is going to drive me crazy. period.
I lost another former student to heroin. How egotistical of me to say “I”. His mother lost him, his girlfriend, the people that listened to his music, the friends that held him and smiled with him and cried with him. I havent seen him for many many years, he was 30 years old, and I taught him in middle school. That tells you something doesnt it. I havent seen this boy in 17 years and I can still see his eyes, the way he shook his always too long hair out of his eyes, hear the laughter, almost remember the details of his stories — lots of stories. I hope he is at peace, and somehow I hope he knows how his spirit and memory will continue on. Rest easy Billy.
As a teacher, I was blessed with hundreds of “kids” passing in and out of my classroom. For over 25 years I taught. Infants, kindergarten, preschool, elementary school, college, middle school….high school. Sort of on a mission to try it all I spent the years working my way through the many stages of childhood, specializing in special education, english, Family and Consumer Science and finally Career Ed — Early Childhood Education.
I settled in to finish my teaching career in high school, spending the last 7 years there, working with “my girls” , teaching them to be Early Childcare Education teachers. My girls and I built and scaled mountains. We planned, we designed — and supervised the construction of — a preschool. We won national competitions, had babies, dealt with self injury, bullies, immigration and became prom queens. We played soccer, cheered, shot baskets and ran track. We helped each other through a myriad of personal tragedies — theirs and mine, and promised to keep in touch after graduation. We argued, laughed, cried, philosophied and dreamed. I told them, “after you graduate you can friend me on facebook”.
As they walked off the graduation stage each year I felt a relief ( they made it ) and sadness ( would I see them again ). All in all things went as expected. They went to work, went to college, had babies, got married….traveled. Lived. The natural order of things that governs the moon and the stars, that leads us astray and back again, made sense.
And then, tonight I had stood by a little wooden box containing the ashes of one of my girls. One of my beautiful precious girls took her life, hung herself. Left two small children and a family full of grief. Left a mom who couldnt stand up for her grief. A father whose eyes hold nothing but sorrow, cousins and friends and old teachers that still hear her voice coming down the hall — 9 years after she graduated.
The natural order of things is askew. You dont bury students or young moms. You dont say goodbye to a wooden box hardly a foot long. You dont have to face the fact that something was so very wrong that this precious young woman thought the world, and her babies, would be better off without her. I can not, in all my heart, imagine the pain, fear and dispair she must have felt when she hung herself. Hung herself.
Im sorry Christie, that I didnt know. Sorry that I didnt reach out, keep in touch, help with whatever it was that caused this pain…
Mom is in a health care facility, aka nursing home. She was in assisted living, aka we pay 5000 a month and they do nothing except make sure she has 3 meals a day and call me when she falls , for 5 years. But, although her heart is strong and she seems pretty healthy, her mind is failing and my brother and I decided she needed more intervention and care. The facility agreed. So, she moved downstairs to the first floor to a smaller room, with more face time with the caregivers.
Today when I went to see her she was wearing a sweater I know shes had for 15 years and the same damn pair of black velour pants she has on every day. I took her a new pair of stretchy elastic waisted jeans and convinced her to try them on. She thought they were too long and made me take a picture of her wearing them, from the ground, so she could be sure they werent touching the floor. After agreeing to wearing them and letting me put the other pants in her hamper, along with other dirty clothes I found, I cleaned out her closet. 11 pairs of velour pants, 8 shirts, 5 sweater cardigans, 3 pullover sweaters. She’s set.
But then I found the Christmas presents. My brother had given her a calendar with a picture of her and my dad on it. Said calendar was hanging on the wall over her bed. My kids and i had given her 2 pairs of pants, a pair of earrings, a night light, a new shirt, a new cardigan, my son’s family picture and a handmade ornament from the youngest granddaughter. They were all shoved in a bag in the back of her closet, , along with a dirty napkin from the snack she had at my son’s Christmas Eve party. Nothing had been looked at, used or loved since we gave them to her. Lord Give Me Strength. I know it’s dementia, I know she can’t help it. But, the flower from the lady at church is on the shelf, the tiny poinsettia from the staff is on her desk, the calendar is on the wall, the cards from strangers are up, but the gifts me and my kids chose, made, shared, were stuffed in a closet with dirty napkins. Every day I see my mom I am reminded that I was never the one, I was never the daughter she wanted, never enough. And yet, I go back.
I started my day with “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street”. Back in the 80s when my children were young, we watched this every time it came on PBS, and bought the album so they could listen to the music and story whenever they wanted, which was pretty much daily for a long time. Our oldest — probably 3 at the time, was terrified when Oscar went flailing down the skating rink steps, I can still hear her yelling “oh no, oh no” until Big Bird and Patty found him on the sidewalk and he exclaimed “lets do it again!”
Now in the days of DVRs and On demand, of DVDs and streaming, I have been able to share this gem with our grandchildren — they received it with various levels of excitement…it’s a bit simplistic in their world, but they humor grammy when necessary.
Today, though, there were no children or grandchildren here. Husband slept in the next room — I woke at 4:30 —- too much holiday prep on my mind I guess, and as I settled in on the couch with my coffee and blanket I sort of heard the music in my head and knew I needed a Sesame Street Fix. Soothing somehow to see sweet Mr. Hooper return the duck and paperclips, Bob and the kids signing the song…Oscar at his grouchiest, although still worrying about Big Bird.
And I remembered……our kids were always close. Having 3 in less than five years was a load, but it made, and still makes, for some interesting dynamics….on Christmas morning they were a whirling dervish of joy, wrapping paper and Christmas songs. Christmas Eve service at church, where their dad was always a wise man and their poppop was an usher, they held those candles, real candles back then, and sang those Christmas songs with all their hearts. Our son in his little tie, banging on his drum, oldest daughter in her angel halo and wings, the baby standing on the pew to see her brother and sister. I hope those memories mean as much to them as to me. I hope a few bars of “keep Christmas with you” brings them to a simple place where they were sure they were loved, Santa was on his way and you always had your family.
…but I worry
Me: Honey, what’s that table in your truck?
Him: Table? What table?
Me: That table. It has black legs, a wooden top and its laying upside down in the bed of your truck.
Him: ( with attitude ) Oh, that. That’s not a table. That’s a ….a …. leg assemblage for a bandsaw or tablesaw.
Me: (with resignation) Oh, so its a table.
Him: ( more attitude ) Call it whatever you want.
I can’t make this crap up……..
I watched a movie this morning “The Great Debaters”. If you havent watched it, do.
My husbands likes to build muscle cars. His passion is his 66 Nova — little deuce coupe. Today he backed it out of the garage like he does every couple weeks, revved it up, came in and announced “I am going for a ride in my car”.
“Pick up some toilet paper on your way back”.
Wait for it…
“No, Im not stopping in my car and picking up toilet paper . No way.”
I kid you not. This man, who has purchased toilet paper, tampons and hemorroid cream will NOT, and I repeat N – O – T stop at the store and put toilet paper in his Nova.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…..