanical problems, our flight would leave two hours late, so we found a pub and had dinner and a large beer, knowing there would only be expensive cheese and crackers or peanuts on the plane. This tasty beer was the best part of the night. The napkin served with our on-board drinks read, "Turn flights and everyday purchases into lifetime memories." There's humor everywhere. We just missed our connection to Seattle in Dallas, so we spent the night in Dallas, got up the next morning and caught a flight to St. Louis and then finally returned to Seattle in time for my dentist appointment.

I understand why rich people have jets. Mary

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer #15: My Sistah Jenn, the Logophile

Summer #15: My sister Jenn is a logophile, too, though she often mispronounces her favorite new words. She keeps an excellent list of new words on her computer. You can tell a lot about a person by reading their vocabulary list. OUr favorite word for the week was Schadenfreude, pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune; joy in the misery of another. Here are some of my other favorites:

Estivate – aestivate; estivation – summer sleep; a state of animal dormancy similar to hibernation
Steatopygia – behind (as in rear end) fat
Empyreal – formed of light or fire
Sybaritic – fond of sensuous luxury or pleasure; self-indulgent
Palaver – prolonged and idle discussion
Pellucid – translucently clear
Bounder – a dishonorable man
Sequacious – lacking independence or originality of thought
Sedulous – showing dedication and diligence
Tumid – swollen; figurative (especially of language or literary style) pompous or bombastic
Cwm – a cirque (a half-open steep-sided hollow at the head of a valley or on a mountain, formed by a glacial erosion), esp. one in the mountains of Wales, [a useful word for Scrabble]
Polymath – a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.
Pilose – covered with long soft hairs
Hypnagogic – of or relating to the state immediately before falling asleep
Violaceous – of a violet color
Insouciance – casual lack of concern; indifference
Dysphoria – a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life
Bumptious – self-assertive or proud to an irritating degree
Limpid – (of a liquid) free of anything that darkens; completely clear; (of a person’s eyes) unclouded, completely clear; (esp. of a writing or music) clear and accessible or melodious
Protean – tending or able to change frequently or easily; able to do many different things; versatile
Roman a clef – a novel in which real people or events appear with invented names
Jolie laide – a woman whose face is attractive, despite having ugly features. Pretty-ugly.
Coup de foudre – instant mad love
Friable – easily crumbled

Although she has an excellent vocabulary and a law degree and is a very smart person, Sistah Jenn doesn't really have the patience for Scrabble. We played a game at the beach, and at the end she told me, “You shouldn't use a howitzer when a hand grenade will do.” Today, I shared Sistah Jenn's wisdom with my father when he was playing my twelve year-old nephew, to no effect. Jack did use the word “tinea,” very impressive in terms of vocabulary but only six points on the board. When Jack had to go play tennis, I agreed to finish his game for him. True to form, Dad beat the pants off of me, though when he was way ahead he let “wifey” pass. Scrabble generosity.
My friend Rose and I once played what I thought was a friendly game of Scrabble, until I noticed that she was blocking my moves, clearly playing more competitively than I had thought we were playing. I went out with a seven letter word on a triple word score. Howitzer. Don't tread on me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer #14: Lifting the Ordinary to the Extraordinary

Summer #14: There's nothing like a good poetic line to lift the ordinary to the extraordinary. When Ann and I arrive home, I say,  “Here we are. It's the end of the ride." Ann responds, "Pete and the boys are waitin' inside." In the original it's Pete and his gang, but I like the boys. I continue, "Here's what we'll do: be as quiet as a mouse. I'll sneak in and you surround the house.” If it's late, Ann may say, “I hope Pete and his gang aren't here. I'm too tired to throw them out.” Otherwise, the line is, “I hope you know what you're talking about!” and me, “You just count 'em as I throw 'em out.” And the rejoinder, “Bing! Bang! Boom! [whistling sound]” Ann counts, “One!” and I follow, “Stop countin'. It's me.” Sometimes it takes us a while to get out of the garage, but this selection from Spike Jones' radio show, “Wild Bill Hiccup” is just the thing for coming home right. See what I mean? Extraordinary.

