Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Teachers Wearing Black

I'm trying to figure out how to write about why I'm sad this week. Mainly it's that one of the parents at my job died on Monday. It was completely unexpected; an aneurism, I heard. He was the at-home parent; the mom has a full-time job. I'd always see him around at pickup time, usually with his youngest kid, a preschooler, clinging to him. He used to come to the library to chat sometimes, though often I was busy and didn't have time.

So, I wasn't really close to him. But something like this shakes a whole..."community," I was going to write, but the word "community" feels so overused and drained of meaning these days that I might as well write "afaglement," or any collection of letters. Organism, I think, is better for what I'm trying to say. Or habitat. Or biosphere. Something where everything ripples through to everyone, from the front-office ladies to the cooler-than-cool middle-school kids to the littlest three-year-olds.

I've had a post brewing for a long time about how the people at my job, the other staff especially, are my Village. I still want to write that post, but this isn't quite it. This is more about the school as a whole.

This is the second year in a row that a parent has died at this school. No one ever did before, in my eight years there.

As I was leaving on Monday, chatting with Pat the front-desk receptionist, Arlene the aftercare teacher rushed through and tossed off some logistics about Frank not being there to pick up his kids, and she had them in aftercare, it was no biggie. "But where is he?" Pat shot back, before we picked up our conversation. I left and didn't think anything of it; parents are always spacing. Pat and Arlene are always checking in to try to deal with something that turns out to be a traffic jam, or miscommunication between spouses, or just a flakeout.

But this time it wasn't. I got the call at nine that night; they were calling teachers and specialists, so we'd know when we came in on Tuesday.

The kids were awful today, especially the younger ones. They bickered and whined and picked on each other. One kid, who's always chipper and friendly, burst into tears out of nowhere and said people had been being mean to him all day. His friends chimed in with stories about mean kids on the playground, but I didn't think that could be the whole story. The second-grader whose mom has cancer has been shaky and fragile all week.

School let out an hour early, so people could go to the funeral in the afternoon. I didn't go; I had to pick up MG at her aftercare. But I wore my black dress and jangly grownup necklace. It seemed like the right thing, somehow. Everywhere I went today, there were kids and teachers and parents in black, so they could go right to the funeral after school.


Anonymous aka Marina said...

So sorry, Els,
That sounds really hard. And the fact that he has small children just makes it that much more unbearable.

When people die at my work it tends to be moms and babies (part of being in OB) and it rocks the department to the core -- every time. Sadly it happens more than twice in eight years and, for better or for worse, we feel responsible since it's supposed to be our job to keep the moms and babes healthy. But it never never never is easy.

Hang in there,
I am sending thoughts and prayers to his family and his wife,
aka Marina

8:13 AM  
Blogger heather said...

ieeesh. that's tough. my partner used to work at a private elementary school, very tight knit, so i totally get the community/village thing. my thoughts are with you and everyone there.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Ai. I'm so sorry. Things like this shake up your world for a long time afterwards.

Thinking about you, and the family. And that second grader whose mom has cancer.

8:31 AM  
Anonymous Liza said...

When I was a kid, in 5th grade, something similar happened to a friend of mine's father. He fell from a ladder, cracking his skull, and dying. He had 4 kids aged 11 and under.

It's horrible. Just horrible. My thoughts and prayers are with you all, especially the family and the other fragile members of your biosphere.

9:44 AM  
Blogger liz said...

What PS said.

6:15 PM  
Blogger GraceD said...

els, dollin, I send my best, a hug and one of your sweet long "yeaaaaahs"

I know what you mean. Yeah. Yeah.

9:05 PM  
Blogger bihari said...

I am so sorry.

Your words make me think of John Donne; "Every man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind."

9:38 AM  
Blogger Kate R said...

Yick, sorry. Community really is the right word. .

7:03 PM  
Blogger Angel said...

Oh I'm so very sorry :( (((Tender hugs))))

8:18 PM  

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