Unexpected gifts: my boy

Today was a satiny, blue-ribbon kind of day. I will save the best for last, and all of it is good.

First, I got to introduce new colleagues in my department. I was feeling good about what I was able to say about them, and then, glancing around the room, saw smiles on people’s faces—people I hardly know but are in my College. It was like they couldn’t help it. I hadn’t realized how good it must have been to hear about our wonderful new colleagues, their commitment to scholarship, teaching, and social justice–every one of them. I sat down and three people at my table smiled and said, “that was great.” Now this has nothing to do with me. I was merely the messenger, sharing other people’s good work. I made it a point to quote from each one–one quote was from A–’s application letter, another was something J– had said. I kind of fudged her quote, but when I looked at her with a “was that okay?” she nodded and grinned.

Something else happened at my table, with the person I was sitting next to, but first, another good thing:

I went and got a massage (deep tissue with some Swedish) from the Jacque at the Preston Center. She pried until it hurt a little, but in an okay way. She is wonderful, gentle and kind in her touch. As I lay on my stomach, my face pressed into the face-hole, snot gathering in my sinuses, I was overcome, had to press the sheet to my face. I don’t know if she knew, as I tried to be as unobtrusive as I could.

Then I hurried home for a pre-semester “judgment free” party at my house for about 17 women. We sliced and roasted and ate together, I made my new hibiscus lemon drop especial, we sat in or by the pool with our food, and laughed and shared. Everyone seemed comfortable. The affection that I saw circle among them made me feel extraordinarily at peace.

I really don’t know why some days are so blessed. The whole day was an unexpected gift, and this is where I tell you about the really special thing that happened. It’s the kind of gift you’re hungry for but don’t know until someone places it in your hand.

I am grateful to you, Jill B, for handing me the folded paper and saying, “I found this picture of Casey and wanted you to have it.” She then told me about the day he helped her on International Day. It was in 2008. I asked her if she would email me the memory, and she did.

Casey was in my World Regional Geography class in the fall of 2008. The students in the class were required to do an engagement project related to course content. One of the options was to work at the BG International Festival. Casey signed up for the first shift, 6:30-10:30am, for set up. I remember asking him if he would be able to get there that early on a Saturday morning. He said, “Yes, I have a baby. I will be up earlier than that.” When I arrived he was already there waiting for me to unload the car.

And here he is, that bright day in September 2008, when he was a student at South Campus and the world was his.

Casey, International Day 2008

Casey, International Day 2008


And now you know why that massage, someone gently getting to me at the muscular and tissue level—while I lay vulnerable and trusting—brought forth in a rush the mingled grief and joy and gratitude at the unexpected gift. My boy handed to me . . . in a folded piece of paper, an act of kindness and intimacy in a setting that could have been just another university function; something she had planned, knowing that she might see me, this day, almost four years later.

Thank you, Jill.

2 thoughts on “Unexpected gifts: my boy

  1. Oh, Jane. I get teary every single time I read about your wonderful Casey. I know there are no words I can say that could even begin to respond to what that must mean to not have your boy with you. Yet, I still want to say how very thankful I am that you are willing to share in your writings and thoughts so that we might know a little sliver of his life and your life in his absence.

    Thanks so much for writing and for welcoming me to your lovely home and the community of people gathered there. It was such a beautiful day with wonderful people. Elizabeth

    • Thanks, Elizabeth. You always say the best things, and I appreciate that you take the time. I’m glad you were able to come over. It was the “funnest” part of a good day.

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