In the morning, when Ann tries to stir me from my sleep (not an easy task), the line is from Roethke's great poem, “I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.” And of course, there's the bastardization of the Grease classic: “Waking up is hard to do.” Poets must struggle with waking up, too, since Donne wrote, “Busy old fool, unruly sun, Why dost thou thus? Through windows and through curtains call on us." When I finally arise, my line is from Tennyson's “Marianna,”: “She said, 'I am aweary, aweary.'” The other day at dinner, Ann, pleased with herself, passed the peaches and asked, "Do you dare to eat a peach?" from T.S. Eliot and I responded, "I shall wear white flannel trousers and walk upon the beach." Then I ate a peach. As we head outside to go somewhere and one of us lags behind, the line is also from T.S. Eliot's “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “Let us go then, you and I.” Once outside, I remember Wordsworth's observation that “the beauty of the newborn day is lovely yet” and I exhort Ann, who is always moving more quickly than I do, to “stop and smell the roses” along our path.

At school, I love to quote Whitman to teachers and students with whom I'm working, especially those few who disagree with me: “What I assume, you shall assume” and my favorite, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then. I contradict myself. I contain multitudes.” No one understands containing multitudes like a teenager.

Autumn is an especially fruitful time for poets. One of my favorite Snoopy cartoons has Snoopy (among my favorite poets) watch a leaf fall, and as it hits the ground, he steps on it with his puppy paw: “I killed it,” he says as it lies there, unmoving. There's also ee cummings' “One leaf falls: loneliness” and Shakespeare's sonnet to the end of autumn, the end of summer, and of life: "In me, thou seest... bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang."

In the midst of these tumors, I've loved Emily Dickenson's "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." Even better, perhaps, is Woody Allen's allusion: "Emily Dickenson was wrong. Hope is not the thing with feathers. My nephew is." When I have a miserable headache, Emily comes in handy as well: "I felt a funeral in my brain...." The poem is not about headaches. It's about a moment of awareness, the kind of awareness in which one paradigm dies and another takes its place. I theorize that whoever wrote that section of the textbook, which suggested that the "right" interpretation of this poem was that it was agbout a headache, was young and had not had such an experience. 

The contemporary poet Mary Oliver was Ann's and my companion as I was healing from brain surgery: "What will you do with your one wild and precious life?" Such a question compels me to remember that this life, tumors or no, is the one life I have, and there's a grace not to be taken for granted in such a gift.

"Let me tell you how the sun rose, a ribbon at a time...." Mary

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer #13: Prognostication

Summer #13: “What are birds' wings made of?” That's my sister's youngest son, Willie. He's always asked the most amusing questions. At least that's what Jennifer tells us. He doesn't talk to any of the rest of us adults. Last year, on the way to our wedding, he lost his favorite quarter, so Ann and I sent him a new Canadian quarter. He wrote us the first thank you note we've ever received from any of our nieces and nephews: “Thank you for giving me what I really wanted.” When he was younger, he was a clothes hound: he'd wail if he couldn't find his favorite red tee shirt. Once, Jack was wearing a red shirt just like the one Willie was wearing. Willie howled. It took his mother to console him, convincing Willie that he was already wearing his red shirt. Seeing wasn't believing, but what Mama said was. On the drive from New York to the North Carolina beach this year, Willie said he didn't like carrots, and Jennifer, bored with the drive, told him she had been putting carrots in his cereal for years. When he doubted her, she said that she had been bleaching them and cutting them into cereal shapes. He was flummoxed. “That seems weird, but I know my mom wouldn't lie to me.” Such trust, even after the tooth fairy betrayal. That boy loves his mama. My prediction for this creative thinker: playwright.

My godson Sammy, Jennifer's penultimate child, is Jenn's family's athlete. When he was born, he looked much like Jabba the Hut, and had so many chins he lifted his head late. He soon slimmed down on his diet of (only) chocolate milk. This fall, he was the “dirtiest” point guard in the New York state basketball tournament. He's quite the tennis player and remarkably personable. As a three-year old, he came to the dining room, sat on a chair by me and asked, “How are you, Auntie Mary?” We had a philosophical discussion about the state of the universe, and then he heard a noise from the basement, lifted his head, and said, “Excuse me. I have to go play now.” When his younger brother Willie was an infant, Sam would call timeout from “playing rough” with his older brother Jack. Sam would go to Willie, pat him on the head like Willie was a puppy, and coo, “So cute. So cute.” Sam's a natural now with his younger cousins, Lucie and Gretchen. He has always loved children and adored the men in his life: his dad the Wall Street whatever-he-is and his Grandpa the pediatrician. My prediction: Pediatrician.

