Thursday, May 31, 2007

Poor Parent Decision?

A kid said to me during tutoring today "I love my mother." I answered her "I know. I met your mom and she is great." She then said, "My mom is picking me up at 11:30 to take me to the beach." I said, "but you will miss math if you leave then." She said, "Life is short, you only live once."

I'm all for kids spending time with their parents. I value every minute I had when my own children were living home and keep valuing the time I spend with them. I treasure the time I had with my mom and still have with my dad but school always had to come first. I never would have taken my kids out of school to go to the beach or to a movie and my kids were good students most of the time. I especially would not have allowed my kids to miss classes that they were failing. This girl is failing math. She has a final exam next week and the regents two weeks after that. I know the weather was beautiful today. Not being on the beach today meant missing a great outdoor opportunity. Unfortunately, summer school will cause her to miss many more of these opportunities. Maybe I am just a prude. Maybe her mom made the right call. Who am I to judge?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why I Avoid the Teacher's Lounge

Teacher 1: "Did you see my pencil?"

Teacher 2: "Is this it?"

Teacher 1: "No, mine had a brand new eraser and a nice point."

Teacher 2: "Are you sure you had it?"

Teacher 1: "Yes, it was a brand new pencil. Look in your bag. You might have taken it by mistake."

Teacher 2: "I didn't take it."

Teacher 1: "Well, it was a new pencil. I would like it back."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Economics Teacher

Dear Ms. Economics Teacher,

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to visit your class today and watch the students present the interesting projects they invented. The kids showed creativity in their ideas and their presentations. The period was delightful. I don't even mind that I had to give up my only prep period of the day to attend.

I was not surprised to see my AP calculus students doing well. After all, kids that excel in one area usually do well in everything. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well some of my lowest achievers were doing. They were all involved and actively participating in the selling of their product. I was especially impressed by A, a boy we both know has had extreme problems this year. He really took the bull by the horns and wowed the room with his video presentation. And T was great too. T has not been able to pass one math class since he was in ninth grade. That did not stop him from walking around and actively pushing his product.

Teachers like you are a rare find. You put so much effort and time into your students. They are lucky to have you. Thanks again for including me.

Sincerely yours,

Ms. POd

Monday, May 28, 2007


Yesterday a friend told me it was her brother's 59th birthday. It was a big milestone because he has now lived one year longer than their dad had lived. Her mom died 4 years later. When her dad died, her mom gave up her will to live, stopped taking care of herself and just stopped caring. I'm luckier than she is. I had my parents for almost 30 years more than she had hers. I still have my dad. I try to tell myself not to feel bad about losing my mom and watching my dad go down. I just cannot help feeling this way.

I worry about my dad giving up too. It doesn't matter that I talk to him four times a day and go visit all the time, bring over his favorite foods. I'm not my mom and nothing I do will ever change this.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Some Things Are Worth Waiting For

My favorite ice cream store is an old fashioned free standing building. You have to wait on long lines outside, but the stuff is so good it is worth the wait. Unfortunately for me, the store is closed in the winter. It reopens in April, usually during Passover, so I have to wait until the week is up before I get to indulge again. This year, with everything going on, I didn't get there until tonight. It was just as good as I remembered it to be!

Saturday, May 26, 2007


My grandmother died in 1982. I remember the tears really hitting when I went over to her apartment to help my parents and my aunt and uncle empty it out. All her things, so lovingly cared for were being dispersed. Some of it went into the hands of loved ones. I remember a cousin asking for the wooden bowl and blade my grandma used to make chopped liver. The cousin had no intentions of using this, but she remembered the taste when grandma made it and wanted the items so she would never forget. My sister greedily claimed a lot of her antique furniture, never even thinking that others might have wanted a piece of something too. Unfortunately, she lost it all when her house burnt down. I took my grandmother's torch lamp, a few living room tables and her bedroom set. My daughter still uses the antique dressing table. Too many other things just went into the trash.

