Tuesday September 6, 2011

Here I sit a week later from the last writing. I can’t even keep up with my own thoughts these says. Last Spring I could not fathom Dave living this long, to see his birthday coming up in a week. February and March brought such a decline in his health the only direction seemed to be down.

Now we coast. I am sure the decision to “not treat” has been the best treatment. Do no harm. I wonder how often continued chemo and other treatments may actually hasten some people’s illness and  downgrade their lives.

September. Since I’ve known him, Dave has always gotten a little excited, a little cache of butterflies fluttering in his belly, like the kid with new school clothes, for the first day of class.  He’d predictably say “wish me luck” on the way out the door to deliver the first words of each new academic year. He’d prepare all the day before like a young professor hoping to make a good impression. It makes me laugh right now; like he’d need luck about something he could recite in his sleep. Yet, each school year was a new beginning.

Until now.

Dave is mourning the loss of his profession, his teacher identity, his school he helped build from the ground up. His dreams reflect stories of not being needed any longer, a classroom that goes on without him. He awakes with new curriculum ideas leaping to the forefront. He still works, and September is a fruitful month.

He received word that his academic program slated in the  2011-12 college catalog was cut from the curriculum. Just disappeared. It would have actually been more honorable, to him, to run it with other competent faculty than to cut it. A strong, solid academic program* stands on its own. The people — faculty and students — are what make each year dynamic and unique. The structure is a foundation; people raise the walls and design the interiors. The building footprint can be configured numerous ways.

Dave and I have had countless conversations about the processes and effectiveness of group teaching and learning over the years, the hub of which is small group seminars. As I built the SFH writing program I intuitively recreated the model of an Evergreen seminar with its ebb and flow of self discovery and peer support. We’ve dissected “the magic” that is inherent in this particular process. He, nor I, ever tire of seeing how the “aha moments” unfold when learning is transferred from the leader to the individual who takes on a personal sense of responsibility for his or her education or life’s direction. This experience as a student, many years ago now, still resonates in who I’ve become and what I do. Dave has repeated this life cycle of the academic year his entire life. (He started school in kindergarten and never left!)

Dave is no longer the magician.

I can only sit, watch and listen. He has to grapple with this one alone. He hasn’t finished his work in his mind, much less his heart. He was still having fun. He wants to still have fun now. Unfairness rears its ugly head again.

I can’t deem where to go on this writing; I do like to come full circle and make conclusions, or find solace in moving through, feeling through, whatever the problem I pose. Ironically, I suppose, the conclusion is that I can’t go on here. This is Dave’s worry. I can only sit, watch and listen. So, I do.

*Evergreen offers students a nontraditional curriculum through interdisciplinary studies and team teaching rather than single classes.

2 replies
  1. Beckie
    Beckie says:

    Hello Joan, I am much moved by your writing. It is beautiful. I posted on Dave’s website a little while ago. I lost contact with Dave more than 30 years ago. I am so sorry to read of his illness and the losses this brings you all. You seem to be an amazing woman: a true companion to Dave and a great support to the family as you travel this most difficult journey together. My heart goes out to you. Dave is an extraordinary person who will never be forgotten. Your writings have been helpful for me on a number of levels. I have had much loss in my own life this past year or so. Thank you.

    • joan
      joan says:

      Hi Beckie! Thank you for the kind words. Knowing I help through telling our journey’s tale is a tremendous comfort. Dave was quite happy to hear from you and we spend some time watching the You Yube videos of your group. His time in Australia has yielded many stories and laughter during recent months. And though we couldn’t see the neck of your guitar you play, his curiosity… “Is that the Guitar I left?” was not satisfied. So, do you still have that guitar?


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