Monday, December 31, 2012
Back in the USA.... For Good.
It's a cold Georgia night and I am curled in my overstuffed living room chair. A glass of white wine and a brimming over cupful of black bean soup seasoned with a bit of leftover smoked ham sits next to me on a narrow table. The table serves as my catch-all for everything from unread copies of this year's New Yorker to a printed out story written by a former student of mine. This former student brought me joy yesterday when she visited. She filled me with tales of this, her second year of college at my old Alma Mater. She described her professors and her classes. She talked about what she has learned in her Asian History class. She told me about an opportunity she has to fill a teaching assistant slot next term. I am intensely proud of her, but oh, so envious of what lies ahead of her. This fresh girl, who is a clean slate; tabula rasa. Life will write its story and she will embrace it. To be twenty years old again and know what I know now. But all late middle aged people say that, don't they? It's our litany.
As for what I have learned this year: that I am my family. That they are a large part of who I am. That I cannot exist over 7000 miles away while my father's Alzheimer's steals away the last visages of his soul and his body; his life.
I was supposed to fly back to the UAE this coming up Tuesday. I was to be back at school teaching my 10th and 11th grade girls on January 6. But this won't happen. What I will be doing instead is spending precious minutes and hours with my dad at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. . He will smile at me from time to time. I will bring him home-cooked stews, soups, and casseroles in an effort to tempt his appetite. I will file his nails, massage his feet, try to reach in and grab his memory with my remembrances of our shared past: the family camping trips to Canyon Lake Dam, the afternoons on the beach in Iraklion, the times he would allow me to tag along on his gigs in Texas while he picked his steel guitar, his driving me to seventh grade in a 1957 Chevy and me begging him to PLEASE drop me off a block from school so the other kids wouldn't know my "daddy" was chauffeuring me. I will hug my dad close, hold his hand while he sleeps, play gospel CDs to which he will occasionally hum note for note. I will be here for him the way he was for me when I was a child. I will be here for him because I always knew that my dad loved me. Most of the accomplishments in my life have been driven by my need to make him proud of me. And he was. Always. That's why I'm staying. That's why I will not be on that airplane Tuesday.
I did not out-process in the proper manner, so after January 6th I will technically be classified a "runner" by ADEC. If I had attempted to out-process in the proper manner I probably wouldn't even be sane by the time I landed in the U.S of A. I watched, bewildered and confounded, from the sidelines while another teacher (who had an extreme family emergency) out-processed properly, and it was a nightmare. She spent her last two weeks running from ADEC office to ADEC office; collecting documents from the landlord, the electric company; running from ADEC office to ADEC office again (each office giving her fifteen different sets of instructions); duplicating missing paperwork; taking hours off work to jump through ADEC hoops. A Western admin advised me that just leaving the country, rather than going through the ADEC illogical red tape, was preferable. This was as I suspected and only served to confirm what I already knew. So, I left. I sold what I could, left or gave away what I couldn't, and boarded a plane from Dubai to Atlanta for what was supposed to be a two week Christmas break. But, when I left I had no intention of returning.
During my last month in the UAE I cried myself to sleep almost every night, held my breathe, sent semi-prayers (coming from an avowed agnostic, this is telling) out onto the universe, and tried to bargain with the collective forces of destiny so that my dad would not only be alive when I arrived back in Georgia on December 17th , but that he would remember me. He was. And he did. The universe heard me.
My fellow UAE teachers, forgive me, please. I know it makes it harder for you when a fellow teacher just up and "runs". I hope my students, whom I will miss so very much, will forgive me also. But I am where I need to be. I am home. And my dad smiled at me today.
Posted by Liti