Sometimes You Just Need a Good Cry

This week I finished up my last week of teaching, two friends lost their mothers, and a dear work colleague passed away after a long battle with breast cancer. We only got the news of the work colleague’s passing the day after her funeral, which upset me more than anything else because the news didn’t get passed on to our school, where she was greatly loved, and many people would have wanted to attend her funeral to say goodbye. I also got the news of her passing right in the middle of a huge fight with Michael, when I walked out of the room and just happened to pick up my phone and see the email, which made the news even harder to take.

Sometimes you just need a good cry.

My first year of teaching, 1992

I hate goodbyes.  Leaving people you love is not easy, especially people you’ve worked with for 11 years.  I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my classes that I was leaving teaching, and that they would be my last group of students ever.  Every time I started to tell them my eyes would water up and I couldn’t go through with it.  Saying goodbye at the end of the year luncheon was hard, too, even to people I know I will see again.  Our time will never be the same as those years spent teaching together.

Our next door neighbor’s wife had been gone for over a month and we were starting to think she had left him.  When he came over to ask us to watch the house, we found out she has been out of town attending to her dying mother.  A few days ago I saw my neighbor outside, who told me the news that the mother had finally died, three days before her daughter’s birthday.  I felt so sad for her, knowing that her birthday would forevermore be accompanied by such sadness.  The next day we were told that our former principal’s mother had also passed away, less than a year after her father’s passing, which was also less than a year after her brother’s death.  Those goodbyes are perhaps the most poignant, the final goodbye.

I knew it would be hard, but when I said goodbye to my daughter outside her dorm the very first year of college in Austin, I wanted to turn back time, back to those days when she was small enough that I could protect her from anything the world might throw her way.  I cried the entire three hour drive back to Dallas, my husband sitting helplessly next to me, unsure of what to do or say.  Even though she wasn’t that far away and I would see her often, I knew, deep in my heart, that things would never be the same again–and they weren’t.  She grew up and didn’t need me as much, which is a good thing, but hard for a mother to accept.  It’s hard to let go sometimes.

And there are the goodbyes you never get to say, when those you love are suddenly and inexplicably taken away by death.

There are all the goodbyes we’ve said to our childhood pets, and to those we’ve had as adults.  My good friend, Carol, a fellow teacher, inadvertently killed both of her fire-bellied toads, Twodee and Fruity, on the last day of school.  She cried all morning, until one of her second graders yelled out, “Let’s get a fish!”  She couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of  the comment on the last day of school.

My dad’s job transferred him from Dallas to Massachusetts the summer after sixth grade.  It was a grand adventure for all of us.  Our street was at the end of a cul-de-sac and it was teeming with kids.  We spent the entire summer biking, swimming, chasing, digging, and doing everything kids should do, from dawn to dusk, outside and barefoot.  It was the summer of the Munich Olympics, and one night our neighbor, a former National Geographic photographer, took us all outside and showed us the Northern Lights, something we knew we’d never see in Texas.  It was also the summer of my first crush, when Chris, the cute newspaper boy across the street, would come out at dusk and we would sit against the fence in my front yard in the dark (with my dad nervously peeking out the window) and look at the stars and talk about Lost in Space, Time Tunnel, Star Trek, and Land of the Giants.  A few months later, when my dad got transferred back to Dallas, I sat in the U-haul truck with all our furniture piled in the back and cried as I said goodbye to Chris and the best summer of my life.  As we drove away and I looked out the window through the tears I tried to hide, Seals and Crofts sang We May Never Pass this Way Again on the radio (I swear I’m not making this up), and I knew that I would never be the same again.  That song will forever be the soundtrack to that lost summer–and I never did return to Chicopee Falls, MA.

On some famous boat in Massachusetts with my sister. I was obviously mad about something. I was always mad about something when I was 12.

There are the goodbyes you say when you realize you must move on from a relationship, and the goodbyes you’re cheated out of when you get dumped by a lover.  Cry me a river doesn’t even come close sometimes.

So many goodbyes.  Before I closed the door to my classroom for the last time yesterday, I stopped and looked around at the empty room, remembering all the other rooms I had taught in.  So very many memories . . .  I said goodbye to room 201 and to teaching, turned in my keys, and went home and had a good cry.    It was exactly what  I needed to do.

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10 comments

  1. Gary Turnage (Dad)

    Great blog. The ship is the U.S.S. Constitution in Boston Harbor. To be honest I worried more about you, Cindy, Chris and Steven walking through the little wooded area and across that little creek on your way to school and back than I did about Chris. Love you. Dad

    • Mind Margins

      I thought it was in Boston, but wasn’t sure. I loved that little woods on the way to school. I remember I took your old video camera down there one day and made a little film about how polluted the creek was. All those years of Girl Scouts taught me well.

  2. skippingstones

    Good-byes can be heart-wrenching. Some of the people that have passed away from my life – grandparents, friends – are so obviously gone. What I mean is that my mind acknowledges the loss and understands in a full sense that those are people that have left this Earth.

    But there are a few people for whom I have a harder time grasping the sense of their departure. Perhaps it’s simply because I didn’t see these people very often. My friend’s father and my aunt particularly come to mind. There were times in my life when I was often around them both, when they were an integral part of my world. But time passed, I grew up and I saw less and less of them. Even though I was at their funerals, there are occasions when I am reminded that they are gone and it somehow comes as a shock to me. My mind wants to insist that they are still out there, somewhere, just like they always have been.

