|painting (May 2017)|
I was reading a post by Kathleen Sokolowski,The Knowing #SOL17. I was touched and honored that she wrote the post in a style I often use these last two years as I have made my way in and out of the twists and valleys that so often typify grief and solace. I leave spaces in my writing--gaps where a reader might roam a bit. I do this by numbering sections, knowing the spaces between numbers will be the gaps readers compose. It's a nod to Wolfgang Iser who first named this for me.
As lovely as it was to find Kathleen's statement about my style, what caught my eye was a quote at the top of the post:
"As a general rule, teachers teach more by what they are then by what they say." -Unknown
It seemed to demand a response.
|Devon and Rob at his 8th grade graduation, 6.14.2013|
|Devon and Rob in Tuscany, 8.10.2013|
These are moments to notice and savor.
Don't look away.
We must commit such expressions of love to our memory. Our lives depend on it.
Devon left the house this morning carrying one unwrapped gift in his hand. Just one.
What's in the box? I asked as we drove to graduation.
A motherboard for Mr. Houghton.
Is that something he wanted?
Couldn't find wrapping? I teased.
We nerds don't wrap. And Houghton? He's like an original nerd.
If you listen to pundits talk about education and there's lots of chatter about higher standards, grit, data driven instruction, performance gains, STEM, and being college-ready (whatever that might mean). We pay big bucks, billions actually, to annually measure how well every learner can perform on a narrow set of outcomes so often determined by pseudo-educators and then we claim that those results represent the value of their teachers and schools.
Frankly, such tests are woefully incomplete, often erroneous, partial snapshots at best, and very costly to students, teachers, and our wallets.
This morning, Mr Houghton got it right. He showed us what matters more than the ed buzzwords and is a much finer expression of a teacher, a student and the learning they have composed. Great teaching isn't about stanine growth.
Great teaching inspires us to compose better versions of ourselves. That's what Mr. Houghton's actions were teaching us this morning.
Love endures. It inspires. It is the energy that survives well beyond the breakdown of our human bodies.
It has been a tough, tough six weeks--in many ways the toughest I have ever known. And after the ceremony I made my way to Mr. Houghton to simply thank him.
What Dev has been going through these last weeks? he began, sounding so certain.
I nodded and said, Yes.
It's been good for him. May not feel like it. But it's been good for him. He needs to get this out.
I nodded and touched his arm and think I may have said, thank you although I am not sure.
A doctor explained that for Devon it's like his dad died a week ago. Delayed grief is the psychological term.
He was my best friend, my son would tell me. I miss him every day.
Some pain is so big it cannot find expression until it bleeds out of us.
I wish I could have done better for my son at this moment of great pain. I wish that when I had to fail him, it would not have been now--not when the stakes are so very high. There simply is no one on this planet who I love as I do my son. But in his eyes, I failed him in ways that have scarred him, in ways I cannot find the words to say here.
What I learned this morning is that others have stepped in to love him when he would not allow me do so. And for that I am grateful.
Though Devon's dad was not there this morning, my brother, Jack and my friend, Jane each assured me that they strongly felt his presence throughout the ceremony. Jane told me in an email late this afternoon, and Jack told me before he left our home today.
Mary, I felt him. Rob was there in that auditorium. He's watching over Dev and you. I know it.
Each was so certain and each is gifted in such ways. We have long joked in my family that my brother is like St. Francis of Assisi. All the animals come to him: abandoned dogs and snakes; raccoons and birds. They all seem to sense that gentle kind soul he harbors. And Jane? Well, she dreams. Always has. I imagine always will. Prophetic dreams that open her to what most of us simply miss and keep her open when she is no longer sleeping.
Mr. Houghton, Jack and Jane remind me that there are many ways to be in this world--ways that my son has learned as well.
Stay open to love, I tell myself--for even when I cannot feel Rob, others do and that fills me with hope.
Stay open to love I say to Devon, for it heals and redeems us when we cannot seem to find the road we most need to walk.