Catching Up: Guardian Angels Sometimes Come in Strange Disguises
We had been given a small packet when arriving for the entrance exams. It informed us that we were to wait a couple of weeks and then contact the Career Counseling Department at the University for our results and a possible appointment. It included names, telephone numbers and extensions of those individuals. I put it all in a folder and buried it in the bottom drawer of my dresser.
I was pretty sure that I’d done okay on the Reading and Writing exam. But, the fiasco with the Math exam was totally demoralizing. I’d done three answers (pretty much guessing on all of them), got up and walked to the desk of the woman in charge, handed it to her silently while looking around that room filled with individuals half my age.
She’d taken the booklet, smiled, and said, “Been a while, hunh?” I nodded, thinking, “You have no idea, lady.” Then turned and walked away. Went back to my life of wife and mother. Scared myself silly with what I had done and never once spoke to anybody about my failure to get through that initial threshold experience.
Life, the Universe, or God (if you prefer), all have a tendency to work things out in strange, sometimes baffling manners. Another year and a half slipped by and one morning I found myself sitting in the office of a female attorney, filing for a divorce because my husband had come home drunk, at five in the morning, and picked up my full grown German Shepherd and thrown her across the room. As I watched her slide down the wall in total horror, he turned to me and said, “Now, it’s your turn.”
A month later, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil for spaghetti, went to my bedroom, while my four children did homework and colored at the kitchen table. I sat down on my bed. I had asked my 15 year old son to go downstairs and put a load of wash in the dryer. When he turned it on, it sounded like a jet taking off from the bowels of the earth. The freezer compartment on my refrigerator had stopped freezing two days before. My car had died yesterday, I had perhaps fifty dollars to my name, my estranged spouse was in a rehab program in another state, and I had received no money in almost three weeks. I was depressed.
But, life goes on, and after a few very dark moments, I got up to check the boiling pot, which wasn’t boiling and was as cold as when I’d put it on the electric range. I’d had it. I looked up at the ceiling and said, “Okay God, if this is all some sort of cosmic joke, could I at least know the punch line?” The phone rang.
I grabbed it, said, “Hello.” It was an obscene phone caller. All I could think of was, “This is the punch line?” Started laughing out loud until I had tears in my eyes, until my caller apologized and quietly hung up. That only made me laugh even harder, while my children stared at me, worried I’m sure, that I had finally gone round the bend.
Laughter is the best medicine. Mine, the very sound of it, was like a cool calming breeze, blowing new scents and color into all those dark corners. I grinned at the kids and said, “Okay, it’s late March, so we’ll have to put up some clothes lines in the backyard. The guy next door works on cars, knows our situation and I’ll ask him to take a look at the station wagon tomorrow. We still have the chest freezer downstairs, and three of the burners on the stove still work. We may still be in business.”
My son grinned back at me and said, “Mom, I think my friend Melvin and I might be able to fix the dryer temporarily. Would that help?” I nodded and they did get it fixed within the next few days. And I dug out that folder and called the head of the Career Counseling Department and asked for an appointment, telling him I had taken the entrance exams several months before. He said he’d get them pulled up and we made an appointment.
He walked into the room, grinning and said, “You know these results are pretty spectacular for several reasons. You absolutely aced the Reading and Writing exam. In fact, you placed in the top ten percent of all the people who have taken that exam since this school was founded. Do you have any idea of how many people that is? On the other hand,” and he grinned again, “You completely blew the Math exam. It’s amazing.”
A bit confused by his seeming pleasure, I asked very timidly, “So, what does that mean for my chances of even getting in here?”
“Oh,” he said with another grin, “that just means you’ll have to take some remedial Math courses to catch up. But, your scores on the other exam tell us you are exactly what we want on our campus. Furthermore, I can promise you that we will do everything in our power to see that you not only come here, but remain here, for however long it might take.
To that end, I have made an appointment with the head of the Financial Aid Department and you are to go straight to his office from here. When you are done there, you can come back here and I’ll explain the registration process to you. Then we can discuss the course schedule and the best path for you during your first semester. How does that sound?”
I almost blurted, “Holy Shit!” Instead, heart beating in disbelieve and sheer wonder, I thanked him profusely. As I got out of the chair, he gave me directions to the Financial Aid Office and then smiled, while shaking my hand, and said, “Welcome to UWParkside, Elizabeth, I look forward to seeing what you can really do.”
(to be continued…)
Note: This is an excerpt from the story of how I came to be part of an Anthology that was nominated for a Grammy Award. The prompt at Writers Island for this morning was Tribute. I wanted to pay tribute to some of the people who helped me to get to that experience and those so-called 15 minutes of fame. The rest of the saga is here on this site and will continue. Other offerings for the prompt can be found here: http://writersisland.wordpress.com/