The worst part of all this for me was the emptying of her freezer. Grandma used to go to the Kosher butcher and then separate her meat parcels into little tin foil packages for individual servings. She didn't have much money, didn't like to take money from her children, so she budgeted her food to make it last. The only thing I could think of was how she planned on living, how she never thought her life would end. Her meat was packaged to last for weeks to come.

Last week my dad and I looked at some of my mom's old costume jewelry. look at I imagined her buying the piece, wearing it and then putting it away for some future use that probably never came. So many of the pieces were items my dad had bought for her over the years. He never imagined they would not touch her skin again. She never thought they would be laying in a box, buried, forgotten for a long, long time.

I took this pin from the collection. My dad said they bought it together when they went to visit the Amish Country many years ago. I don't think I ever saw her wear it. I reminded me so much of them. Two old people, holding hands, walking off into the sunset together. Happy together.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Military Ball

The JROTC in my school just had their 13th annual Military Ball. I've had the pleasure of being an invited guest this year, as I have been many years in the past. At first I felt this was not a good time for me to go. But then I thought I have to start getting back to a normal life, this was a good first step. My husband and I decided to go for the formal part and the dinner and then leave when the music and dancing started. It was a great idea. I felt great seeing all those fantastic kids and their great, dedicated teachers.

The Military Ball is a culmination of all the hard work these kids and their instructors do all year. Although the army funds the program, and the kids wear uniforms and do all sorts of stuff I would have been against as a child growing up in the 60's, I am totally in favor of the program now. The kids who graduate from this program are encouraged to go to college. They are not encouraged to enlist and recruiters are not allowed to talk to them in school.

The JROTC program in our school gives the kids a school family. They care for each other physically, emotionally, and educationally. They give the kids a place to come to when they are lost. This is especially important in a school as big as the one I teach in.

The JROTC does tons of charity work. They clean parks, raise money, have clothing and food drives and countless other things that I can't even remember. They have an academic team, a physical fitness team, a choir, an academic team, drum corps, color guards, drill team and more. These kids practice non stop and still manage to excel academically. Their work is part of the reason the school I teach in is one of the best schools in the city.

The JROTC faculty is made up of retired army sergeants. These teachers work an average of 10 -12 hour days, 6 and sometimes 7 days a week. They take the kids on overnight trips. They help them apply for scholarships and the right college for them to attend. One of the teachers collected old computers, had them refurbished so he could provide some of the less fortunate kids with this technology. Watching these teachers makes me want to do more.

The kids at the ball are all well behaved and respectful. They are a credit to the people that both raised them and teach them. I was one of the people that adamently objected to this program when it first started. I have come full circle and am now an adament supporter of it.

Flaunting It

When I was young and I did something wrong, I always tried to avoid the adults in authority. I never flaunted cutting or missing school. Today's kids are so different. Due to the nice weather, I have been leaving school during lunch to go out for walks. There isn't much around my school, just a couple of fast food restaurants. I was sitting in one yesterday when I heard, "Hello Mrs. POd." I turned around and saw one of my former students, who I knew had classes until 12th period (it was only period 6). When I confronted him about being where he was, he calmly answered, "Ms., it's my lunch period". I told him that I didn't care. We don't have an open campus and kids are not allowed to leave the building during their school day. He just shrugged his shoulders and kept on eating. He knew there was nothing I could or would do about seeing him outside. I saw the AP in charge of guidance in the same fast food joint. She "legally" takes her daughter and her daughter's friends for fast food lunches. She didn't say a word to any of the kids in the place. It is bad when kids flaunt their breaking rules. It is understandable when there are no consequences for breaking these rules.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Entire Spectrum

My friend in the adjacent trailer had to take off two days to pick his own kids up from various schools. He is extremely conscientious and almost never misses a day. He was worried about missing is M4 class. The work is difficult and he has lost over a week because of all the times the trailers were closed. I told him not to worry, that I would cover the class so the kids wouldn't lose instructional time.