    You’re right about the cry! Sometimes you need exactly that – just to get out those emotions. Those are the cries that empty you; they flood out and then peter out, replaced with calm and quiet (hopefully). And maybe a little reflection time, if we’re lucky.

    Doors, doors, so many doors! Which ones will you open now? Start turning some knobs, missy! You don’t have to go through if you don’t want…but definitely do a little peaking.

    • Mind Margins

      So many doors indeed. Opening them, even if only for a short peek, is what makes life so exciting–and oftentimes challenging. I’ll keep you posted (literally) on which ones I decide to open in the future. As for not being able to grasp some people’s departures, that is exactly what happened to me when my running friend passed away suddenly a few years ago. For the longest time I kept asking myself how could he just be gone? Where did he go? How could someone just not be there anymore? Honestly, I still struggle with that. I like to think that he’s merely taken another form somewhere, and that maybe it’s not meant to be understood by those of us left behind. Thanks for the insightful thoughts, Skipping Stones!

      • skippingstones

        Hmmm…yeah, I think you’re right about peeking. You’re too young to be “peaking”. I hate when I don’t see the typo! 🙂

        I think that’s the question that is so disturbing about death, “How could someone just not be there anymore?”

        Because we loved them, me miss them, and we want them to still be here. Again, I think you’re right about not necessarily being meant to fully understand.

    • Mind Margins

      I’m leaving after 19 years, and discussed it more in depth in a few other posts. Still a loaded question. In a nutshell: I became tired of everything but teaching itself. Paperwork, politics, pay cuts, principals who don’t value their staff, excessive testing, mandated curriculum, behavior problems, 24/7 stress, on and on. I will miss the fun of designing my own lessons and the thrill teaching. The district is facing severe cuts in funding, which translates to another pay cut, more outside duties, and larger class sizes, and the following year will be even worse. They offered a buyout and I took it. I’ve grappled with leaving since an entire year’s worth of teaching began to mean nothing more than a score on a standardized test. I could go on and on and on. It was the toughest decision of my life and I cried buckets over the issue. Bottom line for me: it was the right time to leave.

      • Steve Schwartzman

        Thanks for your explanation. I can feel your anguish. I taught in public high schools in the 1970s and early 80s, when things were already bad. It was the lack of standards during those years that led to the push for standardized testing, but the people who advocated that testing didn’t foresee that it would become the be-all and end-all that it has, nor that the state education departments would game the system by setting the “passing” grade so low and exempting so many students from the tests.

        Apart from all that, it’s sad when people who want to teach see their desires thwarted and their talents not appreciated. There’s an excitement that comes from grappling with a subject and figuring out ways to impart it to students, what you called “the fun of designing my own lessons and the thrill of teaching. I miss those things too—it’s been five years since I last taught. The urge to explain things is still there, and that’s one reason why I started my first blog last year and my second one last month. Of course it’s different from a real-time interaction with students, but it’s rewarding in its own right. I’ve gotten to meet some fascinating people over the Internet, and I expect you have too. Maybe now you’ll expand your online presence.

      • Mind Margins

        The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction now and almost NO ONE is exempt from the tests and everyone’s score counts. Sounds good on paper perhaps, but it causes a lot of stress for our special ed students (and teachers). Our evaluation system was also set up using a cryptic formula that no one was ever able to explain to us. Students were expected to show growth from year to year, which again sounds good, but it was based only on tests and teachers were penalized if their students scored lower than on last year’s tests, even if only by one or two questions. Teachers could go from a 99% overall passing rate to a 97% passing rate the following year and be severely penalized because of one or two students missing one or two more questions than the year before. This past year I had 12 students who did not pass the 4th grade reading test–and they were all promoted to 5th grade anyway! That kind of thing wears you down after awhile.

        I loved teaching American History and will truly miss coming up with fun ways to incorporate music, art, film, and literature into learning about the history of the states and our country. Social Studies wasn’t a tested subject, however, and I always felt such pressure to spend more time on the reading tests and less on history. So sad.

        Thanks for your comments and sharing about your own teaching experience. I definitely plan on expanding my “online presence” in the future, so thanks for the boost. Love your wildflower photography and plan to check out your blog more in depth. I started a garden this summer and it’s been a great experience–despite the blazing hot temps we’re battling. I’ll try and post my garden flower photos in a future blog. Almost everyday I am amazed at the great blogs I am finding online. As a teacher, it’s exciting to see so many wonderful writers out there (though the horrible spelling is killing me!).

  3. Steve Schwartzman

    At the end of your last comment you said “the horrible spelling is killing me!” On that subject, here’s what I wrote to a teacher friend yesterday:

    “An e-mail that I got today from my blog host contained the misspelling ‘ammount.’ Curious, I just did an Internet search and got over 15 million hits for the incorrect spelling. Have you run into that one a lot among your students? And that question just gave me another idea: I did a search for the phrase ‘allot of’ and got over 10 million hits.”

    In the writing test that Texas supposedly requires students to pass, no points are taken off for incorrect spelling. I said “supposedly requires” because a student can slop down almost anything on the state writing test and will still be given a passing grade. In a similar way, computational skills aren’t tested any more either; they can’t be, because students are allowed to use calculators on all the state exams.

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