As a teacher and yearbook adviser, my calendar is a bit… different. And this year, the one that began for me in August 2019, has been stellar for not only its difference, but its difficulty.
About a month after school began, Suzee Q, my long haired rat terrier of almost 17 years passed away. It was one of the saddest days of my life. If you do not have pets, you might find this strange. But it’s true. I’ve outlived two dogs and the only thing that rivals the unique pain I feel when thinking about their deaths is the love I feel when thinking about their lives. Call me a softy, I guess. Maybe I am a softy.
So some time passed when, in the fall, Jake, a friend I’ve had for two decades, succumbed to his battle with alcoholism when his liver finally failed. Again, a great sadness took hold of me. But what do we do when friends die? Not to sound callous, but we mourn and we move on.
During the height of Jake’s struggle, I had a few moments of joy. I celebrated my father’s retirement at my house with my wife and kids, my parents, my sisters, and their families. My father had worked in a steel mill’s shipping department for most of my childhood and became a truck driver shortly after I graduated high school. His retirement from a life of labor was well deserved and the party was fun. However, at some point in the course of our festivities, a bannister broke. What can I say? Stueves know how to get crazy. It seems insignificant, right? Well, turns out, it might not have been. But I’ll get back to that.
There was also the time, shortly before Thanksgiving, when a fellow journalism teacher and adviser joined me on a trip to Washington DC. We were able to visit the Newseum before it closed its doors, we met some other advisers, and saw some DC sites. Our students learned and planned and made connections. It was a good time. When we returned home, we were energized to finish the semester on a high note. And, I think, we did. Then came our holiday break.
Now, I’m no handyman. So I took my time fixing my broken banister. You remember that from a couple paragraphs ago? It took a little over two months and during this holiday break, I finished the process. At one point, right around Christmas, while I was doing a little finishing work, I accidentally stabbed my left hand with a tool that might be as old as God and was very, very dirty.
Though I cleaned the injury and took care of it, less than a month later I had a giant welt that was growing seriously painful and multiplying around the base of my thumb. Doctors were stumped. Eventually, infectious disease specialists saw me. After two surgeries and various medicinal cocktails, they could not connect my condition with my accidental stab wound, but it seemed suspicious. Finally, I was diagnosed with a rare infection known as mycobacterium chelonae. I will be on medicine for the foreseeable future and chances are pretty high I will undergo at least one more surgery.
One more thing, due to all of the surgeries and changes in medicine, I was out sick for the bulk of third quarter. Seriously, I taught, like, 20 days from January to March.
Then of course, a week after my return to school, COVID-19 became the new ruler of the world.
Teaching and advising took on a new look. My district went completely online and students were no longer required to complete assignments. Yearbooks, however, needed to be completed. So I cobbled together a significantly smaller staff of student journalists who could work from home, received a great amount of help from my publisher, fellow teachers, and the local community, and finalized a yearbook in a way that was more difficult than when I had to do it in April of 2012… when all of my computers and cameras were stolen… a story for a different day perhaps.
And here we are at the end of the school year, my completed yearbooks will be released soon and I will begin earnestly planning for the 2020–2021 school year… finally. How is it going to look? I don’t know. My dog Suzee Q and my friend Jake are still dead. I still have a weird infection. COVID-19 is still killing people, and still generally changing the world. Could there be a better time to formally introduce myself on Medium? I don’t know that either.
But anyway. I’m AE Stueve and I’ve had a rough go of it for the last few months but I’m hoping things are going to get better. If you’d like to learn more about me, check out aestueve.com.
Hi. How are you?