I forgot what a delight it is to teacher average, bright sophomores. This was not an honor class, just a class made up of tenth grade students taking the exact class they should be on level for. Yesterday's job was to review for an exam. He had given them a practice sheet to do for homework. When they came in, I passed out the solutions and they sat, with their own work and made corrections. We spent the rest of the time going over the problems that they did not understand. Every kid had the sheet with them. Most had done it, as required, at home. They asked good, thought out questions and left feeling well prepared for the exam. One girl wanted to go practice for her dance recital. I got pretty nasty with her (I know math is not her best subject) and refused to let her leave. First she complained, then she thanked me for making her do the work. Today they all showed up for the exam. Not one kid had to borrow a pen or a calculator. As I looked over their shoulders, I saw they knew exactly what they were doing.

Some of us spend too much time teaching at opposite ends of the spectrum. We all expect the honor and the AP kids to work like this all the time. The lower level kids almost never work like this. We need to remind ourselves that there are plenty of kids like these out there. These are the kind of kids we were in high school and that our own kids are now. When teachers complain about the caliber of the youth of today, they don't see these kids. To be a good teacher, we all need to teach all kinds of kids, all the time. Unfortunately, not too many of us get to experience the group I had the pleasure to be with this week.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

School Survey

The kids in my school filled out their student surveys today. What a waste of time. Period 2 and period 9 were extended to an hour which meant other classes were shortchanged. I didn't get to do a lesson period 9. My seniors had no real interest in the survey. Any possible improvements would be coming too late for them. My sophomores gave them an earful. The kids were upset that the surveys were anonymous and put their names on the envelopes. My AP, who hand delivered them to my class, spoke to the kids about being kind on the survey. He told them that in a school our size it is impossible for all adults to know the students and they should just think about if their teachers know them. I'm glad the kids ignored him. I told them to write whatever they felt was true. So be it! If you don't want if you look fat in a certain outfit, don't ask. The same is true about schools.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

All You Need is Love.....

Lately all we hear about is how much money Bloomberg is spending to improve education, yet he does nothing to change one of the real problems--class size. Kids will perform better for teachers who believe in them, for teachers they think really care about them. I don't care whether you have a PhD in education or think you are the education mayor, the real solution is caring. I've had kids pass my class and get 90's on the regents when they are failing everything else. I gave my D kids a test yesterday. Two of my lowest achievers finally got marks in the 80's. One of them said "I did it for you. You believe in me and I want to pass for you."

If teachers were not so overburdened with C-6 assignments and 34 kids per class, we could show them all that we believe in them. Instead of spending money on useless surveys and private consulting groups, the government needs to spend the money where it can do some good. The Beatles sang about this long before it became an issue in education.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Designer Scrubs

One of the nursing assistants who took care of my mom wore designer, Baby Phat, scrubs. Those scrubs probably cost more than a lot of the outfits in my closet. Maybe I am old, but I just don't understand why someone would spend so much money on clothes worn to clean shit and vomit. I don't know what nursing assistant's earn, but I am sure it is not much.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Self Esteem

Self esteem is one of the most important things we teach our students. I covered a special education class one day. Rather than giving the kids the busy work that was left for them, I decided to just talk to them, find out what they were about. They then asked about me, about what I taught. I told them math, mostly calculus. They asked me to teach them calculus. After a couple of seconds thought I showed them how to do simple derivatives, using the power rule like the derivative of 6x^5. It just involves simple subtraction and multiplication. The kids had no idea of what they were doing or why they were doing it, but they felt good about themselves. They walked into their afternoon classes and showed the other teachers their newly acquired math skills--it was great.

Another term I developed a friendship with a severely mentally disabled young man, N. He was friends with one of my calculus kids. N came to tutoring sessions with my calculus kid. Although he couldn't possibly do any of the work, I handed him practice sheets and a calculator and he went through the motions of doing the work. He too felt really good about himself. He hated the stigma of special education and craved for the knowledge and companionship of the mainstream kids. Accepting N into the class hurt no one and helped him greatly.

