Thursday, July 15, 2010

ALS Breeds A Teacher

ALS left me with no parents. For those who don’t know, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a motor-neuron disorder that is always terminal.

My father was diagnosed in 1971. I was seven. He had noticed weakness in his hands and trembling in his fingers. In spite of my parents’ valiant efforts to keep life normal for their two young daughters, ALS took over our family life. At eleven, my mom in the throes of taking care of a sick husband and my father debilitated by the disease and unable to care for himself, I took over caring for my younger sister and myself.

Fast forward to 1988. I grew up and became a teacher. A sixth grade teacher. A teacher of eleven year olds living in a chaotic, immigrant barrio, forced to grow up way too fast. I vowed to help them and make sure they had their childhoods left intact. A woman who’d grown up without parenting, deciding to parent her students? Yeah. I see it now. Did I know that was what I was doing back then? No. But lately thoughts of my father, his illness and how it changed my life, have swirled in my head. I realize I became a teacher to put some sense of “right” back into my world.

I truly believe teaching is a calling. It has always been my passion. But is a calling something we’re born with or something that develops from our life’s path? A fireman friend of mine years ago said, “Cynthia, We’re the lucky ones. We were born with a calling and we get to fulfill it everyday.”

Now I wonder - a calling or destiny? Or does it matter, as long as I’m feeding the passion?

If you are a daughter of a parent who has/had ALS, please join our new Facebook group:
Daughters of ALS