A student made this for me a long time ago.

I mentioned that I love to roller skate. I don’t even remember telling my students that about myself. Teaching is demanding and the parts that I don’t enjoy: “paperwork/grading,” meetings, and (now) wearing a mask while talking all day and handling parent frustrations with online work…are growing.

We just went on break. I intend to refresh. Reflect. Re-energize. I love my job. I have the rest of the year to be better.


Some occasions in life seem designed to test you. I believe they are there to see if you do the right thing, which is simply to say nothing. If an idiot offends you with an impulsive, derogatory remark, you are the better person for ignoring it. I’ve been taught that and I impart this bit of wisdom to my daughters and students. Growing up in Iowa in the late sixties, early seventies, I was called “chink” quite a bit. I learned to turn my head and ignore it. At a roller skating party, a boy of about fifteen, skated up to me and sang loudly with the music, “Like a refugee!” I was eleven and had no idea what he was talking about, but from the laughter and looks his friends gave me, I knew it wasn’t a compliment. There was also that song, “Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” which the boys really wanted me to know, but I digress.  I tell my daughters to do the same thing when “boys” or “people” bother them. I don’t recall arguing with my parents the way my kids do, but whatever….that’s not what I’m writing about, either.

My lovely mother is here to help me out. Because I am not allowed to drive for three to four weeks post-surgery and Willey has to work, my mother is THE driver. I will not alarm you, dear reader, by sharing her driving record with you. Let us just say she’s greatly improved in the last two decades. Let’s just say at about the same time boys were serenading me with the Kung-Fu Fighting and Refugee songs, my mother would feign any knowledge of English when she’d be pulled over by an officer for things like speeding or going through stop lights. She suddenly lost “all her English” and was usually let go with a warning.  I distinctly remember her saying “In Korea, no lights! I confused,” and the officer let her go!

When she arrived here at my house last month, I painfully detailed the importance of yielding at the roundabouts. We have two in a row we must drive through to get anywhere (Safeway, Peter Piper Pizza, the hair salon, etc.). “Caroline! You think I can’t drive? How long I’ve been driving now? I drive in Chicago! Mesa is so easy, no traffic.” I imagine the countless number of drivers who must honk at her (and give her other gestures) as she makes her away around, and I think her loss of hearing is a blessing in this case.

Like many of her 66 year old comrades, her hearing is all but gone. My sister purchased top-of-the-line hearing aids for her. Even with these, her hearing capacity can be 60%, depending on the condition of her batteries.  She copes with her inability to hear with the catch phrase she’s learned from co-workers in an Alzheimer’s home where she works as an aide. She says, “Gotcha” and nods her head “yes” at the same time.  Most people just say, “Yeah” and smile. My mom says, “Gotcha.” If you know my mother, this woman who immigrated from South Korea 43 years ago and speaks with a thick Korean accent, you would appreciate the utter charm of it. “Gotcha” and a nod of her permed head.

Yesterday, after dropping my daughters off to summer school, we headed to Phoenix to meet my oncologist.

“Mom, you’re going to go straight, just as if we’re seeing Dr. Parson, but Dr. Isaacs is in Phoenix, which is five exits past Dr. Parson’s office.”

With both hands gripped tightly around the wheel, she gives me a shake of the head and a  “Gotcha.”

She drives.

“OK, mom, make a left at Shea and go straight for awhile. I’ll tell you when to turn right.”

“You forgot to shave? That’s OK. Why you have to shave?”

“Oh.My.Gosh. You forgot your hearing aids?!” I ask in disbelief. Suddenly, I realize I could probably drive. I feel fine and have gotten a lot stronger since my surgery two weeks ago. My chest is throbbing, I’m anxious about what the oncologist will say and now I have to address this.  I choose to remain silent.

Another shake of the head, her eyes squint into the light (no sunglasses either). “Sometimes, hearing aid is bother. Really bother you. I don’t like them.”

We head into the office and meet a wonderful doctor. Long story short, he reads my six page pathology report and tells me that with the double mastectomy and the very small sizes of my cancers, he recommends no further treatment. No chemo! No radiation! Not even Tamoxifen! I am elated, ready for some Kung-fu fighting.