I've taught special education students that thought they had big SPECIAL EDUCATION signs stamped on their foreheads. Self image was one of their biggest problems. Although I did nothing for these kids education, I know I helped them in more ways than one.


I decided a long time ago not to expect anything from anybody. If you don't expect anything, and you don't get anything, you cannot get hurt. Unfortunately, the heart doesn't always listen to the brain and the heart expects things that the brain does not want.

When I came back to work, I didn't expect much from anyone. I did think that people who passed me in the hall might say a nice word or two of condolence. Most did. The AP of security walked by me on two or three occasions, looked at me and then kept going. Not even an "I am sorry for your loss." The AP of guidance, who I thought I got along with said on a few occasions "Hi, how's it going?" just like she has done a hundred times before, just proving my point that she doesn't really care about how things are going for me. And when I go to temple to say Kaddish, people look at me as if I am an intruder in their space even though I have been a temple member for over 20 years. Not one word of greeting or condolence yet they must know that a death is what is drawing me there. When someone has a death in their family, word goes out with a recorded message to everyone in the congregation. There was no phone call when my mom died. Some might say it was an oversight. I say it was typical of the way I have been treated there for years.

My biggest expectation hurt came from people who I thought were close friends. They would not make the trip to the Bronx to sit Shiva with me. I'm sure my friends were afraid something would happen to their precious car. They wanted to come sit with me Wednesday night, in my house, because it is easier and safer to park. I told them I didn't want company then. I'm finished sitting.

I don't want to fight with these friends, but I don't want to see them now either. I don't want to say words I will be sorry for. I just had a big fight with my beautiful, terrific daughter because everything sets me off now. She and my son are the most important parts of my life. If I said hurtful things to her, who knows what I would say to someone else. I've really got to go back to my expectation of no expectations. That is the only way to survive.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ask A Math Teacher

I sent this to my AP and here is his reply:

Very funny, but I am not sure it is a compliment. We fail too many students.

I wrote back:
We don't fail the kids. The system fails them by forcing them to take courses that they are not interested in taking and have no desire or ability to learn. The kids fail themselves when they refuse to do any work.

Yes, I enter the failing grade on the report card, but I only enter the grade the student has earned in my class.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Shared Space

My trailer was closed again today. It was being used for an AP exam this morning.This wasn't really a big deal. The AP exam in math was last week and this week I let the kids sit around and do nothing. They deserve it after working hard in preparation for the exam. Even the kids that didn't work need a break. I figure, if they didn't work before, what is the purpose of working now? So what is the problem? There were at least four classes the the auditorium for various reasons. The concert band was on stage rehearsing for tonight's concert. The music teacher asked everyone to be quiet while they played. Kids cannot sit quietly for forty five minutes, especially when they have absolutely nothing to do. The kids sat in their seats, talked quietly amongst themselves, but with over 100 kids in a room, there was noise. The music teacher stood on the stage and berated all the people in the auditorium, calling us rude and disrespectful. He told us to just sit back and enjoy the music. We were not being rude. The auditorium was our classroom too. We all understood the pressure he was under. It is not our fault that we had to work under those conditions. I've been forced to teach in my trailers while the marching band is going by. I never tell them they are rude. I listen to musicians practicing in the hallways. They are not being rude, even though their music is interrupting my teaching. Our school is overcrowded. Space is too limited. We all have to learn to get along and cooperate in the space that we have.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Daddy's Little Boy

When my kids was little my husband did a lot of traveling for business. My daughter used to cry every night, around the time he got home, for her daddy. My son didn't cry in the evenings, only in the morning. I didn't get it, his dad left for work before he got out of bed. I get it now.

I miss my mom all the time but it is mostly on the drive to work that my tears start to flow. It's funny. I never spoke to her in the morning. I never even thought about her then. I guess something triggers in my brain overnight that makes the mornings so lonely without her being around. My poor son, I thought he was the strange one, crying when it did not make sense to cry. I owe him an apology. His baby brain was much more sophisticated than I ever gave it credit for.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Never Give Up On Kids

The kids in one of my AP classes today were telling me about one of their other AP teachers who gave up on them. She just stopped teaching. She claimed they were lazy and dumb and not worth the effort. They were happy that I never did that, no matter how lazy they were or how poorly they did on exams. The day I give up will be my last day in the classroom. That will be my cue to retire.

