Monday, January 17, 2011

I Hear Things

I hear things I don't want to hear.
Things that should never be.
Things that are not fair.
Things that hurt.
Things that mean I will never be the same, and are supposed to make me stronger.
But that is not the way it happens.

It was the week before last and I was resigned to the fact that it would be what I call an "office day."  This is when I find myself so backlogged by phone calls, emails, reports and other administrivia, that I lock myself in and tell myself that if I don't get this stuff done, I will be fired.  It rarely works, but on this day, it did.  I stayed.

No walking the halls,
No schmoozing with the parents who stay for hours after dropping their kids off,
No trying to fix all of the problems that weren't mine.

And then this mother came in.  Her first grade son was with her, and he was looking despondent.
I ushered them in to the office, cleared a chair for them, and sat across from them.
In cases like this (not that I knew what kind of case it was yet, but you could just tell), I always sit with them at a table that I have in my office.  Behind my desk wouldn't be right.
I have known this parent for a few years.  All of her kids had gone through the school, and she had two left - the boy now sitting on her lap, and a second grade daughter, probably sitting in class.

As she started to talk I focused on the boy.
His eyes were hollow.  He stared at the floor, not really seeing.
It appeared that he could not lift his head off of his mother's shoulder.  It had rested there, propped and held by her expert maneuvering, even as she sat down and took off gloves and hats and scarves and began to speak.
Her husband, the boy's father, had just been diagnosed with a rare cancer.
She said it was terminal and yet she kept on speaking, her voice unwavering, her eyes glued to mine, and her one free hand stroking, gently stroking her son's sandy brown head of hair.
I asked if there was anything I could do.
She declined, only to request that I let her know if there was a change in her children's behavior.
And she took my hand.
Told me there was nothing to be done.
Thanked me though there was nothing I could think of that she should be thanking me for.

I realized I had been crying only after she had left and walked her son to class.
I was not embarrassed, only wished I had not cried in front of her.
Wished I could have been stronger.
Wished, sometimes, that I did not have to hear things, that I could just sit at my desk and answer phone calls and return emails and fill out reports and fix all of the little problems that people wanted me to fix.