My nephew Jack was born an engineer. He's twelve now, and he's an athlete, too. When he was much younger, dad asked him what his favorite sport was. He had many to choose from: he played basketball, ice hockey, tennis, and others. His favorite sport? “Chess.” I asked him yesterday what he thinks he might be. I guess he's been thinking about surgery because he said, “I wouldn't want to be a surgeon because it would be too hard when someone died.” I didn't point out to him that brain surgeons saved his mom's life and my life. My prediction: engineer.

My niece Isabella is the oldest grandchild and is so good at everything (school, sports, beauty, kindness) that a person might be bitter, but she's so kind that you can't help but love her. She does have an edge, though. Years ago, maybe when she was nine years old, she and I went for a walk down the beach, looking for sand dollars. Isabella stepped into a sand trap, and spun in a panic to get our of it. I stood frozen, aghast. When she got out of it, she looked up at me and said, “A lot of help you are.” This summer, my youngest nieces Lucie and Gretchen sat by the door awaiting their fairy princess Isabella. They, like the rest of us, love her. Today, I asked her what she thought she might be when she grows up. She's only going into ninth grade, and she sarcasttically responded, “An astronaut” as Ann said, “A firefighter.” They mocked me. My prediction: an astronaut (don't tread on me.)

Hayden is my brother's oldest. He is blond, blue-eyed and beautiful. He is a big fan. Even though all of his cousins love the Red Sox, Hayden wore his NY Yankees hat the whole time he was at the beach with all of us in North Carolina. For the World Cup, he bravely cheered on the Netherlands while the rest of us cheered for Spain. That takes spunk. When he and his younger sister Lucie were looking at old pictures, they saw one of the two of them together when they were younger. Hayden said to Lucie, “See, Lucie. I used to like you.” He's always got his nose in a book, a characteristic of his mother and his aunts, but not his father. My prediction: professor.

Lucie is my brother's middle child. When she was three years old, she alternated girl days and boy days. On girl days, her name was Lucie, and she wore dresses. On boy days, her name was Thomas, and she wore blue jeans and red Keds. She tells me she's an excellent athlete, especially good at hockey, though I think she says “athalete.” The month before she was going to be a flower girl in our wedding last summer, she and a friend were riding in the car with her mom. She said to her friend, “Guess what. I'm going to be in my Aunt Mary and my Aunt Ann's wedding. And guess what. They're both girls.” Her friend, astonished, responded, “They're going to have a lot of babies.” At our rehearsal dinner, Lucie said to me several times, “Auntie Mary, who are all these people?” I finally gave her the right answer: “They're our friends.” She seemed dismayed, “You mean they're all here for you?” I want her and all my nieces and nephews to see that gay couples, too, can have a community of support. At the home where I grew up, she saw a family picture from when I was eighteen years old. “Auntie Mary,” she said, “look at you then and look at you now. Wow.” And then, graciously, “You still have the same smile and the same eyes,” (gracious since now I mostly smile with one half of my mouth and my eyes are crossed), “But,” she continued, “look at all that hair!” It was the eighties. My prediction: athalete.

Gretchen, my brother's youngest, is the family performer. She's hilarious. Her hair is white blond and her eyes a limpid (a vocabulary word for the week) blue. Like Isabella, she's quite the sweet thing, but she's no push-over. In Raleigh, she got ready to play pool, and when Dad came in the room, she said, “You can be on my team, Grandpa.” When Dad responded, “Okay, but I'm not very good,” she said, “Okay, you can be on the other team.” She does an impressive hip hop to the theme from Scooby-Doo. Brother Matt and his wife Kristin call this, The Gretchen Show. My prediction: performer.

One of the hardest aspects of my brain tumors has been missing three years of the miracle of these nieces and nephews growing up. Throughout the experience, I have not feared death—only the loss of my sense of self—but I have been sad at the thought of my death and of the things I would miss, the miracles of all these nieces and nephews growing into people I cannot predict.