The people in my night class feel the same way about me. They all collected money and bought me the beautiful flowers in the picture above. They said other teachers with my problems this term would have deserted them. Teachers had done that in the past. They were glad that I didn't leave, that I came in and prepared for them, in spite of everything. I don't teach at night for the extra money. I'm not rich, but I have enough. I teach because I enjoy what I do. I get pleasure out of helping others. These flowers and the card and hugs reaffirm what I have been doing for years.

Thank You Teachers

Today is Korean Teacher Appreciation day. The Korean students met of us as we walked in with a long stem carnation. I got 2 of them plus a bouquet. These kids sure know how to make their teachers feel special.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thank You

I would just like to thank everyone for all their support during this past month. I know I have been using this blog for purely selfish reasons, but I am not an open person. I like to keep my feelings to myself. Talking things out to an audience, yet remaining anonymous (except to a very few) has been very therapeutic for me. All of your comments have helped make it possible for me to endure. I know my husband, supportive though he is, does not like to see me cry. He lost both of his parents a few years ago and sees no need to keep dwelling on painful topics. I don't like to trouble my friends either, they all have their own burdens to carry.

Work has been wonderful. Again, the kids are so supportive. One of my troubled little girls told me she is going to pass the regents for my mom. They are still all hugging me when they see me and checking to see that I am okay. Every day gets easier, although it will never go back to the way it was. Last night, for the first time I didn't cry. But, then I felt guilty for not crying. Seems I can't win. Today, proctoring the AP psychology exam, I walked out as I felt tears starting to flow. I think keeping busy is the answer. I have to remember the good things. Whenever I cried to my mom about someone dying she always said, "That's life. We live and we die." I try to remind myself of this when I start to feel sad and sometimes it helps.

Now, let me go figure out what I am teaching tomorrow. That has got to get my mind off of this stuff.

Monday, May 14, 2007


If divorce had been fashionable 50 years ago, my in-laws would have never stayed married. I'm glad they did because although they didn't get along, they were both great people and if they lived apart I might not have gotten to know each of them as well as I did. The reason I am writing this now is because even in a bad marriage, loss is painful. I remember when my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law was sad. She missed the other body in the house, the sound of the refrigerator opening, the toilet flushing, making another person something to eat. My dad keeps talking about how lost he is after 58 wonderful years. I try to tell him to hold on to his memories. He would be sad if it was 58 miserable years. He is the lucky one. Not too many people have the luxury of hanging on to the memories he has.

Back To Work

Today was my first day back. I almost took another day off. I didn't think I could handle anyone offering sympathy. It was hard in the beginning. I made the error of calling my dad first thing. He was on his way to say Kaddish and was crying which of course, made me cry. Things got better after that. People were wonderful. Even people I didn't think knew who I was came over to say a nice word or two. The kids were even better. We couldn't use the trailers because there was an AP exam being given in them. We were supposed to go the auditorium but that was locked. Instead, we just hung around outside and enjoyed the nice weather. I discussed the AP exam with them (the part we are allowed to talk about). I told them that this year's exam was brutal, everyone on the list serve said so. They were well prepared and I would be willing to bet the curve will be bigger than usual. Some of my weaker students even told me some of their answers which were correct--a great and pleasant surprise. They said the short answers were easy and that I did a good job preparing them. One of the kids brought me a cupcake and told me he was giving me his heart. They all made heart signs when they left. Now I am glad I decided not to retire this year. The rest of the day went equally great. The kids in the library were glad to see me back for tutoring. My afternoon D kids were also happy to see me and actually worked quietly--eager to make up for lost time. Best of all, my dad sounds better on the phone now. I know things will still be rough for him but, if he can get through a couple of hours then there is hope he will make it in the long run.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Cheap Airline aka Jet Blue

My sister is on her way back to Texas. She paid top dollar for a last minute flight, but that is besides the point. There are some things you expect on an airplane. Working toilets are one of them. The plane she is on has none. It was forced to make an emergency landing in Nashville to let people off to take care of business. Good old Jet Blue is compensating their loyal passengers really well--they are giving them free----yes, absolutely free----TOILET PAPER!!! No meal vouchers or coupons good for another flight.


