And Mrs. Goldfein thinks I can be a mentor. A role model. Yeah, right
"Missed you in class yesterday.” Shana slides onto the bench beside me. “Everything okay?”
I smile vaguely. Last year, that wouldn’t have even been a question. But — wonder of wonders! — yesterday I took my first absence of the school year, and it was because I had my next infusion. Fourth one. Wow.
“Yeah, all good, baruch Hashem.” I prod my salad with a fork, trying to find the feta cheese. Shana looks curious. Maybe I can share this with her?
I take a breath. “I had my infusion yesterday.”
She looks blank. “Oh. Um, what’s that?”
I giggle, remind myself that this time last year my reaction would have been the same. “It’s a fancy way to take medication. I do it once a month. It’s through an IV,” I add.
Shana blinks. “Oh, wow. That’s… that must be hard.”
For a minute, I’m reminded of my conversation with Henny, four weeks ago. Henny’s in seminary now, and I’m almost a month into 12th grade. Time flies when I’m feeling good, I guess.
“It’s not so bad,” I say.
Shana takes a sip of juice. “Hey, did you see the notice? Last period’s canceled today.”
It’s my turn to blink. How did the subject just change? But I can handle this. “Yeah, pre-Yom Kippur assembly, no? They probably have a speaker coming.”
A couple of other girls amble over, and Shana moves over. “Hey, come join,” she says, and the conversation meanders in a million directions. It’s okay, I realize. I can do this, I can open up a glimpse of my world even if they’ll never understand, and I can close it up again and play along even when it feels like my classmates belong on another planet.
I sit quietly, not apart, but not quite part of the group either. Shana’s a good friend, they all are. But they’ll never be able to really get it like Shaindy can.
And maybe that’s okay, too.
“Libby, will you step into my office, please?”
I jump, startled. What have I done wrong? Is this about all my absences last year or something?
“How did you enjoy the speaker?” the principal asks as she sits down. “I’m sure you found her speaking about topics you could relate to.”
Not at all. I think back to the speaker. Honey-blonde sheitel, sparkling eyes, super-bright smile. She described her Journey, with a capital J, through a long and painful illness. She’d spoken about tefillah and hope and connection to Hashem. About emunah, and how challenges build a person. How she would never, ever choose to give up the difficult experience for anything.
And I’d sat there feeling like a terrible person.
“Umm, it was a very different situation,” I manage, because Mrs. Goldfein is waiting for an answer.
She nods understandingly. “That’s exactly why I’ve called you in, actually.”
What? To discuss my medical issues? Or my hashkafos?
“I’ll get to the point. There’s a girl in ninth grade who’s just been diagnosed with a medical condition. I’d like to ask you to speak with her, maybe as a sort of ‘big sister,’ someone she can relate to who has been through a similar challenge and emerged with such a good attitude.” She beams, like I’m the inspiration of the day instead of Mrs. Blonde Sheitel. I am mortified.
I am not inspirational. I’m not a tzadeikes just because I have a medical condition. I don’t have this amazing connection to Hashem. For goodness’ sake, sometimes I barely even daven!
I think back over the past months, the anger and frustration and despair. Even now, there are days I find everything so hard. Days when I just want to throw in the towel, when I complain, when I feel like it’s all so unfair, why me?
And Mrs. Goldfein thinks I can be a mentor. A role model. Yeah, right.
“I… I don’t think I’m the right person for the job,” I blurt out, and barely wait for her acknowledgment before fleeing the room.
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 822)
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