Monday, July 17, 2017

Summer School 29: Goodbye Frog

Before we go any farther, I need to revisit the origin of all these frogs you're reading about.  Please make sure that history doesn't write me down as  some sort of whacky frog lady.   I don't pick the frogs, they pick me. 
Here's how it started. 

In December 2007 my Abuela jumped into the sky, tearing our hearts apart. My mom had a bunch of little frog figurines that we had given her as part this holiday and that anniversary over more than a decade, and they each had a name -- the Tita Frog, the Zoe Frog, the Abuela Frog etc -- so I do not blame my mom for getting rid of her frogs as part of her early grief (the part everyone expects, as opposed to "later grief" which changes you and lasts the rest of your life).  I rescued the frogs and they all live in my office, but none were as big and proud and charismatic as the praying laughing yoga frog that the universe forced me to buy at Cracker Barrel. 
If you are enjoying this unfolding story about former students, I hope you will consider supporting a current student and recent transplant recipient, Marvin Cristopher Blanco 
(From Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog, 2012)
Alex spent the first week of Spring semester classes in the hospital.  But he got better (he always does) and made his way back to campus, ready to keep on track to graduating from Tallahassee Community College and transferring to Florida State to major in Theatre.  He has a specific plan, he's here for a reason, he has places to go and things to do, and day by day he gets them done. 

On one of his first days on campus, Alex comes to the professor's office to get a copy of Prayer of the Laughing Yoga Frog book and to discuss what he missed that first week. 

The conversation turns and twists and Alex shares that he had gone on a mission trip to Peru and found the people there didn't relax and laugh like Americans. 

Their talk turns to the subject of Reggie.

Alex knows that the professor knows what happened, so they talk freely and share their feelings of anger, betrayal and genuine shock. 

Time goes quickly and it's almost time for the professor to race off to a class, so she starts to tell Alex its time for him to go.

He stays put and announces, "I had a dream."

The professor winces, she does not have time to hear about dreams and such now, she needs to get to this classroom where the computer takes 10 minutes to warm up and if she doesn't go in three minutes then she will only be 10 minutes early and class will start late.

If it had been another student she probably would have said, "Push pause!! Tell me after class or write it or come back tomorrow!”, but Alex couldn't just come back or write it. After all he had been through she owed him her undivided attention and stayed put, exhaling away her thoughts of racing around him out the door to get to class on time.

Very clearly and slowly he announced, "I dreamed the frog wanted to come live with me."

Somehow deep down she knew that since she loved this frog so much she would have to give it up and make room for more frogs in her life.

We lose every single thing in life - our things, the people we love, and ultimately we lose our bodies -- so it seemed like a good idea to her to play a part in making something a gift instead of a loss.

Despite her inner wisdom, the professor said a very mild yes at first, something like, "Yes, you can have him, but why don't you come get him on Thursday when I can pack him up for you?" and then kept rambling about something like, "And I need him back to take pictures for the week of classes, so take good care of him, promise?"

She looked for an excuse to not give him the frog.
He couldn't hold it safely in his arms or between his knees, she didn't have a bag to put it in for him. 

As the words came out of her mouth, the professor reached below her desk and pulled out a bag that had been waiting its entire life to be called into action on this particular moment.   

The professor continued her dribble about how she couldn't give Alex the frog today while loading the frog into the bag and testing to see if it would hang safely on the back of his wheelchair.   It fit perfectly. 

Her frog statue's frogilicious yogarific head peeked out over Alex's shoulder as they rolled down the hallway.

They looked happy together, the professor thought for a millisecond, then raced off to class.  Soon after that, the professor finds a tutor for Alex who also acts like a second set of eyes watching over Alex's new guide and keeping him engaged and safe on campus.  She pays the tutor with royalties from the first week of sales from Prayer of Laughing Yoga Frog.  Perfect. Wonderful.

The next week Alex comes back to the professor's office and tells her that he has thought about it and it's OK for her to write about what happened with Reggie.

The professor is delighted Alex is ready to move from victim to advocate. 
Can he be the co-author of the book?
Yes, I will list you as the first author, the professor proclaims. 

Alex seems almost satisfied.
He has more questions.

Can there be a book signing? On campus this semester?

The professor nods her head.

If she gets the book done in time, and enlists the help of that awesome lady at the TCC Bookstore, then yes, there could be a book signing, in late March or April.
I will have it done for Valentine's Day she tells him and her and the universe and any frog that happens to be listening.

Alex looks happy.

It's almost time for class and he starts to go off but he gets stuck against the wall on one of the tight turns he has to make navigating his way from the professor's office to the elevator.

Alex turns too far and goes the wrong way and turns again but his chair gets partially stuck against the wall.He has to reverse it but he is laughing so loud at being stuck he can hardly control his hand.  The professor laughs too but with her hand over her mouth. He is definitely stuck and they both know this is an I Love Lucy moment.

Alex hits another button and pushes a knob forward. 

His chair starts to rise and tilt back.  Oh NO!!!!! he proclaims and then laughs loud, deep, hard laughs while the professor slides down the wall laughing.

Two heads peek out of faculty offices to check out the ruckus and see if everything is OK.

They see a laughing student in a wheelchair stuck against a wall and a laughing Professor but no actual trouble so they disappear back into their offices, causing the professor and her student to laugh harder. 

The next night the professor gets ready to write, makes notes and then again she just  can't write.  This is strange for her, she has so much to write and nothing is coming.

Alex comes to her office before class the next day and asks how the writing is coming.
 The professor says it will be ready for Valentine's Day, not mentioning that she was stuck, stuck, stuck .

Then she blurts something out that had been hiding inside her head. "You know you're going to have to forgive him, don't you?"

Alex's body gets rigid with an angry non-verbal response.

"I didn't say you have to forgive Reggie today, but forgiveness has to be at the end of this journey, and the journey could take weeks, months or years."

Alex's face relaxes a little. 

"You don't have to forget what Reggie did to you. The justice system will hold him accountable for crimes. That is really going to happen."

The idea of justice brings Alex a little more peace.
He nods agreement and she keeps talking.

"What Reggie did to you can become the center of your life and your thoughts and your identity, and I would hate for that to happen because you are so much bigger than that.  I want us to write a book you can turn into a play and be in, one that represents who you really are, not just what happened to you.  I will notwrite a book about a victim. I will notwrite a book about an angry man. I WILL write a book about a very wise man."

Alex smiles at the idea.  Then, before she can say another word, Alex asks, "How much of the royalties will I get?"

The professor, so pleased by his audacious optimism put her hands in front of her heart in paryer, gratitude and delight  and tilted her head laughing to the sky, just like the Laughing Yoga Frog.  The world is a perfect place, created by a perfect creator whose imagination is still unfolding.  Each bit of creation from the perfect creator is also perfect, both a piece in itself and also part of a whole.