How Long? Not Long.

picture of hurricane isabell rolling across the ocean

I’m going to be a real live college graduate. It’s a bit difficult to believe. A bachelor’s degree.

I especially didn’t think it was going to happen after returning to Russian class last week, when I’d returned from the conference. I went to class and my instructor reminded me that I had to rewrite all of my failed quizzes/tests from the semester. After two hours, I took the tests to her office, feeling a bit relieved to have it over with. I returned Friday morning at 8AM, one of my extremely rare on-time appearances. She’d told us on Thursday which exercises in the book she planned to use for the final exam, so it was simply a matter of studying those exercises. I wrote out every exercise by hand, a process that took from early Thursday afternoon until the time I went to bed (probably between midnight and 1AM). I was awfully proud of myself, having devoted that much time and energy, and I felt as though I had a much better grasp on some of the essentials.

Five minutes into the final exam, she handed me back the quizzes I’d retaken the day before and told me that I would have to rewrite them again. My confidence a bit rattled, I looked over the quizzes and tried to see if I could understand what I’d done wrong. She’d circled or crossed out my mistakes, but the problem would be trying to figure out what I was supposed to have written. In some cases, the intense studying from the day before helped out, but in others the answer she crossed out was the only thing that seemed right to me. I put the quizzes down and continued to plow through the final. The final itself took probably two hours, and then I spent another two hours attempting to correct my quizzes. I was the only one left in the room. When I finished, I dropped them off at her office, along with the 7-9 hand-written homework pages that I’d completed the day before (hoping for extra brownie points). I slipped them into the folder hanging on her door and crossed my fingers. I knew that, from that point on, it was no longer in my hands. Whether or not I would pass—and actually be eligible to receive a bachelor’s degree—was up to God, fate, my Russian instructor.

I rode my bike toward the coffee shop when I’d finished and, for the first time since the twenty-first of June last year, I envisioned myself puffing an vaporizer pen. It didn’t involve any particular thought, I simply flashed forward to parking my bike, grabbing some espresso, and decompressing on the patio with a nice, relaxing cigarette. It only took a split second to remember that I’ve quit smoking, but for that split second it was as if I’d never quit. It wasn’t like a craving or a longing for a cigarette, or a desire to taste the smoke or anything like that at all. It just seemed to me like the sort of thing I would do after such a draining experience. Strange. I think it was the next night that I went to see “Thank You For Smoking” with some friends (one of whom had quit smoking around the same time as I did but has since gone back). You’ll be glad to know, I didn’t relapse, and I’m still not interested in starting again. . . anytime soon.

I returned to work that night at the Ribeye, and then worked the following two mornings at Espresso. After more than two weeks off the clock, it was strange to go back. I noticed a sharp increase in the number of times that I was nearly overcome with pangs of murderous/destructive rage. Thankfully, I still hadn’t lost my ability to bite back anger/frustration with a few ounces of tongue/lip.

After work that Sunday, I picked up the little lady and my brother (the doctor) to head to Paxton. My Grandmother is riding the slow, uncomfortable Cancer Train out of this world, and her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren gathered at her home for food and conversation. For the first time in years, all of the siblings that grew up in my mother’s house would be in one place at one time. I honestly think that this might not have happened since before my oldest brother entered the Marines (c. 1999). That same oldest brother would be, for the first time, meeting our older sister who’d been adopted as an infant, in 1970. Tim (yes, the same brother I was going to visit while at the conference—I’ll tell that story later) hasn’t visited in a little over two years, and we were reconnected with Julie during that time. Speaking of babies, by the way, Tim’s youngest Angelo is 6 months old, and Julie’s youngest Louie is 3 momths. All of my mother’s grandchildren were there—seven boys.

Now, my younger brother Spencer had to be at work around two, and I was supposed to be at work at three (and I needed a shower & change of clothes). But we had to wait, first on our sisters, then on our youngest brother. We knew that this would be a first-time event: all of my mother’s children together. But what if it couldn’t happen? First Carol had to come to Paxton from Champaign. Two o’clock. She would have to pick Rose up at Mom’s house, where she would be changing clothes after work. Two thirty. But Rose wasn’t ready when Carol went by, so we would have to wait longer. Two forty-five. We got a hold of Bob, and he was busy with orientation for his summer lifeguarding job. He would come over as soon as he was done with that. I called the Ribeye at ten minutes to three to let them know that I would be late. Finally, shortly after three o’clock, my youngest brother showed up. We were all there, in one place at one time. Mom thought she was going to have a heart attack. We snapped a bunch of pictures, including one of all of us:

Once the pictures had been taken, we took off immediately. For five minutes, we were all together. It’s not likely to happen again soon.

I’ll be sure to write about the conference and my trip home, as well as my graduation, very soon. Check back!

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