Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The calendar turns today for the woman who has made me a goat-grandfather.  That's just one of many reasons I love her.

     I have been blessed with two extraordinary children (he said without bias), each so different yet each having the same basic core of goodness and intelligence.  Christina was our quiet one, never seeking nor wanting the limelight, but with strong opinions.  And a great sense of humor.  No one can tell a story like Christina.  Her personality bubbles and people are drawn to her.  She can be assertive (yet tactful) and she brooks no nonsense.

     She has a talent for overlooking the obvious (or, to her, the unimportant).  Her college roommate, Heather, once said that her high school counselor was upset that she didn't check a minority status block on her college applications.  Christina asked Heather why he would want her to do that?  "Because I'm Black," Heather told her.  Christina's response was, "You are?"  "Christina, we've been roommates forever.  You've met my mother.  You've played with my baby brothers. Of course I'm Black!"  Heather's race or coloring never registered with Christina; it just was not important to her so she paid no attention to it.  (Reminds me of Stephen Colbert's oft-repeated line that he didn't see color, except with Christina it was for real.)  When we had heard that story we once again realized that we had done something right.

     Nothing comes easy for Christina.  She works hard for everything she has got.  (We still have nightmares about the "summer of physics.")  After college, she worked for an ambulance service and volunteered for the local Rescue Squad, eventually becoming a licensed paramedic.  She and her partner were met at one scene by an elderly man whose wife had collapsed.  The man was cryng, "I'm afraid she's dead."  Christina's partner said, "Dead we can handle," as they pushed past the man.  They managed to revive the woman -- not a miracle, as the man thought, just two highly-trained people working through a crisis.   During those years, Christina handled many crises -- always with compassion and skill.

     Later, she worked as an emergency technician at a major hospital.  The emergency room doctors were always grateful when she was on duty; they knew that everything would run smoothly and that nothing would fall through the cracks.  She would make time to sit with patients who were dying and had no family present, holding their hands and comforting them.  Nobody dies alone.  Not on her watch.  Her saddest day there was on 9-11.  After hearing of the attack on the Pentagon, the emergency room readied itself for a large influx of patients -- and nobody came.  Her happiest day may have been when they admitted a patient from Thailand who spoke no English and had an unknown type of hemorrhagic fever; the emergency room was immediately locked down and quarantined; frantic calls were made to the CDC, Thailand, and (I believe) the State Department (trying to find a Thai interpreter); after several hours, it was learned that the patient had Denge Fever, something that was not communicated through the air; the entire ER staff cheered -- they had dodged a bullet.

     She began studying to be a cardiac sonographer, ending up teaching that subject as an adjunct teacher at George Washington University.  Her skill has made her one of the go-to people at the hospital where she works.   When she catches something very serious that had been overlooked, she will stay with a patient, not releasing him until after a cardiac surgeon has a chance to read and respond to her work.

     Now she is studying to be a sign language interpreter, something that is far more difficult than most people realize.  She volunteers at deaf events.  She has just finished tutoring a deaf Iranian student (English is his fourth or fifth language) through some highly technical classes.  She's been taking classes for two and a half years and has another couple of years of study before she can become certified.  Unfortunately, the classes are offered only at one school in Maryland -- an hour and a half drive each way.  This is on top of her work, her husband and family, her home, and her animals (three dogs, a cat, a Burmese python, and now four goats, plus whatever animals her kids and husband might bring home at any time; and -- soon -- chickens).

     Somehow she manages to be closely involved with her children:  helping them study for tests; guiding them in school projects (never doing the projects for them; she hates it parents do work for their children); keeping in touch with teachers and schools; transporting the kids to and from their sports activities, and watching and cheering them on (even coaching Erin's soccer team one season when no one else was able to); taking them hiking, kayaking, and to the beach, and to the library; taking them on "spur of the moment" trips to Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Newport to see zoos, aquariums, science centers, and historic mansions; making sure that the kids have defined chores and responsibilities; and taking in foster children on a moment's notice and intergrating them into her family for even a short while.

     She's beautiful, smart, funny, talented, compassionate...Is there any wonder we are proud of her?

     And how is she spending her birthday?  Well, tonight is Mark's sixth-grade band concert.  Mark tells us he's playing some pretty good songs.

     God, we love that girl!

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