I was a peer leader of the Freshman Gateway course my junior year of college. What’s that, you ask? Veteran professors team up with juniors and seniors to “teach” incoming freshman the ropes. We covered everything from what’s where on campus to time/money management and a sampling of pretty much everything else you could imagine. It’s pretty random, but maybe that’s just because I taught with Dr. Cliff Schimmels.
Dr. Schimmels was one of those truly amazing people who seemed to love everybody and never have a bad day; he also sorta sounded like Winnie the Pooh, which made me just want to hug him. For our semester together he’d requested a freshman class of the kids who’d barely made into Lee despite the practically open enrollment. He said we were just gonna love these kids through their first semester. I seriously about cried through that initial conversation in his office. Dr. Schimmels was gone a lot that fall, whether for traveling or for health reasons, I don’t remember, so I ended up doing a lot of the class-directing (I’m hesitant to call it teaching because it was probably anything but).
I learned some wonderful things from Dr. Schimmels that year. Thankfully, he’s written loads of books for all the things I missed. One thing I will not forget is how he related the meaning of love to our class. He was talking about his wife who had to take care of him so much while he was sick. He said, “Love is cleaning the throw up out of the bed.”
I thought about that again on Wednesday when Grey started puking all over herself. She was strapped in her carseat when chunks of banana and fresh bread came up and out. Something you may not know: children must be taught how to throw up; their first instinct is to swallow that mess. Watching her panic and try to stop it was worse than watching it pour over her chin, down her chest and into her little lap. And pour it did. Fortunately, we were about to Cholle’s so we made use of some towels and took off for the house.
Grey was a soggy, pitiful, pale wreck by the time we got home. I had to strip her down in the garage, trying to avoid touching the goop on her clothes and hands, holding my breath because of the sour, yeasty smell of the up-chucked bread. She needed a bath straightaway. Then I had to attend to the pile of mess in the garage, plus tear apart the carseat and scrub that sucker down.
This morning I woke to her choking cough sounds; I found a small pile of something regurgitated on her mattress. And just a few minutes ago she coughed so hard she had diarrhea in her panties. She called me, confusion and worry masking her sweet angel face. She needed help, but she didn’t want me to see the mess she’d made of herself. It’s these times I begin to fully realize what Dr. Schimmels meant.
Love is messy people serving each other in the middle of the mess. Love is messy people not being afraid of the mess and going in for a hug anyway. Love is seeing the grossest parts of someone else and showing them that you have that too. Love is looking past the mess and focusing on what’s perfect and beautiful.