Friday, May 29, 2015

There Were No Eggs Fried In Bacon Grease This Year

If you know me or have read my Facebook posts around Memorial Day for the past 12 to 15 years, you know that on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, my sister, my female-Krause cousins, and my two maternal aunts gather at Auds' house (the matriarch of our tribe, my Grandma Krause) and from there head out to three cemeteries to place flowers and clean up the headstones and make sure everything is in order.
Then we stop at a very small tavern in Red River, drink, play games, jam the jukebox full of dollar bills and head to eat at a supper club. Shawano has got to be the world capital of "supper clubs". I've been eating at them since I can remember.
The highlight of the entire weekend, however, is waking up at Grandma's on Sunday morning to the smell of coffee brewing, bacon frying in her cast iron skillet, toast ready to pop from the toaster, and the sound of my cousins' and aunts' voices laughing and telling stories from Grandma's very cramped kitchen. I usually sleep on the living room couch, and when I wake up, I lay there with my eyes still closed for several minutes, absorbing these sounds, smells and feelings and I try to make damn sure they're imprinted in my memory because listening to what's going on in that kitchen is my personal definition of bliss, of family, and of love.
Once I decide I've got enough sensory information to process, I get up, walk into the kitchen, greet my family, grab a cold can of Coke from the refrigerator and then Grandma asks me, "How do you want your eggs?" As I stated earlier, we've been completing this ritual for well over a decade, but every year she asks. My answer is always the same: "Fried over hard right in that bacon grease." I know she knows this, but she's polite enough to ask every year, just in case I've gone crazy in the past year and changed my mind. The next thing I hear is an egg cracked open on the side of the cast iron skillet, then I hear the cracking of another. Within ten minutes I'm served two eggs, fried over hard, the white edges ragged and brown. The dull, golden yolks as solid as the whites. I grab three strips of bacon from the plate with two paper towels placed on it to soak up some of the grease. I have two pieces of toast with raspberry jam dug into with a spoon instead of a knife; Auds has always used a spoon to serve jam because you can't get enough of it on a knife. This, my friends, is the breakfast of kings...or queens. As soon as I finish eating, I'm already looking forward to eating it again next year. If I ever end up on death row, this will be the last meal I request.
This year was different. It was A LOT different. Even though we all gathered at Grandma's house, placed flowers and cleaned up headstones; stopped at the dinky tavern in Red River and ate at a supper club, there were no eggs fried in bacon grease this year.
On the Tuesday before Memorial Day Weekend, my 86 year old grandmother went into her backyard and picked rhubarb to make me, of all people, rhubarb bars because she knows I love them. Actually, I only love her rhubarb bars. Anything from a bakery is a far-distant second to the magic she bakes. While walking through the yard, she stepped into an uneven divot in her backyard and fell. She fractured her right femur. She laid there for a short time when a stranger walking a dog walked past her on the sidewalk and at her request, knocked on her neighbor's door and her neighbor called for an ambulance. Or the neighbor called my aunt and uncle who live in Shawano. These details I'm unclear on. The result, however, is that she was taken to the hospital in Shawano and then transported to AMC in Appleton. She was admitted to the surgical services floor and cleared for surgery to reset her femur on Wednesday night. She had surgery at approximately 8pm on Wednesday after arriving at AMC at 1:30pm on Tuesday. She had a plate, one screw and one "pin" (which is just medical jargon for a really long screw) placed on her femur and the pin was placed into her pelvic bone. I saw the post-op x-rays and that pin is really long.
On Saturday afternoon, as our tribe was placing flowers and driving from cemetery to cemetery, Grandma was transported from AMC to Maple Lane, a skilled nursing facility (aka nursing home) outside Shawano to rehab her right leg. When I visited her at AMC on Friday, I was lucky enough to be there when her hospitalist (doctors who manage the care of hospitalized patients) came in. The doc was great. She checked her wound, checked her pedal pulses, asked about her pain and anxiety levels. Even though Auds reported feeling "jittery inside" she didn't request anything for her anxiety. When the doc asked if she would like an anti-anxiety medication sent up from pharmacy, Grandma said, "No, I'll be ok." I was sitting behind Grandma shaking my head "yes" so Auds got 0.5mg of Xanax which apparently did the trick because within 15 minutes of swallowing that pill, she was sleeping comfortably and snoring. Before the Xanax discussion, Grandma told the doctor straight up, "I'll do whatever I have to do to get back home."
I don't know how long she'll be in the nursing home. I do know that she's in Occupational and Physical Therapy and working through the pain to reach her goal of being discharged to home.
In years past, when I've unpacked my clothes from our gravehopping weekends after returning home on Sunday, I've been able to smell my grandma's kitchen on my pajamas; the coffee, the toast, and especially the eggs and bacon. Not so this year. My pjs smelled just like they did before I left for Shawano on Saturday morning. That made me sad. The lingering smell was a bit of a tease to look forward to breakfast next year. Although it didn't happen this Memorial Day Weekend, aka gravehopping, I'm doubly looking forward to my fried eggs next year because I'm certain next year, on the Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, my grandma will be in front of the stove, asking me how I'd like my eggs.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

