Monthly Archives

May 2019

Forever From The 01543

More often than not, we teachers describe the children in each grade in a collective way. For example, a group of students might be described as a *sweet* class, or a *young* class, or a *super smart* class. My favorite, of course, is when we have a grade full of kids with *personality*. Personality can mean just that, kiddos who aren’t afraid to express their true selves, and sometimes the descriptor personality is code for behaviors. Now, I will take kiddos with either definition of personality all day, but such is not the case with every educator. It can make for a challenging classroom and a long year, but being able to embrace the unique qualities that each child brings to the table is what I thrive on.

When I started as the librarian at Glenwood we had not one, not two, but three grades in a row with a TON of personality – both types. Luke’s grade definitely met this criteria and when you saw these kiddos interact it was something else. The unity, the sense of camaraderie, the joy. As a teacher when you witness a group of children like this, you get the undeniable feeling that they will be friends forever.

Cue Rutland 2011. It’s 8th grade dance time and the kids are all gathered at Justin’s house for pictures. There isn’t just one kid or two kids, it’s the whole dang crew. Some of them have “dates” and some of them are solo, but they are all there. As I look at them and wish I was one of the pretty princesses, I wonder how many of the friendships will last or whether high school will send them on different paths and in different directions. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. Despite the influx of a few new faces, the group remained the same. I would see pics on social media or they would come over to our house to hang out, or Luke would talk about a gathering and it was always the old reliables from the 01543.

These same kids are the only damn reason Luke went to High School. He just wanted to be where his friends were at, you know? Luke could be fighting the biggest battle with us, with his teachers, with his own head, but spending time with his boys was his band-aid. Luke loved his friends fiercely -so much so that they earned a spot on his letter goodbye we found on the island. I know we all wish we could have saved Luke, but with all the struggles Luke had a school and with his anxiety, the truth is… Luke’s friends saved him every. damn. day.

So here’s what I need you to know: We need roots. I didn’t have any growing up and I swore I would make it happen for my future children. When we moved into our yellow house on Haven Hill Road I told John he would have to drag me out of here if he thought he ever wanted to move. Roots remind you of what made you and Rutland – this fabulous Fourth of July loving small town, cow town, best uptown, best looking girl town (according to Luke Inwood) has its own persona. Long live the 01543!

We also need friends. Friends remind you of WHO made you and the experiences you have together shape you forever. So… Taylor and Jeff, Justin and Dom, Casey and Chris, Sam and Bobby, Brendan and Camden, Katie and Isabelle, Cam and Olivia, Carson and Eric, Dan and Cody and Austin, Ashley and Marissa. Others would come, but You all are the house that built Luke Inwood. You laughed with him and roasted him and put up with his antics. But most of all you loved him and more importantly he knew it. It might have been a short ride, but it was a damn sweet one because of his time with YOU. And for that, each and every one of you have my heart forever. Xxx

I need you to know

The Empty File

I recently reached out to one of Luke’s middle school teachers, Dave Bronson. Dave is a well loved, almost legend-like educator. I don’t think I have ever met a student who didn’t love Dave’s class, and from the moment I walked into his room on curriculum night and met him, I understood why. Dave’s room is set up like a section of your favorite bookstore. Shelves teeming with favorite novels surrounded lots of comfortable seating, including a couch! The lights were dim and the environment was very inviting. Dave himself comes across as good-spirited and laid back. He treats his students like the young adults they are and gives them a lot of ownership and choice in their assignments. Doesn’t it sound like perfect learning conditions? Sigh, turns out, not for everyone.

When I approached Dave about writing for the blog, I’m not sure what I expected to hear, but as with every Luke Inwood story, it came with a plot twist. A huge thank you to Dave for taking the time to share his version of Luke. Xxx

Hi Patty,

Oddly, I was cleaning out some old file cabinets I had in class this week and found Luke’s old file. Most of my students kept their writing prompt journals in there that year, but Luke’s wasn’t in there. Honestly, I don’t think I would have read it if it was… but I definitely would have sent it to you. I am a bit bummed that it wasn’t in there. His file was completely empty. 

Do you know how sometimes we get students that are smart, but they seem like they have something else going on, on the side? They are completely capable, and you want them to fully engage with you, but for some reason they just don’t. It’s like they have another path to get where they want to go, so they don’t have to fully commit. To some degree Luke was like that. I felt like most of the time he would respect what we were doing, but only glance off of the side of the full goal. When he did engage an assignment full on it was almost like he was complimenting me, like he was telling me that he thought that that one was a good one.

Complicating that was the fact that he was an absolute leader as far as the school social construct goes. He was a cool kid with his own mind and a sharp sense of humor. There was a lot for kids to be attracted to. That’s the kind of thing that rings off the warning bells in the back of your head. Like, if this kid wanted to, he could lead everyone into chaos. haha. He never did though. Not completely.
Luke was really funny, but his sense of humor sometimes had a sharp edge to it. I never really knew what he was thinking. If laughter started at his table, I could never tell if it was at my expense or not. He would just smile and laugh, and I would move the class forward onto topic. He wasn’t the kind of kid to let me off the hook. 

In English, we have the opportunity, maybe more than other subjects, of really tapping in to who our students are. We talk a ton about our own experiences and even when we are reading a novel of some sort, it is really through the lens of who we are. There were times, I can remember a couple specifically, that Luke let his guard down and just was there in the moment. Those were typically when we were debating something in class about how the world works, but most of the time he was honestly pretty guarded. 
He was a hard student to figure out. He had a huge group of friends that pretty much flocked around him. He seemed happy and distant. That is what I thought of when I found his file and his journal wasn’t in there. I actually laughed a little about it. He was just hard to read.  

