Carolyn Crowe


Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Week

Carolyn Crowe

Second Chances

by Mike Bellah

  Editor's note: This column is part of a series dealing with people who have received second chances in midlife.

"I look at my whole life as second chances, from about the time I was 40," says Carolyn Upshaw Crow, a teacher at Dumas (Texas) High School.

Actually, Crow's story began six years ago, when at 43 she was suddenly stricken with a form of demyelinating disease, a condition doctors think was caused by a virus that temporarily incapacitated her body's neurological system.

Crow, who lived in Colorado at the time, describes the symptoms as scary. "I was staggering around like I was drunk and I was talking like I was drunk. In the space of a week I got to the point where I couldn't walk or talk."

A devout Christian, Crow was especially upset by an inability to verbalize her prayers. "I couldn't pray for me; I couldn't pray for anybody else, but I picked up a Guidepost and the scripture verse that day was that the Holy Spirit prays for you. I hung on to that verse for everything I had."

While a stay in the hospital along with medicines and physical therapy began to improve her neurological condition, Crow's problems were far from over. Her illness began in March; in April her 14-year-old son Brandon experienced kidney failure and had to begin dialysis treatments. Then, son Justin (15 at the time) had knee surgery and, finally, her marriage of 22 years ended in divorce.

"I went through my days of sitting on the couch crying," says Crow, "yet through all of that my faith was rock solid . . . . I think what has gotten me through is this attitude: God has a plan for my life."

Things did get better for Crow. Over time her physical coordination improved. "I can now wear heels to church and not feel that I am just wobbly," she says. Brandon, who received a kidney transplant in 1993, is now a student at West Texas A & M University. Justin is married and in the army at Fort Hood.

And, perhaps most importantly for Crow, this country girl who grew up on a ranch southeast of Amarillo was able to fulfill a lifelong dream: "I've always wanted to come back to the Panhandle and teach school," she says.

Though she has a degree in business education from West Texas, Crow taught school only one year before her marriage in Colorado in 1971. There, because she always made time for her kids, she held a number of jobs, mostly as a secretary and in banks.

At the urging of friends and Brandon, still living at home at the time, Crow took a position with the Dumas school system in 1994. First, she taught algebra and geometry, and then became the keyboarding instructor at the high school.

Now, with Brandon and Justin on their own, Crow's life revolves around her students. " I go to a lot of rodeos," she says, "go to basketball games, go to football games, go to plays and choir concerts. I want to do it. Kids is what I do."

Crow says her hurdles in life affect the way she teaches, especially the advice she gives her students. When students complain about the unfairness of their own adversity, Crow says her reply is always the same. "'Honey, life's not fair; deal with it.' That's what I say a lot; 'deal with it.' There was a time in my life when I wouldn't have said that all that confidently, but having gone through it, I can say it."

Crowe's attitude is one I often notice in those who survive midlife tragedies. People like Crowe find a way to get their eyes off of the unfairness of the past and on to the opportunities of the present, which, in my opinion, is no small feat. In fact, maybe it's an impossible feat apart from what Crowe found: help from above.

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