March 22, 2013
Writing Goodbye instead of "The Antiquer Fellow"
I'm not good at goodbyes. The need for them always surprises me, and makes me both sad and angry. Especially if I could have prevented them.
Teaching took its toll. When my first husband told me I looked mean even when I was sleeping, it was instantly clear to me he was tired of those nights when I was checking papers, the weekends I was dragging school chores with me no matter where we went -- and of what I was becoming. Too late to change. Time to say goodbye.
When the only child (by the second husband) grew up, when he was waving from a plane, his wife at his side, leaving to go to his post in Panama, I had to keep smiling, even when I thought I could see how scared they both were, leaving the country to begin careers. Time to let go, to stop being so protective. No way could I prevent the child from growing into a man.
When the airedale we both loved so much had a cancerous knob on his noggin take his life, my husband and I sat under an arbor and wept like babies. No way could we prevent that parting.
When the husband slipped away from me, whispering that now he traveled by moving through walls, there was no way I could prevent his going. Our son opened a window "because it's a good night for flying." An end to the pain nobody could take away.
When discipline became so unchained that a dear teacher friend was shot to death at his classroom door, something in me had grown so old and dry I began to cave. During a night class, I simply couldn't understand what my multi-lingual students were shouting. Finally, one of them came to me, put his hands on my shoulders and turned me around so I could see the overhead projector was on fire. Hello, senior moment. Suddenly, I was remembering all the older teachers I'd seen who hung on too long. It was time to go. The last day of school, one of my students came out of Jonathan's science class and asked me, "Will you ever tell us how old you are?" I laughed, then told him that since it was the last class of the day, the last day of my teaching career, I would tell him at the last moment, the last five minutes of the class. He came back then, and I told him. His mouth fell open. He went into the science classroom, and I'm guessing he told the others. Silence fell over that room. I could almost hear the whispers No, she can't be that old.
I left laughing. And now, it's time to leave this little house. So much work went into it. I won't look back. What do I miss the most about teaching? I miss the way teenagers laugh. Nobody laughs the way they do. Their laughter ripples down halls like a school of silvery fish, all turning and flashing simultaneously.
The "mistake" I put into the novel concerned Major General Ross. I'll respond to anyone who finds and questions it. I doubt many people (perhaps none at all ) will discover this web site, will have read the novel, but I'll keep the ad going in the Baltimore Sun for some time, just in case. I've had my say. If you've read the novel and want to comment, here's my email address so you can make comments: