Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Early Fall and a Season of Hope

It kind of snuck up on us.
It surely hasn’t felt like fall, though we have finally experienced a bit of a respite from last week’s blazing heat. Nonetheless, the cool, crisp days of autumn are probably still weeks and weeks away.
For me, the thought of hot, stuffy classrooms, back-to-school sweaters and the brand new, stiff-as-a-board blue jeans my mother used to subject me to just makes me sweat.
Because, yes, school is starting.
Things have changed since we used to finish the school year before Memorial Day and then enjoyed three full months of sweet freedom before heading back to the classroom after Labor Day. Part of it, I guess, had to do with the greater number of smaller farms still in operation back in the day. Spring and fall were busy times, and farm kids were a big part of the agricultural workforce. Like many things, that’s changed, too, with fewer family farms, more mechanization and later harvest times to boot.
Our local school districts operate under the auspices of regulations approved by state legislators that mandate longer school calendars to, I suppose, balance out the crazy collection of school holidays that pop up through the fall, winter and spring. But, despite the preparation and best efforts of our teachers, I’m not sure much real education occurs during the first heat-soaked days of late August.
One of us (the smart, pretty one) is experiencing something new this year. As a newly retired teacher, she is NOT going back to school for the first time since she toddled off to kindergarten sometime back in the last century.
Is she sorry?
Well, she says she’ll miss the kids and her co-workers. But she woke up with a smile on her face when the school bell rang this week.
An interesting feature on Tuesday morning’s Today Show told about cash-strapped schools that are requiring parents to provide non-traditional items like ziplock bags, paper towels, bleach...and toilet paper. This added financial burden is in addition to “normal” school supply lists that read like the shipping manifest for the invasion of Normandy. In addition, an Indiana-based friend recently lamented a set of school-required, non-insured inoculations for her kids that will run around $700.
Yikes. I guess free education isn’t always so free after all.
Galva marked last weekend and the end of summer in its own special way. Galva Day, which got its start as a Friday men’s-only golf play day back in the 50’s, now includes both men and women at two area courses. The event is still held on Friday, and is, often enough, a tribute to the patience of golf course superintendents, committee members and more-accomplished linksters, as a significant number of career duffers choose that Friday to tee it up for the only time during the season. The day kicks off a weekend filled with fun and memories, as many past high school classes celebrate their reunions. My sister pried herself away from her Lake Superior beach home to come to Galva for her 50th, but my younger son was unable to make the trip for his 10th, because--you guessed it--school and football practice were already on tap in North Carolina.
Another annual event happening this past weekend was the Kewanee-based Henry/Stark Relay for Life, which was held on Saturday and Sunday at beautiful Windmont Park. It’s truly a season of hope, as Relays all across the nation raise much-needed funds for the American Cancer Society and its cancer research, plus remember those who have lost their lives to the disease and celebrate the lives of those who survive.
I’m one of them. And I celebrate every year.
It’s been seven years since a doctor said, “I’m sorry,” because he felt I would probably die soon from an aggressive kind of cancer.
It’s been six years since another doctor prescribed a last-ditch drug treatment and said, “all we can do is try to buy you some time,” after surgery failed and the disease spread.
And while there have been additional surgeries and treatments, and times of frustration and pain, it has, in many ways, been the best six years of my life.
Without wanting it to sound too dramatic, the life-changing aspects of my disease have helped to lead me to a new way of living; of doing things, seeing things and feeling things. I have enjoyed the freedom and will to cherish every day as it comes.
Statistically, my cancer is apt to come back some day. But it’s not something that gnaws at me or even worries me very often. Not long after I was diagnosed, I stumbled on a little poem that I quickly printed and put where I could see it during those early, scary days:

Cancer Is so limited
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot invade the soul.
It cannot steal eternal life.
It cannot conquer the spirit.

It is that combination of hope, faith, peace, memories, spirit and, most of all, love, that has made the difference to me, as it does for so many of those who have survived, and for the families and friends of those who haven’t.
Cancer ain’t no big thing.
Because, truly, love conquers all.
And where there’s love, there’s always hope.

1 comment:

  1. That's a great poem....and this was a great post.