Monday, October 4, 2010

Study Jail

     College should be the best four years of your life, a time of exploration and growth, a season of discovery, and a pathway towards an independent life. It's one of the few periods in your life journey when you can live somewhere between complete dependency on your family and complete self-reliance.  You have the comfort of having a safety zone that enables you to take a few risks without totally ruining your future, and it is why college students get to do some crazy things all in the name of education. It's that mix of fun, freedom, and the quest for knowledge that makes college that enigmatic mix of halcyon and hectic years.
      It becomes a little complicated, however, when you take your mother with you.  I think Sissey would be the first to agree that it changes the entire panoramic view of college when you have Mom lurking in the shadows, and that her college experience is far from what most people would call "normal"-- but it is what we have to live with for the present and it has worked thus far. She is filling her mind with all the knowledge she can absorb, she is exploring her life options and career possibilities, she is becoming a confident and mature adult--- but she has had to sacrifice some personal freedom and independence along the way.  Living with a disability since birth has taught her that her life journey will be different from the norm, and that she will have to forge her own unique path in a world designed for "normal". I must say that she handles that perspective in a much more gracious manner than her mother, whose claws are often out and teeth bared when that "normal" world is less than kind. Sissey's understanding of life and tolerance level for others far surpasses mine--but that is not to say that she is always in mutual agreement with my perspective. As I said earlier, college is a little complicated when you have your mother sitting in the desk beside you. For some reason, Sissey has dubbed me "the Dictator," which I am sure has nothing to do with my obsessive demand for her to constantly study, re-read her textbooks, practice quizzes on the internet, write papers two weeks in advance,  retype her notes, make flashcards, highlight chapters, go to tutoring sessions, set up study groups, and create spreadsheets out of her notes. This is the point where she wishes her college journey was a little more "normal, " and I can't say I blame her. My intentions are good, but I do admit I have some habits which she would prefer to disappear, and one in particular is about to drive her crazy.   I'm talking about study jail.
     "Study jail" is the term Sissey launched early in her college experience to describe the place to which the Dictator sends her when it's time to hit the books. It is exactly what is sounds like...a quiet and lonely room to which she is confined until the Dictator grants her parole, a weekend pass, or perhaps a family visitation. Every day, Sissey has to spend some time in study jail. Every weekend, Sissey has to spend some time in study jail. Every spare moment I can find, Sissey has to spend some time in study jail.  Don't get me wrong... I let her out for some recreational time, a little exercise, meals, church, and such, but she is required to spend a certain portion of her time in study jail. It's the penalty one pays for taking Mother to college. It is as close to hell as college life gets. Stuck upstairs in her room, studying away, while all the other college kids who left their mothers behind are out whooping it up and having fun. I agree. It sucks.

      But it is what it is, and this too shall pass. I wish she could fly away to college completely on her own, with me far, far away and out of sight. I wish a lot of things, though, that I can't make happen. I wish she could walk. I wish she never had to use that walker another day in her life. I wish she had full use of all her muscles and limbs and bones and tendons and ligaments. I wish she could run and dance and skip and be free to do the things that all the other college kids are doing. I wish for a miracle, for the day when someone discovers a way to heal all who are struggling with cerebral palsy and life's other disabilitating disorders. I wish...
     But I can't make wishes come true, so I do what I can. I push her to excel. I expect her to succeed. I demand that she use all her God-given talents and gifts. And yes, I put her in study jail. 
   So when the day arrives that she struts across that stage, sheepskin firmly clutched in hand, tassel eagerly flipped, future looming brightly, I just hope she will glance over at the Dictator with a smile on her face and love in her heart.  And on that day, I will burn the keys to study jail, bury the ashes, stomp on the ground, dance in the dirt, and thank God above for graduation!

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