Life’s Lessons

I am beginning to really wonder what will be next for me. Next in terms of how ill I might become. Next in terms of what begins after life ends. With those thoughts, I have begun to reflect a bit on my life and, as I’ve shared, I’m proud of many parts of my life and who I am. Perhaps that helps me prepare.

Recently a few of my family members and I were laughing about the trouble some of them got into as teens. A couple of us taunted them about their lack of ability to avoid getting caught. We were smarter, of course! My sister, who had been grounded for a least a year of her life, challenged me, asking what had I ever done!

I thought about that. I wasn’t a troublemaker, but I certainly had a lot of fun. I think all teens and young adults learn solid life’s lessons through their behavioral choices, whether they get caught or escape adult retribution. 

So, what did I learn?

NO ONE will believe that you really did pull up the emergency brake on your father’s car, the karmann ghia, before it launched itself over the cliff on the night he lost the election for Lt Governor. Especially when there wasn’t insurance on the car. I still believe we could have driven it down the beach and up the distant hill and no one would have known, but my friend Terry insisted the engine was in the back seat. I should have at least tried; Always try.

Nuns really liked all their encyclopedias in the 60’s! Every book. It’s not a good idea to stash the “P” in the bottom of your locker and forget about it. They will threaten the entire student body with fines, suspensions and worse if they don’t locate it. Thank you Terry, for helping me get it back with great stealth.

Nuns do NOT like when the entire senior class appears to laugh at you. Also, perhaps it’s a good idea to attend the NHS meetings. In the 60’s only a select few were invited into NHS. I never understood why I was included. I really didn’t fit in with people who wrote math problems on the board for fun after school. When you aren’t at meetings, they assign you laughable poems to read during the whole school NHS induction for new members. “Up, Lad Up!” What kind of a poem begins like that? After cueing most of my friends on the ridiculous nature of my poem, they broke into laughter as I began, followed by the rest of the senior class. I shook my candle back and forth enjoying pretend anxiety at presenting. I had to leave the stage after reading only the first and last lines because I was about to join everyone in laughter. Unfortunately, it feels really strange to be able to leave the school and go home when the entire senior class is serving a detention for laughing at you, especially when you instigated it.

Nuns value the editor of the year book. As editor, I was able to leave school, with a couple friends to help, on a regular basis senior year to “go pick up canisters of film”.  Five canisters would fit in the palm of my hand; I didn’t need help, nor that much film. It always amazed me that the close-talking chemistry/biology nun didn’t smell the McDonalds and cigarettes on us as we explained why we were so frequently late to class! (Actually, perhaps she did!)

-However, Nuns do not like when you write “rich bitches from the heights” in shoe polish on your car and then attend graduation practice at the church to hand out yearbooks in it. They can be stealth too, as the principal nun was able to slip into the backseat of my car to inform me that my car would be cleaned immediately. You can definitely clean many shoe-polish-written expressions off your car within 15 minutes if you want to attend graduation. After many Saturday detentions, I even learned the value of actually polishing those saddle shoes on inspection days. Loved that shoe polish!

Parties without parents at home are never a good idea. Siblings, if you wanted to have that party while Mom and other siblings were on vacation in Canada, just have it when your informant neighbor was also on vacation. If you wanted to attend that party on New Year’s Eve without someone else’s parents being home, leave very quickly after someone knocks over the china hutch. Finally, the roof was a perfect place to hang out at a party with boyfriend du jour, especially on those large houses on Fairmont Blvd. It’s easy to see police arrive, usher everyone out and relax because they never actually look up.

Learn directions. Probably not the best idea for two naive girls to travel from the east side of Cleveland to St. Ignatius’s theater department on the west side to pick up prom decorations during the ‘60’s. Getting lost and arriving in Hough, an area filled with serious civil unrest, was bound to happen – that is, with two naked mannequins laying full out in the back of my station wagon. We were probably accurate that no ticket would be issued as we traveled well above the speed limit through every light until we found our way home.

Champagne bottles come alive when they hit the ground! One of my favorite high school events was the opportunity to participate with some friends, as volunteers at John Glenn’s fundraiser organized, in part, by my Dad. It was a star-studded event and we were all starry-eyed ladies selling raffle tickets. We even attended a private party back at John Glenn’s suite late in the evening; not actually sure we were invited. As I stepped back in the entrance hallway, I knocked into a table tipping over a bottle of champagne. I can still see that bottle, in slow motion, rocking back and forth until it finally hit the floor, coming alive and spraying champagne all the way into the living room – up and down the back of some tuxedoed man! He turned around with a shocked expression as if someone had just slapped him on the back. Having had his own share of champagne bottles that evening, he merely turned back to his conversation with the John Glenn crowd while the champagne dripped down his back. It was a good time for a group of hysterically laughing high school ladies to return to their own hotel rooms, probably waking up every sleeping guest along the way.

Of course there were other memories not ready for prime time, but the point here is….Yup, we all do learn some good life lessons, even while we are just having some teenage fun! Remembering does help prepare for what’s next.

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This is my blog about living my life with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer—End stage. I joked about writing this imaginary blog when I spent a year on a treatment that allowed me only 10 days to feel well enough to live a fairly normal life. (Actually normal doesn’t even really exist for me anymore!) To earn those good days, I spent the previous 10 days living in post-chemo treatment physical hell – that also became normal in a perverse way. I’m also writing to honor those who are diagnosed with Stage Four Pancreatic Cancer. You might live longer than you expect and I want you to have someone who tells you what that’s like. There aren’t many role models for people with this because, well, they’re usually gone. So, this is for you. Maybe your journey will be similar to mine. Actually, it will probably be very different because “everyone is different.” Even still, maybe this will still be a bit of a guide.

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