Love, Auntie Mary

Friday, July 9, 2010

Summer #12: Vacation

Summer #12: I'm going to take a couple of weeks off to spend some time with my family, collecting ideas for the blog and giving you a chance to catch up on reading and comments, as you wish. See you at the end of July! Mary

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer #10: No Matter What

Summer #10: After fifteen years of hiding the truth of her sexual orientation from her family, my friend Kari came out to her family last week. One night she dreamed that she was in bed with lots of IVs in her, and then the IVs started sucking the blood from her. She awoke and thought, "Something is sucking the life out of me." The next morning she called her family.

All of us in the gay community know how hard it is to come out and how hard it is not to come out. We know people who have been disowned by families and friends, dismissed from jobs, harassed by church members, bosses, and neighbors. Coming out is scary, but this is a happy story. Kari's mom said just the right thing: "We love you. We will always love you. You will always be our child. No matter what."

My mom said just the same thing. When I called my college friend Sara (who's also a lesbian, so I'm not sure why I was so afraid), I told her I had to tell her something, and I wasn't sure she'd want to be my friend anymore. Then I sobbed so hard I couldn't get a word out. On the other end of the line, a patient Sara said, "Did you kill someone? Because if you killed someone, I still love you. I will always love you. No matter what."

This is a good speech to memorize, just in case. Because, believe me, you never know. Mary

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer #9: 'Tis a gift to br simple.

Summer #9: My godson Sam, Ann, my sister-in-law Kristin and my nephew Hayden all have birthdays in the next couple of weeks. They will be a combined 128 years old. Fortunately, we have a family tradition of giving gifts only evey other Christmas, so we'll celebrate with cake and Pin the Tale on the Donkey but don't have to wrap.

I guess the main idea of celebrating birthdays is celebrating the gift of life. That, of course, is the best gift, but the second best gift I think I ever received was a silk white rose on a plastic stem. My African-American student Rosa brought it to me a few years after I'd had her in class. "This reminded me of you," she said. "It's white and symbolizes peace and harmony and all that stuff you believe in." I keep it in a vase at school under a quotation from the Buddha that was a gift from another student: "If we could oly see the miracle of a single flower blooming, our whole lives would change." As my students would say in their most appreciative whispers, "That's deep."

My best gifts through the years have been my students, and sometimes they hav brought me symbolic gifts that mean so much to me. My student Tressa once gave me a paper mache yellow and blue sun. I hang it in my office wherever I go. It was several years before I realized the sun's face is Tressa's face. For that, I like it all the more.

Last week I received a birth notice from my previous student Molly: a beautiful little girl. When I last saw Molly, she was a high school freshman. Since then she's graduated from college, taught English at two high schools, gotten married and is now having a child. A couple of weeks ago, my previous student Chancy visited. Chancy, like Molly, is teaching English and is an amazing spirit. It's such a gift to me that they and others keep in touch--a signal that jsut as so many of them stay in my heart for years after they've left my classroom, perhaps I stay in their hearts, too. In the wake of this tumor and my inability to teach in the classroom anymore, this gift feels all the more poignant.

Even though I think the expression, "It's better to give than to receive" is trite, it's also true. One of the best gifts I ever gave was a tub of Vaseline to my brother in acknowledgement that he has reached the age of colonoscopies. Anoher exceptional gift was the gift of college scholarships to four Somalie graduates of the high school where I last taught. I wish I could give such fine gifts all the time, but genuis strikes only so often. I hope Ann likes her birthday present.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer #8: I heart grits.

Summer #8: Finally, the month of Junuary here in Seattle has passed, so maybe we can get on to our beautiful Northwest summer. Though Seattle feels like home to me, I have not yet adjusted to cold and cloudy April-May-June weather. As a Southerner, I know that June should be in the 90s, both in terms of temperature and humidity.

Growing up in the South, from time to time someone would say to me, "You don't seem like a Southerner." Maybe that was code for, "You seem like a lesbian," but I never seemed like a Southerner to myself either. In my advancing age, though, I recognize my Southernness. I heart grits. I love a good story and know that hyperbole, more than precision, reveals a narative's truth. My favorite places are the white sandy beaches and blue-green waters of the North Carolina coast. I have a healthy respect for lightening and do not shower or talk on the phone during a thunderstorm, like some fools here in the Northwest do. I love the banjo in bluegrass music and feel at home in a church. Steel magnolias, strong Southern women, are my role models. In the Southern woods, I am aware of the dangers of tics and copperheads.

