Wednesday, November 7, 2018


It’s been a week. Or a few weeks to be more accurate. As I have done in the past, as I advise my students to do, I’m writing my way out of a time of great upheaval. We have lost one of our pillars.

I think of my parents, of Chris’s parents, as our pillars. The foundation of our family is built upon them. When we first married, there were even more of these pillars holding us up - my grandmothers, Chris’s grandmother, my great-aunt and great-uncle, and a couple that were so ingrained into our family, you wouldn’t know we weren’t actually related. Over the years, we’ve lost most of the pillars of that first layer, my grandparents’ generation. And, last weekend, we lost the first pillar from our parents’ layer.

Chris’s dad found out this fall that he was having some health issues. They progressed far quicker than any of us ever dreamed and, early Saturday morning before heading to watch Luke run State, we got the news we were not prepared to hear.

When I’ve lost someone I’ve loved over the years I’ve often written poems or essays about them, sharing what I’ll miss, what memories I’ll hold close, but right now this is just too fresh and I can’t. I’m not sure when I will be able to.

Len was a pillar of our family and without him, we are all less sturdy than we were just a week ago. The world is a little less colorful because his humor and love of a good pun has gone. He was solid steadfast, and true. Like my own dad, he would absolutely hate anyone being maudlin or overly sentimental in his memory, so I’ll keep this short. The people we love are gone all too soon and often we are unprepared to say goodbye. I’m grateful to have known Len for so many years; grateful Chris got a chance to head to California just over a week ago to see him; grateful for his love of movies, sports, and Frank Sinatra that he passed to Chris who has, in turn, passed on to Luke and Liam.

For those of you I was going to see at NCTE, I apologize in advance, but I’ll be missing you this go around. I’ll be celebrating the great things in education from afar this year. This loss has been hard, but it has also been filled with reminders of how amazing people are - from family who we always love, to kind students and families that have left me sweet messages or more, to an author helping me out with a special gift since I can’t see them, to Southwest Airlines refunding my NCTE ticket cost, to NCTE refunding my registration, to friends understanding why I had to bow out,

Today more than ever, I’m filled with hope. While our foundation has cracked, the people who built that foundation for my family fill me with strength - whether they are still here or have already gone. And while it hurts like hell to lose them, I am grateful for the lessons they taught me while they were here and the lessons I will continue to absorb long after they are gone.

Godspeed, Len. You will be missed.