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I’m NOT stupid – I just CAN’T!


Candy Store Duty – A Very Real Fear!

As many of you already know, I am a member of the American Turners and am privileged to be a cottage owner at Illinois Turner Camp in Algonquin, Illinois. Camp is a magical place where hundreds of families participate in nonstop fun-filled activities all summer long.  The kids are in “program” each day which starts at 9:00 A.M. with calisthenics and various sports. After an hour break for lunch, their day continues with swim lessons from 1-3 and then voluntary participation in arts & crafts, gymnastics, lacrosse, cooking lessons, and a host of other activities. In the evenings there are movie nights, sports nights, costume themed campfire nights, and special camper Awards each Friday.

Weekends at camp are usually extremely busy and all cottage owners are scheduled three voluntary work duties throughout the season to keep things enjoyable and running smoothly. Duties range from pool admissions, pool concessions, dinners, dishes, snack counters, to candy store. And as luck would have it, once again, two of my scheduled duties this year are the “candy store.”

I know it sounds simple enough and prior to my illness it was a duty that I found most enjoyable. I love interacting with the kids and seeing the joy in their smiles. However, after years of  bacterial infection wreaking havoc in my brain, it is becoming more and more difficult. Let me paint you a picture…

Friday evenings, immediately following weekly awards, the campers go charging up the outside stairs of the Rathskellar (a German dining hall where drinks and meals are served, games are watched, people socialize, and the dance floor is filled beyond capacity with kids from ages 1-90 every Saturday night.) Adjacent to the upstairs dining hall a “candy store” is strategically housed in the corner. Behind the counters there are shelves and shelves with rows and rows of widely assorted candies, a freezer chest filled with different flavored ice creams, and a refrigerator filled with pops, juices, and the coveted chocolate bars that are prone to melting in summer’s sweltering heat. All these delicious items range in price from a penny to roughly $1.50. As the two assigned workers stand behind the counter bracing for the oncoming stampede, hosts of children (teens and adults too!) swarm the two open sides and excitedly begin yelling over each other trying to shout out their desires. Once each worker finally singles out a child to work with, it begins. They carefully show us the Turner coupon money, attendance award tickets, money they successfully talked their parents into giving them, and whatever sticky coins they might have had left over from their last visit to this utopia.  They begin ordering as many items as they can possibly purchase with what “monies” they have secured. That in itself may not sound too bad, but as quickly as they make up their mind – they change it. “I’ll have a push pop, a sour patch, a Reese’s…..no wait….I think I want an ice cream cone instead….or maybe put back the push pop and give me a twizzler and a blow pop instead…” This could go on for several very long minutes as the rest of the children impatiently wait their turns.

As I’m returning initially picked items to the shelf in favor of other treats, my infected brain is frantically trying to remember and keep up with the calculations.  In my mind I’m constantly trying to correctly add and subtract as the goodies are exchanged. $.25 + .10 + .01 +.05 – .10 + 1.25 – .05 + .50 + .01 + .01 – .50……yep, I’m already lost and about to burst into tears because I feel so utterly stupid that I can’t keep up with this simple math. And then trying to add up the combination of different valued coupons, tickets, cash and coins to see if they have enough to cover their selection – and then make correct change to complete the transaction!  All while trying to keep a cheerful smile on my face so as to not let anyone in on the secret that I am pathetically struggling.

Could I possibly admit to people that I’m making mistakes and don’t think I can perform this relatively simple duty anymore? Growing up I remember too often hearing people speak negatively about the uneducated people who couldn’t make correct change at the stores and what a god-send it was to have the new cash registers that would correctly figure it all out for them. Let me assure you, there are no such registers at Turner camp. And I am left to repeatedly feel like a completely uneducated idiot.  But I’m not! I have always been blessed with far above average intelligence, a great head for business that served me well in my career, and a brain that processed information at a phenomenal speed.  But no more. This is yet one more thing that Chronic Lyme Disease and its multiple co-infections have stolen from me. The cognitive deficiencies that I now suffer as a result of this disease are downright embarrassing and I absolutely hate it!

Currently, I try to find a willing family member to help me work my duties at camp, but the time may inevitably come when I have to tell them that I can only work certain types of duties going forward. Ones that don’t require too much strength, too much stamina, or too much brains.  All things I am short on thanks to this disease. I pray that they will understand and be accommodating to my special needs.  But mostly, I just really want them to know and understand…… I’m NOT stupid – I just CAN’T!

#candystore #AmericanTurners #IllinoisTurnerCamp #lymie #lyme #Lymedisease