Life Beyond

Winter on the Homefront

Winter on the Homefront

Hello from an Airbus 330,

I am sitting in Row 48 in die Flug und im Berlin-Tegel Flughafen. As we leave the gate and taxi toward the runway, my thoughts begin to consider the next days and, it is certainly unfortunate that I must already see Poland as a memory. However, what a wonderful few days it has been. Robert is correct when he noted that I need to come back for at least two weeks and more likely a month. If I am able to accomplish such a study trip, I need to consider going also to Vienna and then to the area in the Sudetenland where Lydia first lived. I probably need to do some other reading about the Polish resistance as well as what the exiled Czech government did to those of German (Austrian) and Hungarian descent. Yesterday at Auschwitz it occurred to me that the Hungarian people have probably suffered as much as single group of people in WWII. Again as I mentioned in my last blog, I am mortified by what we do to each other and supposedly we are the one creature in creation that understands compassion. I am reminded of a book I once used in class titled The Compassionate Beast. Perhaps it is the oxymoron in the title that reveals this ability.

It is now Tuesday morning and I am awake even though it is only 6:00 a.m. My surprise is when I finally crawled into bed about 10:45, my internal clock was at 4:45 a.m. I have to admit the last 30 miles were perhaps the longest 30 miles I have ever driven. I had the sun roof open and the radio cranked up and I am still sure I found that I had closed my eyes a half dozen times. Not good. I ran to the diner for a smaller breakfast (seriously) and now I am going to try to tackle all the things on my plate that need to be managed here in Bloomsburg before I am on a plane again tomorrow; this time for Salt Lake City and two days of meetings. I had to smile wistfully as it is snowing and cold here this morning and on my original calendar, the event for tomorrow that popped up was Republica Dominicana. Last summer it was planned that the Galáns and I would be returning there with a chance for the entire family to go (Melissa and Jordan have not been there since they were very small). For a variety of reasons that trip has been postponed. Tomorrow they are forecasting significantly cold wind chills (-40F) in some areas. At least I think it will be better in SLC. I have to catch up with my colleague and see if he is willing to run me to Philly to catch the plane. Oh yeah, and I think I still have to make a hotel reservation. On Friday night I am flying to Sacramento and then going up to Placerville for a few days. I will use that time to concentrate on my second semester syllabi, continuing to work on my new class prep, and putting things into BOLT. If I can work solid for about 5 days and relax in the Crush Pad, I think it might be just want needs to happen before I continue to try to tackle all the things that are coming in the next days and weeks.  All of that being said, being in the Dominican Republic when it is so cold outside my window would have been a nice thing.

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Lydia is no longer terrorizing the poor caregivers at COH, trying to hit them, punch them, bite them, swear at them, or whatever else she might have done. I watched her do this from time to time. I have tried to imagine what my demeanor might be should I be afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. I am hoping that I would be a nice person, but as I have noted Lydia used to tell me I had a shit temper. I must say it does take a lot to get me to respond in anger, but I have learned to do it more appropriately. It is actually Epiphany (and Christmas for Orthodox believers) and the last day of the Christmas season. I think I need an epiphany at times to help me understand how the world works. The last two weeks have been more of a roller coaster than I think I have experienced in a very long time, but I guess that is to be expected. This morning I read one my past (and will still be in the future) student’s blogs and she is such a wise person. Understanding that we are responsible for our own happiness is a wise thing. I am back after some time on the phone with the attorney; there is a lot to work on and manage, but it is merely one step at a time. I heard this song again this morning and in  so many ways it expresses what I hope Lydia knows and what I feel (and always will, about, and for, her.

While I am not a resolution maker, I am a reflecting and pondering person. If you have been reading this blog for a while, or if this is your first time, that should not surprise you. While I often say that so many people need to turn their brains on, there are times I wish I could turn mine off. Yet, as Sr. Galán notes, too many people are unwilling to think and allow others to make decisions that affect them without any consideration. He is so correct. The only way we can move beyond things is to reflect and learn from them. If we begin to truly understand and comprehend a situation, then we can actually manage it. Thinking and understanding also keeps us from being victimized (note, I did not say victim). Indeed we are often the victim of circumstances, but if we are to move beyond it and to refuse to allow it to victimize us, we can continue on with our lives. Again, I think of Lydia and George. After visiting Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau this past week, it would have been easy for George to feel victimized by his political incarceration at Dachau, but he did not. In fact, after his escape, rather than go somewhere safe, he returned to Poland to fight Hitler again. George and Lydia could have felt victimized by their immigration to the United States and the consequence of having to begin yet again. Instead, they had no such plan, they set out to create a life for themselves. I know that I wrote about George’s saying, recounted to me by Lydia, “we are too poor to by cheap (sic)”. They knew and dealt with the consequence of coming to this country with not much more than a suitcase, but they never saw it as, nor allowed it to be, a detriment to their moving beyond their situation.

Too often I hear a student blame the professor, or their parent, or (you fill in the blank) for their situation or for their poor performance. There is little realization that their lack of consistency or their waiting until the last minute or their failure to either take notes or even go to class might have some impact on where he or she is. There is the belief that as long as they pass, it is good enough. When they move beyond this place called college, a place where they are still more spoon-fed than they might realize, the reality of not doing their work or putting in a reasonable effort will come back to haunt them. I am thinking of a particular student I had last semester, who was a nice person, but did not come to class, missing more than 7 classes, did not turn in some assignments, and then did not make a portfolio accessible, which is grounds for failure in and of itself, wanted me to justify why I failed him for the course. There are those who believe if they just work hard the last two weeks that should make up for 12 weeks of slacking. I did hear at least to some extent about the grades of the six students, each of them to a greater or lesser degree, I see as my surrogate kids. Four of them were on the dean’s list, one did quite well and the final one got by. I think they are all capable of dean’s list, but 4 out of 6 makes me very happy. Not that they need my approval, that I know, but I am glad to hear things are going so well. The three of the four on dean’s list are seniors and that is a really nice thing to see when employers start considering resumes and potential employees. While it is so easy to think that a particular class (usually a foundational or general education class does not matter, nothing could be more untrue. Not so much because of the particular grade you earn, but rather because of what you did or did not learn. A few blogs ago I noted that I had misplaced a number of items. Well yesterday, after and reordering a new debit card. I found my old one in a jacket pocket. The only think I have not recovered at this point is , of course, the think I most want to find: a second set of car keys. The key is expensive to reorder in the realm of hundreds of dollars. I know if I order it I will find it, but I do not want to spend that money.

It is now Wednesday morning and I was up at 1:00 a.m., once again headed to the airport for a flight to Salt Lake City. I took two extended naps yesterday to try to fight off a sore throat that seems much more prevalent this morning. This is not something I need. Yet, I imagine the past two weeks have taken their toll. As I was driving to the airport, I realized it is my grandmother Louise’s birthday today. She would be 102. Happy Birthday, Grandma. Our flight is a bit delayed, but nothing too terrible. I’m grateful as always for Mark. He got up very early to escort me to the airport. He and I always have great conversations. Last night I had an opportunity to see Shiama. It was wonderful to catch up with her and chat. I had not realized the last time she was by the house was when she and Melissa had dinner together. That seems so long ago and so much has happened. I guess that is the reality of our lives. We are constantly moving, sometimes beyond things and other times into things. Two weeks a go I was holding a vigil at Lydia’s bedside and it was Christmas Eve. Last week, I was in Poland and getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve with Robert and Katarzyna. This week, my life had significantly changed again and by the day’s end I will be in Utah and working on projects for the upcoming semester

We are always moving beyond.

Thanks for reading, as always.

Michael

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