Listen guys, I got the break of the century this past week. My wife quit teaching! After 35 years, she retired. I was never so happy in my life. You have no idea what I have had to live through.
She taught fifth grade for years. I would sit down at the dinner table after a long day ready to just relax and eat my peas and cornbread in the solace of my own home. “I’m worried about Johnny. He’s falling behind in math. I’ve tried to help him after school but he seems distracted.”
I wasn’t interested in little Johnny. “Let his parents worry about him. You gonna eat that last piece of cornbread?”
“He is such a great young fellow. And he has so much potential. Let’s invite him over for the weekend. You could play pitch with him. You’d really like him.”
I’d thrown baseballs all week. I didn’t want some little kid hanging around for goodness sakes! “Cathy, you’ve brought home half a dozen Johnnys and Mary Janes. You can’t save them all!”
“But this one is special.”
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’d heard her say that in the past 35 years.
There was no reasoning with her. It was like talking to a stone wall. I told her teaching was just a job. It helped put food on the table. Nothing more, nothing less. School teachers are the worst I’ve ever seen at simple logic.
“Maybe we could take him to the beach or you could let him work on clocks with you.”
Good Lord, she never stopped. For 35 long, arduous, challenging, demanding, onerous years. It near ’bout killed me!
One time we were at my Mother’s in Tennessee. It was over in August and we had a week left on our vacation. “Kes, can we go home in the morning?”
“Are you kidding me? I’m eating off my Mom. I’m playing golf with my brothers. Life is good.”
“I’ve got this great idea for a bulletin board. It will grab their attention and set up the whole school year. But it will take me a few days to put it together.”
Unbelievable! I gave up a perfect vacation for a fifth grade bulletin board. Are you listening? A FIFTH GRADE BULLETIN BOARD! You think I’m not happy she’s finally hanging it up? I say it’s about dang time!
She flew her whole class to Philadelphia once. I’m telling you this with my hand up. She herded 32 fifth graders onto a plane! Put’em up in a hotel. Strolled around the big city with them. Tried to get me to go along as a chaperone. I drew the line there. Only way I would have made that trip would have been with a gun, bullwhip and a cattle prod.
And that ain’t the worst. She moved to the middle school and I had to drive to the other side of nowhere to attend a science fair. And it wasn’t to see one of her students crowned a winner. Cathy was afraid that no one would be there to support this “special” little girl. “We” stood by her three whole, long, complete days and I never did figure out how those magnets “displayed” the earth’s gravitation pull south of the equator.
I’ve had to eat off my lap because the table was piled 8 feet deep with book reports. I’ve gone to bed hungry because Cathy “stayed late” at some student government rally. I’ve judged essay contests. I’ve had to get up off the couch 100 million times and answer the phone because Johnny or Mary Jane couldn’t remember if it was the math problems on page 63 or the isosceles triangle chart on 91. I’ve had smudged folders stuck in my face while I was trying to watch a Braves game. “Read this report on Mahatma Gandhi, you won’t believe the research that went into this one. I am so proud of little...”
I lost 15 pounds one afternoon sweating though “track and field” day. I can’t count the middle school ball games I’ve suffered through. And I’ve sat in silence and watched my wife grade papers till almost midnight, all Sunday afternoon, some Saturday mornings. “Dang, Cathy, why don’t you do that at school?”
Bed time could be excruciating. She’d start praying for Johnny, Mary Jane, Bill, Tom, Susie, Ericka, JoAnne, Robert, Charlie, Seneca, Louise, Humphrey, Jessica, Art……she was calling roll! Listen, I didn’t mean to and I hope God will forgive me, but I’d fall asleep. She’d be praying that one of them would get a proper breakfast and one would change some habits and another would find different friends… I figure God got about as tired of it as I did.
Going out to eat is murder. It takes forever to order. And everything is ice cold before I can get a forkful to my mouth. It’s the kids. And the middle-aged guys. And the parents sticking their infant into my taco salad. They are all former students. And they never pass by quietly. It must be some kind of fifth grade law or middle school axiom. Grown men hug her. Mother’s light up when they see her. High schoolers revert to their middle school ways, “Hey, Miss Cathy.” “Hi, Miss Cathy.” “You are still my favorite teacher!” “Remember when George brought the frog to school?” “Remember our trip to Philadelphia?” “We will always love you.” “Can you still stand on your head?” “Miss Cathy, I wouldn’t have made it without your help.”
It’s enough to make me puke. I’m glad it is over. I am a happy man today. I get my wife back.
’Course, our pocketbook is going to take a hit. Maybe I can get her a job at the car wash. Or possibly at a convenience store. I wonder if a bank is hiring. I don’t know what she would be good at…