Monday, September 26, 2011

10 Years Ago

I had the opportunity to visit my alma mater, Ole Miss, this past weekend for the football game against Georgia. Needless to say, we stunk. However, my visit there allowed me the opportunity to reflect on September 24 ten years ago.

On September 24, 2001, everyone still could not stop talking about 9/11. Heck, we still talk about it! Honestly, on the tenth anniversary of that tragic event, while many posted about remembering where they were when they heard the news that day, I couldn't bring myself to post about my whereabouts.

To think about my whereabouts that day would only force me to think about IT, and I found myself unsure if I wanted to think about IT.

Then September 24 occurred this past Saturday, and I found myself back in the place where it started.

Ok, so have you had enough suspense yet? (Building suspense in a narrative is something my Comp. 1 students are working on, so I figure why not practice the technique myself?)

Back to the story...

Ten years ago this past Saturday, I woke up with sharp pains shooting through my legs. I didn't think much about it (except for the obvious "Ow"), and I knew I couldn't stay in bed since I had a test in Shakespeare that morning. I thought about driving to class that morning and just taking a parking ticket (hell, I parking tickets never stopped Amanda from getting a more convenient spot), but since I drove a Ford Ranger Pick 'em up Truck with a stick shift (yep, that vehicle would certainly elevate my status on Sorority Row), I thought maybe I'd do better to just walk.

A normal ten minute walk to Bondurant Hall turned into forty-five minutes with many sit-down stops between my dorm and the classroom. On test days, I always arrived super early, so the long journey to class just put me there right on time, and the path to class proved more painful with every step.

As soon as I arrived to class and took a seat, my pains went away. "Thank you, God," I silently prayed, because my first test as an English major, I already felt enough pressure to do well.

I couldn't tell you what the test had on it or if I did well, because as soon as I stood up to hand it in, the sharp shooting pains came back. I thought about just skipping my next class, but a dedicated student such as myself came on anyway. (Ok, ok, my next class was a closer walk than my dorm. However, if Jude ever asks, I went because I was just that dedicated, and he should follow such an example!)

I quickly figured out the cause of my pain. That previous Friday, I had closed at Abner's where I worked on my feet all night, went shopping in Memphis all day with my mom on Saturday, and spent Sunday working the lunch shift at Abner's and then studying all night for the test. Two weeks before all of that, I had busted my tailbone at Abner's (which paid up a cool $6.67 in Workman's Comp.--set for life, I tell you what) and was still sore. Of course that was it! I was tired and still suffering from a broken butt. No big deal.

After my second class with no relief from the pain in sight, I headed back to my dorm to rest before my lab that afternoon. However, I only made it as far as the Student Union since I was afraid I would sleep through the lab and receive a zero for the day. Because really, who wants to explain to the folks putting him/her through school that the reason for the failing grade is because you didn't show up to immerse water-filled plastic tubing into a big ole' jar of water in order to understand osmosis? So I went. Painstakingly so.

The only good that came from attending classes that day was how my pain subsided whenever I sat down. I figured, I could sit it through a boring lab taught by a grad assistant who proved as bored and tired as the material she taught.

Silly me.

Halfway through the lab, the pains came back, only this time they ran up my legs all the way through my spine. It hurt. It hurt so bad.

Luckily my lab partner and I finished earlier than usual and I decided I'd head on back to the dorm and rest up before band practice. And then it hit me.

How in the --bleep--will I make it through band?

Let's back up and explain Ole Miss marching band practice. General policy--for every practice you miss, Mr. Willson drops you a letter grade. Pretty much if you show up on time every day (and I mean EVERY day), you get an A. It's like a turbo GPA booster. I thought a zero in Biology lab would be a joke? A B in band, and I may as well have "Dumbass" tattooed across my forehead.

Needless to say, I was a little worried.

Of course, leaving Biology lab with pains in my legs and then my back, my trek back to the dorm...well...I didn't make it back. Ever again.

I stopped in the Union, which was closer, decided to get a Blimpie sub, and sit. At least then, I wouldn't oversleep and miss seeing Mr. Willson. Heck, I may would even run into a friend from band and hit them up for a ride to practice, especially since the practice field was ALL the way across campus. (Now I know Ole Miss is one of the smaller schools/campuses in the SEC, but that's all relative when you're walking around with a painful gimp in your gait.)

So at the Blimpie counter, I place my order, feel something wet run down my legs and collapse on the floor in front of God and everybody who screams Hotty Toddy.

Ten years later, I still can't decide what was more humiliating--busting my a$$ on the tile floor in front of a large crowd, having UPD swarm me and try to help me stand calling even more attention to my person, being taken out of the Union in a stretcher, relentlessly sobbing from all the trauma, or peeing on myself in the process of falling? One thing was for sure; I had seen better days!

After a prolonged stay in the hospital lots of uncomfortable tests, my neurologist diagnosed me with transverse mylytis--a rare nerve disease where my immune system attacks my body and eats the coating (myelin) around my nerves (why oh why is everything about me centered around hunger).

The disease did more than just keep me from walking. It aged me. I had to drop out of school for a semester. All of a sudden, worrying over a missed band practice seemed so trivial. So did the boy I was seeing at the time. So did those mid-term exams, those silly girls getting ready for Rush, and all that other stuff I had planned on involving myself in that semester. All of a sudden, those things could no longer be important to me.

I got really angry. And I mean, REALLY angry.

But ten years later, I found myself back on that campus, back where that goofy little girl all of a sudden ceased to exist so she could grow up. My condition is dormant. I can walk again. I finished my degree at Ole Miss and went on to get a Masters, I found my true love (also at Ole Miss), I landed my dream job (yes, underachieving freshmen are my calling), and I have Jude.

September 24, 2011 dealt me a rough hand, but ten years later, I finally can see that I won.

I couldn't help but think the other day while visiting my alma mater if Jude would attend Ole Miss. Secretly (or not so secretly), I hope he will. And if he does, he will almost daily walk across that spot where his mother collapsed so many years before. A place where I panicked and thought, for a fleeting moment, that my life was over. He will never fully realize the significance that spot holds, but that doesn't mean the history isn't there.