Monday, August 10, 2015

The Dog Girl of Dickey Hall

"Do not be afraid.  Our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift."  -Dante's Inferno

The idea of fate, that the unforeseen meanderings of our lives are predetermined from the womb, is not something that appeals to my nature.  For some folks, I guess, it is a comforting thought to know that every twist and turn we come across has an underlying purpose; we are meant to be wherever we happen to end up simply because that's the plan laid out for us.  No matter the route we take, where we end up is where we're supposed to be.

I would hate to live my life under that sort of constraint.  I realize there are some things in life that are simply beyond our influence; things sometimes just happen.  But I'd like to think I have far more control than unaffectedly floating on the breeze, going where life supposes I'll go.  I'd like to think the choices I've made along the way, and the choices I'll make as I move forward, will play a role in where I ultimately go in life.  And even so...Sometimes random coincidences seem almost too good to find our paths by nothing more than dumb luck.

That sort of thing happened to me in the fall of 2005 when I was a junior at the University of Kentucky.  I had finally declared my major, secondary education, and found myself under the direction of Liza Turner, who would be my academic adviser for the next year and a half.

The first time I met Liza, we went through the cursory introductions.  We examined the university course manual, my transcript, and my schedule to make sure I was taking all of the required courses to complete my degree on time.  Over the next couple of semesters, I'd drop by her office from time to time to ask about dropping a course and replacing it with something else, the MIC application process and where I stood with that, or to just simply see Lucy, whom Liza stealthily (and against the wishes of most of her building-mates) brought to keep her company in the closet she called an office.  It was the sort of intermittent working relationship where I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to know she didn't remember my name.

In the spring of 2008, Liza was the instructor for the last course in which I enrolled at UK.  To be sure, I had one foot out the door, so my attention span was nil.  I talked constantly.  I rarely laid eyes on our weekly readings, half-assed any written assignments...As an example, I turned in an essay over a book we were supposed to read, and only cited material from two chapters.  Liza noticed, too.  But, by that point I just wanted school to end.

I wouldn't have been shocked if I were one of Liza's least favorite students, so when she basically volunteered her younger sister to go on a blind date with me nearly 3 years later, I really couldn't believe it.

Since then, as my relationship with Adrienne has grown, I quickly realized I had become a part of a great family.  And as great and strong as the Turner girls have always been, Liza may just be the capstone keeping them all from crumbling.

There are few people on this earth as selfless and thoughtful as Liza Turner.  Each Christmas Eve, she reads an original poem before we sit down at the table to eat, conjuring up funny stories from the year that was, providing each of us with a memento to carry with us forever.  At Christmas or on birthdays, I often look forward to the gift Liza gets more than any other.  She is incredibly creative and able to put ideas to action, but even more so, she personalizes gifts better than anyone I've ever seen.  My favorites?  The Avett Brothers concert map coasters adorning our coffee table, and the picture chair sitting in corner of our living room, both handmade of course.

Liza truly, deeply, cares about her family farm and community, and it shows.  Drive by Turner Farm at any hour of the day, at any time of year, and you'll undoubtedly see her car parked out front, muddy footprints lining the driveway to and from the barn.  You'll login to Facebook and see countless posts outlining programs she's single-handedly planned and executed at the Cumberland County Public Library: programs to promote literacy or a love of local history; arts and crafts workshops, family movie nights.  Liza loves Cumberland County, and she goes out of her way to nurture that love within the hearts of other Cumberland Countians.

She would be the first to admit she was born in the wrong decade.  She's a throwback.  She's tough.  She's independent.  She'll wake up at 3:30 AM without an alarm, make coffee, and read because she doesn't have cable.  She'll make zucchini bread or eggplant parmesan and leave it on the counter for you to enjoy for dinner.  When you call to say "thank you," she'll answer on her regular cell phone.  And she wouldn't have it any other way.

If fate exists, one of the most important twists of fate in my life was walking into Liza's office in Dickey Hall that day in 2005.  Not only did it bring me the love of my life, and the daughter we have on the way, but it also set me on a crash course to being part of a beautiful family, and getting to know one of the coolest, funniest, kindest, most selfless people I've had the privilege of meeting.  I'm not sure it was fate...But it certainly was a gift.

Happy Birthday, Liza!