I don’t know why I get so choked up when I read Dave’s words. Maybe it’s easier when the story is about Luke being a jerk and I can be angry at him for pushing back. But in this case, well, here we are with what I would think would be Luke’s dream classroom and his file is EMPTY. When I responded to Dave I noted that the empty file is the perfect metaphor for Luke’s relationship with school. He was present, but he wasn’t invested, and as long as the teachers didn’t get in the way of him interacting with his friends, all was right with the world. What makes me sad is wondering what Luke was thinking in those moments looking around the classroom at everybody else doing what they should be doing? Was he feeling isolated? Anxious? Or was he not even worried about school and thinking more about what he and the boys were going to do on Friday night? Probably that last one, lol, but looking at how things turned out, it’s hard to say.

So here’s what I need you to know: Losing Luke has changed me as a teacher and as a parent. I don’t want you to psychoanalyze your child, but at the same time, take a moment every once in a while and reflect on your child’s life. Are they happy most of the time? How do they handle a challenging situation? Do they have one good friend? Do they have interests they are passionate about? (not YOUR interests, lol) If you’re concerned about any area, talk to your pediatrician to get a gauge on what is age-appropriate and then help your child take the steps to lead a balanced, joyful life.

School is another important component of your child’s life and no one knows your child like their teacher. Communicate about any struggles or concerns you have about school or are having at home. Miss Patty always says more information is more information! I’m sure some of my parents get sick of my emails and phone calls, but I want them to know what I am seeing every day – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And lastly, if you are a teacher, you know what atypical looks like. Let’s make discussions about this 2% a norm with our team, our administration, our school psychologists. We have to work together so no child slips through the cracks. Not on our watch. Not one more. Xxx

I need you to know

Ain’t No Hood, Like Motherhood

Well, between Mother’s Day and the weather this day was trying to take a turn for the worst. SO, instead I have chosen to take my cue from the one and only Logan Inwood who will happily tell you Mother’s Day is one of many contrived commercial ventures driven by Hallmark. lol Here is what he gave me today:

I freaking love this kid.

So let’s bring on the funny and lift our spirits. For all of you out there not loving this day, this one’s for you. And the next one. And the one after that.

This one made me think of John lol…

And my personal favorite….

Wishing you a little giggle and a little peace. Xxx

The FIrst Days

She’s Got A Heavy Heart: for my bereaved mommas

This week at Hope Lives Here, we had our first support meeting centered specifically around Child Loss. I knew this one would be tough because these are my people. It is true what they say – some of the best healing comes from speaking with another who has experienced exactly what you have. Whether we are talking about break-ups, new jobs, or losing a child, someone who has walked in your shoes brings knowledge and feelings to a discussion that aren’t available to someone who has not, no matter how well intentioned or empathetic that person is.

As we went round the table sharing the story of who we were missing, I was immediately transported back to the rawness of emotion in those first months after Luke passed away. These moms and dad were heartbroken in a way I can’t possibly communicate with mere words. And it dawned on my as I sat there, sometimes sobbing right along with them, that we really are being asked to do the hardest thing in the world: live the rest of our days without our child. Here’s what that day looks like.

5:05 am. I wake up because the cat is chewing on my hair and as I lay there thinking about the five things I am grateful for you immediately come to my mind. Especially on those days when I have to work a little harder to come up with my five things because, after all, losing you is what has prompted this practice in the first place. I don’t look at my altar as I go past and instead, throw on my housecoat and head out the door of my bedroom. Straight ahead is your old room. Your portrait hangs on the wall and I inhale every emotion, every memory in the few steps between my room and the stairs. Luke was Here it seems to say.

I start my day with my coffee in the great room watching the news. You are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. We have pictures up, not too many of course, but sometimes it is in the absence of the photos, of new photos, of new footprints that I miss you the most. But I keep going. I get ready for work and as I make my way down the stairs to the basement I try not to glance at your old bed, at the picture of six year old you, or at the desk where you yelled at your gaming monitor. Sometimes denial and self-preservation go hand in hand.

The short path from the door in the basement to my car is a minefield. The “What happens in the garage stays in the garage” sign and all that it implies. If only the walls of our garage could talk! Long nights on the couch, Fight Club, basketballs and string bags, beers and bongs and the boys. And it is all still there – like a wisp of smoke the memory floats beside me, around me, covers me. Luke was Here, Luke was Here, Luke was Here.

I climb up into JLO ( it really is a pretty truck) and turn on my engine. The music is always on and inevitably some song will remind me of you and I will cry. My mascara smudges black and BethAnne will know it has been one of those mornings when she sees my impromptu smoky eye. The road to my work takes me past Millbrook Rd. Yep, that road and I have glanced left at that spot for 1,460 days and more. Luke was Here, Luke was Here, Luke was Here. It is only 7:30 am and although I have not sat and intentionally tried to think about you, not a minute passes that I do not. This is my day. This is my life. You are gone.

So here’s what I want you to know: If today is Day One or Day One Hundred of missing your child I am so, so sorry. I want to tell you the pain lessens, but the truth is the missing does not. A child leaves marks and memories as they make their way through the world, and when you lose your baby those marks and memories remain. It’s not a bad thing, I don’t spend my days in sorrow and sadness, it just is. Evidence of your child and the love you shared and the life you made are everywhere and it is damn hard to tuck it away and keep going, but we do. It’s our last great act as mommas. We lift up our heads, we fill our hearts and we love you forever. My heart is with every bereaved momma trying to navigate the day. Xxx

I need you to know