Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Widow’s Morning

Standard

I can’t believe he’s dead.  There his body lay in the coffin so peaceful, a little mangled, but masked well.  I could only stare in disbelief and wonderment.  It was so fast.  One minute everything was fine, and then he was gone–just like that.
“You know, he was such a good man.” a woman whispered in my ear.  I didn’t know who she was, but I nodded.
“I’m so sorry for you and the children.”  I heard over and over.

“How are they holding up?”

“Lisa keeps thinking he’s outside mowing the lawn or working on the car,” I would reply.  “But Lily is so young, I think she may have forgotten him already.”
“It will get easier with time.”  I heard more than anything.  Did these very well-meaning people know how cliché they were?  I mean I guess there isn’t much you can say in this situation.  And I guess I didn’t know what I wanted to hear either.

He was on his way to do “research” at the library when he had the heart attack.  I wasn’t with him.  He thought he just had the flu, but he also thought he was invincible and insisted on going anyway.  He was always doing research, but never had anything to show for all those hours.

“Who’s that girl?”  I heard someone whisper to someone else.  I looked around.  I didn’t know her either.  She looked to be about 17, but with brown frizzy hair, lipstick in a completely unnatural shade of pink, and blue eye shadow put on like someone in their 60’s.  She didn’t look at me.  No direct eye contact with anyone.  She went straight to his body, cried like a child, and ran out in a scene.

Whispers flew, like wild darts across the room.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to say.  Right then, it wasn’t my job to figure things out; it was my job to cry.

“What is all this research about?”  I asked him one time.  “What is so important that you would rather spend these hours with your computer than sleeping with or talking to me.”

All he replied was, “It’s none of your business.”

No one was surprised that his teenage son didn’t come, they haven’t talked in years, but when his teenage daughter arrived, with two close friends, she wouldn’t go near the casket.  Maybe she was sad or scared.  Maybe she didn’t want to see him like that.

I was too busy getting hugs, and hand squeezes to go over and talk to her just then.  She talked and giggled with her friends in the corner.  Was she that removed from him, did she just not know how to show respect?  I watched her through the people around me who were reciting the same things I had heard a hundred times already.  All I really had to do was nod.  She still laughed and giggle and texted on her phone as if she were in a school hallway.  Then she stopped for a minute, walked directly to her father, and it looked like she spit in his face.  I couldn’t be sure.  I wasn’t that close, but then she walked past me with her friends right behind her, and nodded at me.  I wanted to tell her I would call her, we would get together sometime, but I felt confined by well-wishers.

As I looked around, I saw all my friends and family around to support me, and be here for me, and there was no one there that I knew, just to mourn him.  Most of his family or friends didn’t even come, not to mourn anyway.  It seemed proof enough for me that the thallium I put in his coffee that last week together was a good idea.  At least my girls were going to get something.

Emergency Exit

Standard

Kelly needed a quick excuse to get out of there.  She couldn’t breathe.  She couldn’t understand how balloons and crepe paper could be so stifling.  She thought it would all be ok, but she wasn’t ready after all.  She found an emergency exit door at the back of the reception hall, and the fresh air and sunlight hit her like smelling salts, waking her up and allowing her to breathe again.  The heavy bass of the music was smothered behind her. There were two people standing by the wall smoking, so she flashed a quick smile at them.

Pacing back and forth, she tried to decide what to do.  Could she go back in there or should she just stay outside in the bright sunlight?  She could see Joey coming out of the back doors.  He shielded his eyes from the sun to look around the parking lot.  As soon as his eyes spotted her, he walked briskly in her direction.

He looked so good dressed up like that.  They had never been to anything formal like this before.  Mostly he wore t-shirts and jeans, but he looked really nice in his dark suit.  His hair was combed and he was shaved nicely.  He could have been going to work in an office.  The idea of it almost made her laugh out loud.

“Hi, Joey.”  She said almost shyly.

“Hey babe.  Whadda doin’ out here?”  He asked.

“It was just so hot and crowded in there, I couldn’t breathe.  I barely know anybody, so I came out for some air.”

Yeah, it’s not my kind of scene either, but we should get back before anyone asks for us.”  Joey said grabbing her hand.

“You go ahead, I’ll be there in a minute or two.  Cover for me.”  She smiled.

He turned around and headed back.  One of his friends handed him a can of beer on the way in, and they started laughing.

She liked the way her dress sounded like cellophane when she walked.  She liked feeling like Cinderella.  But walking in those shoes in the gravel parking lot was hard.  Her ankle kept twisting if she stepped wrong, so she walked up to the sidewalk and pretended like she was a model.  Cars honked as she passed, and she waved like a princess out on a stroll.

She had almost forgotten that she had tucked the money her mother had given her inside her bra since her dress didn’t have any pockets.

She saw a taxi parked across the street at the bowling alley, so she walked in to find the driver.  She found a man sitting at the food counter drinking a Coke.

“Sir, is that your taxi?”  She asked pointing towards the door.

“Yes.  Why?”

“Well, I was just thinking that the freshest air is by the ocean.  How much would it cost to have you drive me there?”

“That’s at least 130 miles away.  It would take over 2 hours.  I’d have to charge you about $250.”

“Ok, then, I’m ready to go,” she said pulling a few bills out of her bra.

He got up and grabbed his hat off of the counter just as she realized she didn’t have to hold the bouquet anymore.

Maybe she would call Joey later.

Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmatic

Standard

I heard two interesting statistics in separate stories the other day on CNN.  Eighty percent of all of the schools in the country are making big cuts in their staffing for the next school year because of financial problems.  And America has 5113 nuclear weapons.  Where are our priorities?  The government throws all of this money into bombs that can destroy the earth many times over –because obviously one or two are not enough.  Would anyone even be around to press the button on number 5113?

But the bigger question is why we are so quick to cut our education system that is already so poorly funded as it is.  It’s not as if we are Singapore, Hong Kong, or Korea, and we are on top.  We are above Indonesia and Iran, but is that the best we can do?

We never have to vote on war levies or military levies.  We have no choice over what or how much comes out of our income for that, and yet, in an economic depression, we are asked if we can pay more for schools.  Why is it even a question?  Who set the system up this way?

Cutting 10% of the education staff including teachers and administrators (like what is happening in Cleveland, Ohio) hurts everyone.  The teachers are out of jobs, and collecting unemployment and any other assistance they may qualify for.  Their spouses and families, most likely will not have health care.  The teachers who still have jobs, have much more work for that same pay (of course raises are frozen).  And students who are already spilling out of rooms, are even more packed in, meaning a lot less personal attention.  The graduation rate in Cleveland is at 33% percent right now.  How is cutting staff a solution for anything?

There is an experimental charter school in Washington Heights, NYC that has been proving the theory that paying teachers more can make a better school.  They believe that one fabulous teacher is worth more than all the technology and low student numbers you can provide.  So far they are right.  They pay their teachers a starting salary of $125,000 with bonuses.  They work longer days, and have many more responsibilities than an average inner-city, but they are the best of the best.  Eight teachers were finally picked out of 600 resumes.  If you are regarded as part of a dream team, you will rise up to the bar.  We haven’t been able to see the long-term effects yet, but I heard the waiting list for this public school is very long.

So, dear government, could we reassess our priorities, please?  Let’s shift some money around, and focus on our primary education system, because at the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our future.