Like many of my immigrant students, I have two homes. I am a Southerner, but I am a Northwesterner, too. Years ago, at an education conference, a Boston speaker stopped to comment on my fleece and Birkenstocks: "You're dressed like a stereotype, aren't you?" this bow-tied, round-eyed glasses Yankee said to me. I laughed at the irony of it. I suspect he interpreted my laughter as an acknowledgement of how clever and observant he was. I dress like a Northwesterner. I eat my tofu and organic Spinach. I march for immigrant rights, Martin Luther King and gay pride. I protest war. I remain seated in my two-inch high chair at outdoor concerts, even in the rain. I love folk music. I wear gortex and sensible shoes. My favorite places are the blooming hillsides reaching towards snow-capped Mount Rainier. In the Northwestern woods, I watch for bears.

Not only am I bicultural, but I'm bilingual, too. I know that in the South "ya'll" is always plural and in the Northwest, "liberal" has a positive connotation. Imagine that. Mary

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer #7: Calendar Conundrum

Summer #7: Last week I called the hair salon three times in five minutes to make an appointment to get my hairs cut. The first time, I made an appointment for Friday at 11 a.m. Then I realized I had a massage then. I called right back and changed the appointment to Saturday at 11 a.m. Then I realized I'm having brunch with my friend Ms. Marion then. I called right back and moved the appointment to Saturday at 2 p.m. When I gave the receptionist my name for the third time, she laughed. If I have plans with you Saturday at 2 p.m. could you let me know and could we reschedule? I siimply cannot call that woman back again.

I don't think I'm experiencing any serious cognitive effects from the surgery and radiation, but maybe this calendar thing is a sign to me. A few weeks ago, I did the exact same thing in scheduling a massage. The receptionist there just laughed, too. I feel grateful for the sense of humor.

Maybe it's just that I'm trying to keep too many dates in my mind because Ann, in cleaning up, recycled the calendar. (I don't really know that. I just like to hear her say, "I did not.") I am, however, holding a lot of dates in my mind. For our family trip to the beach, for example, here are the dates in my mind:
thursday night: mary and ann arrive at rdu
friday: kristin, hayden, lucie and gretchen arrive in raleigh
friday night: brother matt arrives at rdu
saturday: brother matt's family, mary and ann, and mom and dad drive to the beach and jennifer, isabella, jack and willie drive to the beach from ny
sunday night: birthday bash for ann, kristin and hayden
monday afternoon: matt, kristin, hayden, lucie and gretchen go to figure 8
wed: todd and sam arrive at the beach
saturday: todd, jack and willie return to ny; jennifer and isabella go to florida; mary, ann, dad and sam go to winston salem; mom goes home
tuesday: mary and ann fly out of rdu; we don't care what the rest of you do after that.

Maybe it's a calendar conundrum, or maybe my family is just too complicated. Or maybe Ann shouldn't recycle the calendar until the year is out. Just maybe. Mary

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer #6: None of us has died.

Summer #6: Our nonegenarian neighbor Annabella called last night and asked something she had asked before. When I answered, she said, "I had not forgotten, but it got forgotten." Usually passive voice makes me cringe, but her awareness made me laugh.

My least favorite uses of passive voice are, "You will be missed," and "You are loved." It's like the speaker does not want to take responsiblility for missing or for loving me. At first I thought this use of the passive voice was a way to avoid an insult: "I won't miss you, but someone else probably will." Now I think this is just how some people talk, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe no one misses me or loves me, but each person just assumes someone else does. This thought leaves me feeling suddenly insecure.

Insecurity is not a good trait for teachers of teenagers. At the beginning of my final year of teaching, when my freshmen were being somewhat rude one day, one student asked me if I ever cried in front of my students. I know that sometimes more insecure teachers cry out of frustration, and I knew she was asking if I cried out of frustration, but I thought about it. "Yes," I said, "I always cry when a student dies." This student, surprised by my response, asked, "Have you ever had a student die?" And I responsed, "Oh yes. Most years, someone dies." This is hard, but it's true. At the end of first semester, when we were brainstorming all we had to celebrate, students listed progress like, "We are better writers" and "We are like brothers and sisters for each other," and one student added, somewhat hesitantly, "None of us has died." They all nodded solemnly.