It was just about a year ago that Heidi was getting ready for massive brain surgery. There was a tumor. It grew seemingly out of nowhere. It was at the base of her skull. Right next to her brain stem. It had caused severe vertigo and brief aphasia – when she couldn’t talk. Or rather, she could make sounds but they were not words. Thankfully these episodes were brief and she was able to lead a fairly normal life up until the surgery.
While the vertigo was episodic, she couldn’t tilt her head back and look up at the stars because it made her dizzy. So she didn’t. We still went out for our evening walks. But they were slower. We sort of held each other the whole way. And we didn’t look up at the sky.
Throughout it all, from the symptoms, to the diagnosis, during the waiting for surgery all the way through to the eventual surgery on December 5th at John’s Hopkins, Heidi was strong. Brave. Resolute.
Now, Heidi is obviously an intelligent woman. Panic would not be helpful at all. It wouldn’t be logical. And while most who knew her offered assistance and prayers and food and other kindnesses, she did not take any special favors. All accept the prayers. Those warmed her and helped her immensely.
There were surely moments of sadness. I mean there was a chance that this would NOT be all right. One of the surgeons from this area, a real wacko, gave her, “about an 80% chance of survival.” And he wouldn’t touch this surgery because it was too complicated. This from a guy who was considered one of the best brain surgeons in the state. How is that for bedside manner? So, yeah, we cried on the way home from that appointment.
But throughout the waiting for the surgery, Heidi was pretty serene. And so I was too. SHE held ME up. She held us all up. Her family wanted to come to Baltimore for the surgery. She said no. She just wanted me there.
|This is us just a couple days after surgery. We had just gotten our walking papers and were heading to the hotel for a week or so of recovery.|
If you know us, you know the surgery went perfectly. It wasn’t easy by any stretch, but she dealt with it with grace. And now, nearly a year later, she is in Boston at the National Council of Teachers of English conference with some teachers from my staff, presenting on how children mentor each other in inquiry classrooms. This was the end-of-November conference where we were both scheduled to speak last year. But we had to cancel because of the tumor and the upcoming surgery.
She is attending board meetings, meeting with the editor of her forthcoming book, attending sessions with some of the most brilliant educators in the world (of course SHE is one as well).
Last year at this time I was preparing weeks of lesson plans. Heidi was ending the semester with her beloved graduate students. Our sons were gearing up for finals and worried about their mom. We made sure that our insurance was going to work, that our wills were all up to date. Heidi filled out the form that said that she had a living will. We were having telephone conferences with the surgeon and the good people at his office.
Heidi comes home from the conference late tonight. And tomorrow? After work we’ll take our evening walk. And it will be brisk. And we’ll walk the crazy puppy and we’ll let her tear around the tennis court to release some of that crazy puppy energy. And it’ll be cold and we’ll wear hats and gloves and our noses will run.
And we’ll be thankful for our home in the woods and our family. We’ll be thankful for our jobs and this wonderful time in our lives. And we’ll be grateful for being together and for the very breath we breathe.
And, together, we’ll look up at the sky.