Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ups and Downs, Ups and Downs

When I was in elementary school, a teacher read my class a book that followed the pattern "Fortunately. . . Unfortunately." It was like this one--and maybe it was that one, but the copyright date doesn't seem right. Anyhoo, cribbing from Amazon's description of that book, the plot went something like this:

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.

Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.

Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.
Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

Lately my life has seemed to be a big, disjointed narrative of Fortunately. . . Unfortunately. . .

Some episodes:

I get a nasty head/chest cold. I begin to recover. Then I get a second round. Then I begin to recover again, but with a twist--my head and chest are clear but I have all the tiredness of a mononucleosis victim. Plus: insomnia! Today, in fact, is the first day in a while that I've had enough energy to make it through the day intellectually and physically intact.

Today I turned in a grant application I've been working on for months. Yay! I've even come to grips with the university's indirect cost rate scaling down the project to the point where it's a bit embarrassing. I even found the strength to correct the grants guy when he called the $50,000 grant proposal "small." (Those of you in the sciences may not realize that a grant over, oh, $3500 is pretty damn big for a humanist.) And then, just as I think I have all my ducks in a row, I learn there's another form specific to my university--a big, complicated one--that I need to get filled out and double-signed. And no, my first thought was not, "What the fuck am I paying indirect costs of $19,500 for if the grants folk aren't going alert me to the fact that I need to fill out this friggin' form?" Fortunately, the grants folks are actually quite nice, and this was in the big scheme of things a small oversight, and they'll help me get it filled out quickly.

Lucas starts kindergarten in the fall. Unfortunately, our local elementary school is kind of sketchy. I'm not one to look at test scores, but let's just say a 50% drop in boys' reading proficiency between kindergarten and first grade raises a red flag--especially when that decline isn't mirrored throughout the district. Fortunately, Lucas earned lucky #13 (of ~150) in the lottery for one of the area's best-regarded charter schools, the one to which local hippies and commies (read: the professoriate) long to send their kids. Unfortunately, through the whims of fate (read: large Idaho families + priority for siblings of current students), even #13 might not be a good enough number to get him into the school. We'll know within a couple of weeks. Keep your fingers crossed for us, OK? As Fang has detailed on his blog, Lucas has been running into a number of budding sociopaths in his preschool, and we'd really prefer that he fall in with the kind of kids whose parents are serious about sending them to a great school, even if it's in what's widely acknowledged as Boise's armpit.

Then there's Utah. That post was a way for me to come to grips with the fact that a doctor found a giant tumor in my 87-year-old grandmother. In her colon. Because her primary care physician is (literally, alas) in a coma and thus no one had pointed out to her that her symptoms might indicate a cancer-scale problem--which means she hadn't had a colonoscopy in, well, ever. Fortunately, the surgeon thought he could excise the tumor, do a temporary colostomy, and reconnect the remaining parts of the colon. Unfortunately, he found the tumor is cancerous, the cancer has metastasized to her liver and pancreas, and the primary tumor is inoperable because of scar tissue from an apparently botched hysterectomy from 40 years ago. The surgeon gives her two years to live.

I'll write a blog post about my grandmother when I have the emotional strength to do so. For now let's just say that I've always marveled at her strength and good humor, and that my grandmother has not just been a caretaker and adviser to me, but also a very good friend. Even today, just a couple days after her surgery, even though she'd had family and doctors and nurses and physical therapists visiting her all day long, she was chatty and even optimistic. We talked and laughed for 25 minutes--and this is a woman who recently found out she's terminally ill and had just hours before learned how to empty the colostomy bag that she'll use for the rest of her life. I love the woman dearly, and I'm having a very difficult time being so far away from her.

This geographical angst has been made even worse by Idaho politics. I love my job dearly, and what little I've seen of this state is achingly beautiful in that wind-scrubbed arid intermountain way. I do plan to stay here for a long time. Yet recent events have made me regret, just a little, putting so much distance between me and California.

Share your own Fortunately. . . Unfortunately. . . scenarios in the comments. It's good to know I'm not alone on this roller coaster.


My Blogs ... said...

Try flipping the sequence in order to focus on the positives -- Unfortunately .... Fortunately .... It helps bear the burdens. Lots of prayers out there for your grandmother.

Innisfree said...

Sorry to hear about your grandmother. Maybe two years will turn into longer? We can hope.

Laura said...

Oh, Leslie, I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother.

I know how you feel about being away from family and friends. I swear I was pissed off for the first two years we moved here. At least the politics here are good, mostly.

fairbetty said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother's illness... and I hope that you can find the strength to make this stage in your life and her's as special as you can. Life is precious.

My fortunately unfortunately.... My father, his wife, and her daughter were supposed to come visit and see NYC with me this week. Unfortunately, my father hurt his knee and was going to have a hard time walking around the city... which was stressing me out, because all our plans had to do with walking around the city. Fortunately (unfortunately?) the dr. told him he shouldn't travel right now because of his injury, thus relieving my stress (and his) about the trip's activities... Unfortunately his wife and daughter (whom I have no semblance of a relationship with) are still coming without him!!! Sigh...

Not as dramatic as yours, maybe, but still ulcer inducing for me.

Noel said...

I think that book is Fremont institution.

What Now? said...

Oh dear -- I'm sorry about your grandmother's medical news. Sounds like she's quite a woman.

Best of luck with Lucas's school options.

Jeff said...

I like what TutuBonnie wrote, and I'll add this:

Unfortunately, you're going through a lot of shit now.

Fortunately, you've got a ton of people here and in the real world who care about you a whole bunch and who you can call on anytime for support and encouragement. And I mean anytime.

Susan M said...

Well shit, that is just awful! (Is emoting helpful?) I'm so sorry about your grandma's news. I've never spent much time with her but I remember the way you've always talked about her, and she seems like such a caring, vibrant person.

Speaking of emoting, I learned a trick the other day that's kinda hokey but also rather refreshing: I wrote on a paper bag (including pictures) all the things I was angry about regarding my mother's death and then blew the bag up and popped it. Beats throwing the tv, I guess.

Another thing that I'm glad about, looking back, is that several years ago I wrote out all the ways my mom had been a good influence on me during my life, and gave it to her for Yom Kippur. She loved it, and I know she read it over several times over the years. It was a present I'm so glad I gave her, even if the love I expressed in it wasn't exactly news to her.

So there's my tiny bag of tricks, for what it's worth. Please do let me know if there's anything I can do to help you or the family.

Susan M said...

Btw, my "bag of tricks" wasn't meant to be prescriptive, just, you know, possible tools to share. :)

sciwo said...

I'm so sorry about your grandmother and the difficulties of sorting out Lucas's education.

Fortunately, you did identify the right book. I know, because we're about the same age, and I have my childhood copy of the book - now one of Minnow's favorites.

carrieoki said...

Came upon your blog today by accident while searching for dream boards. Sorry that your Grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. How is she doing?
I see you must be a political progressive, or at least not a Republican. That stuff that happened in WI and other states really blows. I live in a blue area of my state. Unfortunately, too many folks sat out the 2010 election, & we're saddled w/ a Republican governor. People need only to take a few tiny chunks out of their week to #educate themselves #educate others #vote in all elections. What a difference we could make! I can be found on Twitter @conga1