Saturday, March 24, 2018

Goodbye Uncle Bobby

This week has been tough. As I have taught my students what it means to write an "age poem", I've shared with them that the joy of getting older also comes with the heartache of watching those you love age. And then losing them.

Some of my students have already experienced this. Several have lost a parent far too young. They know this bitter truth. It is one we all come to know and face with more than a bit of dread.

Monday morning as my students were beginning to write in second hour I glanced at an email from my mom with more than a bit of disbelief. My uncle, my full-of-life uncle, had just been given the sad diagnosis of cancer, and it was advanced. I read it. Reread it. Then I looked up and took a deep breath. The beauty and pain of teaching is that you can't do anything else but be there. And so, I went back to teaching, to conferring, as I prayed over and over in my head.

Thursday I was working in the back library during tenth period helping some students sort through the lyrics of a song for examples of figurative language. DJ pointed out that someone was calling my cell because my Apple Watch display announced that. I glanced down and told him it was my brother and he knew I was teaching, I'd call him back. Inside, my stomach began to twist. Why would Ryan be calling now? Just thirty minutes later and I had my news. Four days after his diagnosis, less than three weeks after first entering the hospital, my amazing Uncle Bobby was gone.

Loss doesn't get any easier the older you get. You come to expect it, sure. We all know we have a finite amount of time. And yet, I'm not ready to say goodbye. Bobby had sixty-eight years, but I wish he had so many more. And so, as I have in the past on this blog when I've lost a loved one, I'm using this space to say goodbye the only way I know how - through words. 

I'll remember...
following your blue backpack 
through the streets of New York.
The crush of humanity all around,
but as long as you were in sight,
I felt safe.

I'll remember laughing with you at family gatherings.
The twinkle in your piercing blue eyes when you said
something that drove Mumsie crazy.
How I longed to stay up later,
to be enveloped in that laughter that filled the home.

I'll remember coming to visit you in Indy when Chris and I married.
Meeting your friends.
Learning about intense games of Risk.
And the need for more game boards
when you grew angry after losing.

I'll remember your humor, for certain.
But also your zest for life.
And no BS attitude.
Listening to you play the organ for mass as you called out,
"Song number 342, but only verses 2,4, and 5" 
because you didn't like the others.

I'll remember your devotion to your calling.
How kids you taught would meet me and
share how you taught them about 
and you helped them feel strong. 
And I knew it was because you saw the 
value in kids. You didn't dismiss them.
You didn't dismiss anyone.
You listened.

I'll remember sitting up late with you,
Often with a beer, a Diet Coke, and a coffee
on the table in front of you.
Late hours passing,
yawns escaping before I could hold them back.
But I knew I wanted to listen just a bit more,
hear just a few more stories.
And right now I'd give anything to be back at that 
table with you once again.

My heart is breaking,
all of ours are,
but I'm certain you are where you are meant to be.
I'm not sure what heaven is like, 
but I hope for your sake they have 
Black and White cookies up there.
That it looks a lot like Bay Shore.
And I won't be shocked one bit if the 
Yankees win it all next year.

Goodbye, Bobby. Thanks for always believing in me.