Of all the many blessings I take for granted on a daily basis, my health is definitely a list-topper. I'm in shape, I have the use of all my facilities, and I average a cold about once a year (knock on wood). Like Joni Mitchell , it takes losing my health to remind me how good I've had it.
I started off this week with a bang when a mere open blister on the bottom of my foot went from mildly irritating to debilitating pain in one school day. By the time I hobbled into my house at 3:30 P.M., an angry red streak was wrapping around the top of my foot and starting to snake up my shin. Having watched enough medical shows in my time (and harboring a functional case of hypochondria, I might add) I high-tailed it to the Emergency Room where once glance at my foot by the intake nurse was enough to let me bypass some other people in the waiting room. One more glance by the physician on duty confirmed I had cellulitis--or a skin infection. It was serious enough that I was warned if the infection continued to spread after being treated at the E.R., I would have to come back and be admitted overnight.
While I sat on the bed waiting for an IV of anbiotics and the excruciating draining of the wound, a couple things came to mind.
The first: This whole "being in the E.R." thing was really cramping my style.
Upending my original plans for the evening--making dinner, working out, and meeting up with someone--for a medical issue was a major bummer. That I couldn't go about life as usual, as I saw fit, seemed like a downright injustice. I was suddenly a heck of a lot more grateful about the 98% of my existence that runs at status quo.
The second, and what's really stuck with me this week: Miss T. can't be sick.
I envisioned, briefly, how things would have played out if my situation had been more dire and I had to be admitted immediately that night. My day's worth of emergency plans were out of date. I could contact Annie and relay her my plans, but having her or my aides collect the materials would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. The best a substitute could do was attempt to keep the students busy with educational games or busy work, and that would probably only hold the fort down for the first ten minutes. Realistically, my absence for one or two days would not spell out doom for my classroom, but just imagining the inevitable unruliness that comes with lack of structure and my inability to control it, made me shudder.
Now, I'm well aware of my own neurosis regarding control, but I also know that the control gene is engrained in the greater half of every teacher who's lived. Teachers have historically been addressed as Master for a reason. Even the worst of them have some sort of command over their students, solely based on the fact they dictate kids' lives for 7 hours a day, 9 months out of the year. Couple this with a teacher's knowledge of every procedure, every rule, every lesson, every in and out of the classroom, and you've got somebody who's pretty hard to replace at a moment's notice.
If an educator has any sense of duty and responsibility, she's going to cringe at the thought of abandoning her post. I've seen countless coworkers dragging their feet down the hall a few shades paler than usual, eyes glazed over, coughing up a lung. Despite the urging of their colleagues to go home and and get some rest, they plow forward, determined to get to the end of the day in the name of finishing up the unit on verbs, or helping a failing student at lunch. They can't live with the thought of throwing in the towel, even if they're halfway dead. On the occasional days they face facts and surrender, it's not uncommon to see them crawling in at the beginning or end of the day, half dressed, to get affairs in order. Sometimes I think it would take detaching a teacher's head from her body (or perhaps a gangrene foot?) to stop her from coming in.
Sounds like a sickness all in its own, no? Ah, well. Right now I'm just thankful that I dodged a bullet and am on my way to another week of perfect attendance.