I enter the large room and sit. Across a large, dark, antique-feeling desk, he sits: the man who denied my leave of absence application, and who I must convince to change his mind. This is my only chance.
I thought it would be only us, yet I am not surprised to see so many. On my right sit members of the Board. I glance at Keith, who gives me a small, knowing nod, and a barely perceptible grin. I know, if he could, he'd be flashing me the "thumbs up" sign. I smile back. I look further over to the right, for Rick, but do not see him. Not so much disappointment as wonderment. Where is he? On my left sit at least a dozen other people; I'm not sure who they are, but know they are part of the administration. I feel supported by their presence nonetheless.
I begin to state my case, which is full of all kinds of things I did while teaching sixth grade at Carmel. I mention the Student Council created from nothing, and the school store built by students. The Egyptian Museum. Comer facilitating. It's all irrelevant, but I feel the need to convey a sense of history, and to somehow make him know that I have given my heart and soul to this district for fourteen years and deserve to be treated better than this.
I find myself at the part where I want to bring up cancer, the role it plays in my decision, and its transformational power over my life. I realize that, against all recommendations, I'm going to get emotional. I sit up taller, look right and left, and suddenly realize that I can share the story objectively, without tears, and so I do. I'm not sure what I say; I only know that I am confident and self-assured when I say it.
Finally, it is the end of our time together. We both stand, and shake hands across the table. The others gather round and begin to discuss the situation. I await the verdict. It's unclear. Do I get the leave of absence? Or not? Everybody's talking, but no one seems to know the answer. I am confused, but happy. It's like not winning a medal at the Olympics, but knowing you skated your best.
I am ushered outside, and there, before my eyes, parked on the street, sits a white convertible. Just like the '67 Datsun Fairlady I had my eye on at Concourse Auto for awhile. They're giving it to me as a prize! I'm not sure what I've done to win it, but I assume it means that I have been granted my sabbatical. I admire the well-worn leather interior, reach in and touch the steering wheel, marvel at the old dials, and wonder what it will be like to drive it.