I have been absent from my blog much longer than I planned. My last blog about Words impacted me in unexpected ways and I found myself contemplating how my blog words could affect others. That thought brought with it a certain vertigo, a new awareness of my responsibility as a writer, and an inquiry as to the purpose of my writing. So I come back today with a new awareness and an even greater love and respect for my craft.
You know how it is in contemplation, how one thing leads to another. I thought about the people who have touched me with their words in my life. Many came to mind, but three in particular did so quite vividly. Three people that I have not been in touch with for a long time. I would like to share them with you tonight.
I waited fifteen years between my undergraduate degree and my graduate degree because of fear. I had successfully completed a grueling double major in Education and Psychology while raising three children who were twenty months apart. I graduated when they were eight, six, and four years old and became a grade school teacher. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA, not shabby by any means. But I did so without having to take any “serious” math.
Numbers are as foreign to me as words are familiar. I can balance my checkbook and follow a recipe. something I do only occasionally as my husband loves to cook, but I am terrible at keeping records, calculating mileage (as proven in my recent IRS audit) and the thought of taking a math course is cause for major anxiety.
I always knew that I wanted to be a counselor, a psychotherapist, wanted to be in private practice, or do medical social work. I also knew that in order to do so I would have to pass two semesters of Statistics. Numbers. Never mind that I would have to take the GRE standardized test with its mathematical component. One day I decided to go for it. My math scores were risible, but my language skills saved the day and my GRE scores were sufficient to get admitted to a very competitive program at the University of Louisville. So it was that after having avoided the dreaded Statistics, I found myself in the office of Dr. Ruth Huber.
I had missed the first class and Dr. Huber was explaining the curriculum. Not only would I have to deal with NUMBERS, but I would have to deal with COMPUTERS. Dr. Huber invited me to sit at her computer and tears began to run down my cheek. I had divorced a Systems Analyst but knew not a thing about computers except for my Word program to which I had succumbed once convinced that it was to my advantage to leave behind my beloved typewriter.
So there I sat, feeling incompetent and mortified by my tears, when Dr. Huber began to tell me HER story, and inspire me with her own overcoming. She encouraged me through both semesters, and in the end I fell in love with Statistics. Dr. Huber taught my husband a few semesters later, and shortly after that became the head of the Social Work doctoral program. Her commitment to me as my teacher and mentor far surpassed her “duty”, and her words of empowerment and encouragement, her belief in my ability and my power to change my life, were key in a much deeper transformation. We moved away from Louisville many years ago, but she has always been on my mind. A few days ago I looked for her and found her on Facebook. Again her words, those precious “things” reached out to me. “I think of you and Ken with pride”. Wow! You are NEVER too old to hear that from someone you really admire. You are NEVER too old to be gifted with love and kindness. I can’t help but think how many other students she must have touched in so many years, but I am deeply grateful for her remembrance.
There was another professor who touched my life during that time. Her name is Dr. Jacalyn Claes. I reached out to her also.
Every one of her classes was an adventure in learning about the subject and in coming into my own. She was aware of the power of gender and race and embraced them both as she learned her own life lessons. She was smart, challenged my way of looking at the world… I never wanted her classes to end and I loved spending time in her presence. Her words healed my womanhood and my ethnic disquietude. In her presence I felt accepted and in her recognition of my talent I felt affirmed. She is largely responsible for my success as a therapist. These two women made me see my talent and my value as a human being. Now they are both back in my life, my new Facebook friends.
The last person I reconnected with was not my teacher in a school, and she might be surprised to see herself as a teacher in my life.
I shared with you in one of my blogs that my friend Linda had passed away. When I was in boarding school, a recently arrived Pedro Pan, Linda attended day school in my school. Her family welcomed me as their own, and in their home I learned of an uncommon love within their family as Linda and I grew as close as sisters. Linda passed away, another one of our women taken away by dreaded breast cancer metastasis. I lost touch with her sister, Mary Ann Rovai. Mary Ann was older than Linda and I, and she was a newlywed when I first met her. Her mother’s daughter, she was absolutely gorgeous, and full of grace. She was gentle and kind, and seemingly unruffled. She was accepting of this Cuban girl who suddenly appeared in the midst of her family, and as she herself became a mother, Linda and I became aunts to her lovely daughter Vicky. Mary Ann is all that is left of the amazing family who gave my heart and body shelter when I needed it most. And I just found her again, another Facebook friend.
Angels in our midst, all three of these women, who shared words of wisdom, words of love, words of acceptance, words of encouragement, and who enriched my own life beyond words creating a world in which I could find the confidence to go forth in my own vision. I thank you all with all my heart and humble words.