By Corinne Wnek
I know I have no reason to complain. Even if I did squawk about not getting all those little projects done that I promised myself would NOT go undone this summer, no one would listen. As a professional educator who has the summer off, I’m used to it. Like Rodney Dangerfield, I, too, get no respect. My only defense is that I am a victim of my occupation. Still, life in the summertime for me is not entirely lazy days on the deck sipping my favorite iced tea while the rest of the world goes to work.
I always promise myself that all those little projects that I don’t seem to have time for during the school year will be at the top of the to do list as soon as the last student leaves the building in June. The problem is that there are now so many of these so called ‘little’ projects that I have put off that suddenly it turns into one great big chore. Tackle this huge mess on my summer break? I’d rather have my other hip replaced. But one of the designated projects of summer I have even titled ‘the ceremony of the gathering of the photographs’. During the year, any pictures that are taken and developed get put into a general photo box labeled with a year on it. Sorry, when I’m working during the year, that’s the best I can do.
But come the good old summertime, this box gets pulled out, usually on one of those gloomy, rainy days when you actually want to stay inside, and now I can see that I have my work cut out for me. Funny, I don’t remember that many pictures accumulating all year. Where did these come from? Who is this? When was that one taken? So, I make my best guestimate about the dates and the people in the pictures, take a last look at it and file it moving on to the next bunch of memories. Now, I’m on a mission to get this job done before the sun begins to shine again and the UV factor is just right to give me that “Yes, I’ve been away to the islands” look.
Just then the phone rings and I’m torn whether to answer it or let it go to voicemail because I don’t want to lose momentum. After all, it is starting to lighten up outside. But I do answer the phone. It’s my cousin and since we don’t speak very often, I’m actually happy for this interruption.
But in a flash my lightheartedness turns to shock and disbelief as she tell me that mutual friends of ours have lost their twenty-three year old daughter to a heredity disease that also took the life of her younger sister many years ago at age sixteen. Pulmonary hypertension. It sounds so treatable or like something middle- aged people get. Yet, I learn there is no cure for this monster that attacks the heart and lungs of young adults and usually antes up only three to four years of life from the point f diagnosis. No amount of sunshine outside could penetrate the unearthly darkness of losing a child. This is every parent’s nightmare.
After hanging up with promises to let me know about the funeral arrangements I stopped my work for a while to make some tea. Why did this have to happen again? Age twenty-three? How do you bear a tragedy if this magnitude? The tea isn’t helping and I can’t get past this loss of a young life.
Later on that afternoon, the sun is out in full force calling to me that I’m missing a great tanning day. But I’m content to continue on with my picture project. Only now, I’m looking at this chore differently, reflecting a little more slowly on who I am looking at. The people that have been captured in time suddenly seem more precious to me. They’re not just a picture or old memory anymore. They’re real, live people in my life that probably don’t know how special they really are to me and how much they will be missed when they are gone. I need to fix that right away.
In spite of the bad news I got, I’m really glad I took that phone call. Sunny days are a little over rated anyway.
Look for Corinne Wnek’s column, “The Writer’s Block,” every Friday online at NJTODAY.NET
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