“Some people will do anything to win the sympathy vote.”

That was the first thing I told Alanna Oswald this morning when I walked into her busy room in St. Luke’s ICU. Unbeknownst to me last Tuesday, when I noticed she was missing from the School Board’s Business Committee meeting, she was a day away from death’s door shaking in her bed from what she thought was a concussion. She was wrong. She was in a state of toxic shock from a runaway infection.

The next evening, the day before I left for my fiftieth High School reunion in Mankato, she rallied enough to send me a text that she had just had half of St. Luke’s emergency staff vacuuming out the poisons in her system which would cost her more than a pound of flesh. She had not yet turned a corner that she let me know might finish her off. Not believing what she told me I asked if she would like me to visit her the next morning on my way out of town. She said yes. I called into the emergency room at a quarter to ten on Thursday and was told she was being attended to and to wait for fifteen minutes and call back. I got an hour of French practice in the waiting room between calls to see if the staff was finished fussing with her. I gave up the ghost the last time I was told it might be another twenty minutes. I stopped an hour out of town to see if she had responded to my text apology before leaving St. Lukes. She had. And her wry wit was fully in tact.

So today, after another bout of texting last night, she told me to come and visit. I got more gruesome details than I probably needed to know but all with the joking soldierly banter of someone at a dressing station having a shrapnel filled arm amputated. Alanna is a pretty jolly fatalist and she at least still had all appendages. She has been told she will be hospitalized for another seven days. She said she was going for a record ICU stay. She will not be at tonight’s school board meeting.

I told Alanna about our candidate’s East High School PTA meeting last night where UMD’s Mary Owen came and read a short statement. It to was full of good humor. Although no one was able to speak for Alanna her absence was more eloquent than any of the candidate’s answering questions.

It was a small crowd of nineteen according to someone reporting back to Alanna. I hadn’t counted attendance in the Media Center and because everyone was spread out I had guessed the number to be double that. In any event, the three remaining candidates were peppered with a steady stream of questions. Judy Seliga Punyko, who knows something about the Board, sent in a question asking the candidates to tell what they had done for the School Board. I was the last candidate to answer so, as the others spoke, I made up a list of a dozen things I had done. I was only able to get through a third of the list in my minute and half response time. Rosie Loeffler Kemp was present too as her former campaign chair, John Schwetman, raced through his answer like a Ronco popeil knife seller at the state fair. He had helped support previous levy campaigns and had kids in the schools.

I was first up in the two minute summation department and with my Symphony Chorus rehearsal five minutes off I stood up and explained my hurry to leave along with parting thoughts. I got unexpected applause as I left the Library. Maybe they were glad to see the back of me. At least that’s the sort of thing I rattled off to Alanna today during my visit. I just wanted to keep it light.

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