All Your Life, You Were Only Waiting for This Moment to Arise

Monday, May 18th will begin my final two weeks during this school year when I will be seeing PATH clients (the in-school mental health counseling program). The week that starts on Monday, June 1st is scheduled for final exams, turning in Chrome Books, and completing final projects which means that both of the high schools where I see students in Appleton will have funky class schedules, so I won't see students that week: they've got enough to worry about and it would impact them greatly in a negative way if I pulled anyone from a class that's reviewing course material or administering a final exam. Plus, Thursday, June 4th is graduation day and seniors don't have to "report" on Friday, June 5th as underclassmen do.
Last year at graduation time, I had been working in two high schools for the spring semester, one in Appleton and one in Menasha. Now I've been working with some students from two Appleton high schools for a year and a half; that's a significant amount of time to spend with a kid week after week, watching them grow through loss and success, bearing witness to their pain, walking with them through the wretched path that adolescence can sometimes be. I have also had the privilege of encouraging them week after week to make positive decisions for their futures and celebrated with them when they've been accepted to the college they really want to attend, get the scholarship they doubted they'd receive but did, and decide who they want to be and how they want to present themselves as college freshmen.
It's been a process I have trouble putting words to. The resiliency of "my kids" (which is how I refer to them) is astounding. I would challenge anyone who thinks of him- or herself as an adult who can bounce back from any setback. Really? So you would be able to change your gender identity from female to male in high school and tolerate the name-calling, bullying and uncertainty that goes with that decision?  You would be able to have a baby at the start of second semester, create a support network for yourself and your infant child which allows you to complete the school year by attending online school without losing any credits? You would be able to learn emotional regulation and acceptable and unacceptable behavior with technology, all while learning how to communicate effectively with others using sign language, which your own parents don't know or understand?
If you are willing to take on the challenge to live the life of one of my kids for one school semester, a relatively short period of time in one's life, message me on Facebook because I guarantee that you will fail. I know I would and I've been working with these kids for roughly 17 months. I know their secrets, their dreams, their fears, their goals, and who they want to become...and I would fail at "successfully" living any of their lives. Their lives are so much more complicated than mine was as I graduated from high school on June 8, 1989. Good grief, gossip, "rating notes", and sitting with the "cool kids" at lunch was hard enough to navigate 26 years ago without the influence of Snap Chat, Facebook, askfm and Instagram.
When I was in junior high and high school, my parents told me how much "easier" it was for me compared to what they had to endure in the late 1960s while in middle school and high school. I will be the first person to get in line to say that kids in junior high (ok, middle school) and high school now have it MUCH tougher than I or most of my classmates could ever imagine the world would become. In my generation you could tear up a note written on notebook paper. This generation has to live knowing their entire lives are available to anyone willing to search hard enough to find "nude" photos, intimidating comments and bold face lies posted about other people one may have made in a moment of impulsivity or plain bad judgement. An applicant's online presence can be searched by the potential college he or she wishes to attend. Potential employers have the ability to discover what someone may wish was undiscoverable, but is easily found by someone with the required computer skills. Would any of us have changed our behavior if we knew that documentation of our stupidity, immaturity or impulsivity was "unerasable"? I think so. I know I would; but I come at this issue with the knowledge and hindsight of a 44 year old adult, not a 17 year old teen ager.
As this school year comes to a close and as I watch some of my kids walk across that stage to accept their high school diplomas, I will wish them all the best the world can offer them. I will tell them to grab every opportunity presented to them. I will tell them to believe that their best is enough, whether other people acknowledge that or not.
I will tell them to spread their wings and fly.