I don’t get to blog during the week, but it’s a cold, snowy late March day in East Tennessee, and the pup and I are confined to the house. My agenda for the evening is light, so I am happily procrastinating with a little writing. Here’s the prompt for the day: “What are the three most memorable moments – good or bad, happy or sad- in your life?”
This is another one of those posts where I feel like I just can’t narrow it down to a small number of items. I was so torn about what to do that I solicited Mary Grace’s opinion like she is supposed to know the movie reel of my life and what has stood out most to me, but like many of our conversations, the mindless chatting about it brought the ideas to mind without her even knowing she had helped. (Actually, many of my favorite moments of my adult life are Steph-Hayley-Mary Grace moments, but I am saving those stories for the satellite radio show Steph and I are going to host someday.) Anyway, without further adieu, here are the three most memorable moments of my life (as of 6:23 PM on 3/25/14. Seriously…who can pick out just 3 that will never change?)
1. Christmas 2013 at school- For those of you who read this and do not know me, I am a 3rd grade teacher. For those of you who don’t know anything about teaching or education, let me just tell you this: It’s. Hard. Really, really hard. Oh, and I love it. It’s the hardest job you could ever love. Let me tell you about the hard parts. You have 20+ kids from 20+ backgrounds with 20+ learning styles and 20+ different emotional needs. Sometimes their parents blame you for everything that goes wrong. Sometimes their parents don’t know your name. Sometimes you have to attempt to teach things like analogies, elapsed time, and latitude and longitude all in one day…to people who pick their noses and forget to tie their shoes. (There isn’t enough Tylenol on those days.) You teach academic skills, social skills, technology skills, health skills, and life skils like “don’t forget to tie your shoes.” You go home emotionally drained, mentally exhausted, and physically weary, because you feel like you are charged with the task of curing all the world’s ills in a seven hour day. It’s. Hard.
Hard? Yeah, it’s hard, but it’s also a profession known amongst teachers for just the right little joy at the exact perfect moment. I had one of those this past Christmas on the day of our Christmas breakfast. All of my kids were trickling in delivering treats and presents to my desk. Some kids bring homemade and handpicked items straight from their hearts. Other kids openly admit, “My mom said to give this to you.” I smiled and hugged them all the same. I opened their gifts and “oohed” and “aahed” and laughed at their cute notes in their cards. I was happily chatting with guests at our party when I opened a card from the parents of a particularly challenging child- one of those who makes you check for gray hairs- and I read these words: “Thank you for being a champion for our son. Merry Christmas.” It still gives me a chill when I think about those words. These parents had heard a lot from me that semester some good, some not so good. Those are the ones from whom you aren’t sure what to expect in a Christmas card. They gave me something far more precious than I ever expected- a moment when I knew in my heart this job is so hard, but it is so worth it. “Thank you for being a champion for our son.” You’re welcome. Thank you for being a champion for teachers. You keep us going.
2. Goodbye Mamaw- If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will probably remember reading, on more than one occasion, my description of being with my sweet Papaw when he died. That will always be a powerful moment in my life, but I’ve done that one, so I chose another related moment- saying goodbye to my Mamaw. I was closer to Papaw, and I documented my relationship with Mamaw in a previous blog post, but saying goodbye to her was a totally different thing for me than it was Papaw. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one “goodbye” moment, but I will go with finishing the eulogy I gave at her funeral. In her eulogy, I detailed all of the many things her hands had done in her life…taken care of babies, cooked for her family, sewed doll clothes, swatted behinds in trouble, handed out medicine, and adoringly stroked Papaw’s face. Her hands were busy hands, and they were loving hands. They told a tale of her life that connected all of us in that church, her family, neighbors, and friends, together in some way. They were hands that kept going and doing after Papaw passed away. In many ways, her busy hands helped soothe me when I missed Papaw. Even as dementia set in, when she was still going and doing, she still seemed like Mamaw, and it made Papaw being gone seem a little less real. I will never forget standing in front of my childhood church to give Mamaw’s eulogy talking about all of the love and life her hands brought into this world and saying these last words, “The work of her precious hands is finished.” Finished. Over. Done. No more Easter bunny cakes with licorice whiskers. No more just-right doll clothes. No more swatted bottoms. No more hand peeled, yard picked apples. No more Mamaw. No more Papaw. That one line of my eulogy made the finality of it all sink in. I knew Papaw had been gone for four years, but saying goodbye to her closed the chapter of my life in which the main characters were the two most precious, perfect people I have ever known. It’s a memorable moment that hurts, but have mercy, I am so very blessed to have such precious memories that would cause that moment to hurt.
3. Driving Miss Daisy- If you know me really well, you know I love to tell funny stories about my Papaw. Not only was he as sweet as pie, he was hysterically funny, and I love to relive his antics by telling stories about him. That being said, my last passage made me miss Mamaw, so here is my memorable moment totally 100% dedicated to her and the funny side most people never knew she had.
In the last few years of Mamaw’s life, I spent time in the summers helping take her to doctor’s appointments. As her dementia grew worse, she became more and more stubborn and difficult to get out the door on doctor days, but all the while, she remained the same woman she had always been: stern, austere, a statue of a lady. I affectionately called our doctor trip days “Driving Miss Daisy.” If you’ve ever seen that movie, the cold, seemingly unyielding, omnipotent character of Miss Daisy is so much like my Mamaw that it’s scary. Now, don’t get me wrong. She was a wonderful grandmother who loved the heck out of my brother and me, but she was a lady to core, and she did what ladies do, and she did not do what ladies didn’t. No cussing. No smoking. No white after Labor Day. No drinking out of a can. The end. Forever and ever, Amen. That was Margaret Lynn, you get the picture?
One summer day, I came to pick Mamaw up for a round of appointments. I had heard my uncle tell her multiple times that I was going to be driving her to the doctor, and yes, Hayley is old enough to drive, and yes, Hayley is smart enough to talk to the doctor. (We were at that point in her dementia). Finally, she decided she was ready to go, and I said, “Alright, Mamaw, let’s get in the car.” She looked at me very alarmed and said, “In your car? Are you driving me?” I gently replied, “Yes, Mamaw, I’m driving you. Is something wrong?” Without missing a beat, my very own Miss Daisy looked at me and said with the seriousness of a Supreme Court judge, “Yes, something’s wrong. You can’t drive worth a s—.” If you have a Miss Daisy type in your life, eat those moments with her up, ya’ll. They are more precious than gold…even if they don’t help you learn to drive. 😉
Hayley and Riley (the dog who agrees his Momma could use some driving lessons)