I remember when I took geometry in the tenth grade my teacher began by asking us to define a point. The whole class was enthusiastic. We all came up with lots of things but, after a while the teacher explained that we weren't really defining a point, we were describing it. She said that in geometry there were three undefined words "POINT, LINE and PLANE". Every other term could be defined based on these words or words that were already defined using these words. What made me think of this now? GRIEF! Grief is like one of those undefined terms. You can look it up in the dictionary. You can use words to describe it, but the actual emotions are none like I have ever experienced. The feelings of living in a void, where nothing around you matters or the inability to stop yourself from breaking into uncontrollable sobs and heaving non stop are something I would never have believed possible. I've been with many friends who experienced grief. I am so glad that I never tried to understand it, never told them to stop crying and never told them to pull themselves together. These are things that are impossible to do. Only time can heal the pain. Only time can end the grief.

The cemetery was so sad. We brought the flowers and read my mom some mother's day cards. I begged my grandparents who are buried next to her to watch out for her and to care for her. My dad said his dad always loved her and that is why he put her next to him. I guess my grief will pass because my dad is no longer sad for his parents. I think my hysteria (which I tried to control but couldn't) helped keep my dad a little calmer. He cried, but I was much worse than he was.

When we got back to his house I wanted to go up with him for a while. After looking for parking I found what I thought was a good parking spot only to come down an hour later and find a $115 ticket on my car. The good thing about grief right now is that I don't care about the ticket. I also don't care that I lost my cellphone yesterday and had to go buy a new one today. There are just too many bigger and more important things to stress about.

Last night was the final night of Shiva. We let people come to my house since my dad doesn't like a lot of company, especially at night. I think I might have had 40 people in my living room. It was amazing. I don't even think of myself as someone that people know, let alone care enough about to come over on a Saturday night. Although it was crowded, it felt good and I was able to laugh for a while.

I'm going to try to go back to work tomorrow. I'm not planning on visiting my dad again until the end of the week. I'll talk to him every day and if he needs me I'll be there. I have to give him space to grieve alone. I have to let him learn to be by himself. I know he can do it. He has to learn that he can.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Red Roses

I feel like a drama queen. All I do is cry and whine. I know things are bad now but, lots of people live with much worse stuff than what I am going through. I've got to pull it together. I go back to work on Monday and I have got to leave all this stuff behind.

My dad insists on going to the cemetery on Sunday. It's Mother's Day and he has to be with her. He hasn't driven in a month and I don't think this should be his first trip alone. Luckily, my dad is smart and agrees with me. He'll let me drive him there. We convinced him to get back on the road slowly, drive locally at first. This will be our first Mother's Day without her. He is going to bring her red roses, her favorite flower. He wants her to know that he is with her. If there is a heaven, she knows that she is with him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but, if this makes him feel better, I don't mind. I'm going to pick him up at 6:00 in the morning. He's an early person and I would like to beat the morning traffic.

We are not a particularly religous family, but we are all gong to Synagogue to say Kaddish (prayer for the dead) for her. She would like that. Even my anti-religion son will be in Temple in Binghamton. My daughter and her boyfriend are going in Maryland and the rest of us will go together in the Bronx. This is the least we can all do to honor her memory.


Shiva is a week where family and friends come together to remember the person who died and to help the mourners be happy for a little while, to forget the sorrow and just remember the good times. My dad doesn't see it this way. Every little comment sets him off. He doesn't want to be happy and can't bring himself to see anybody happy around him. Yesterday I went with him to the bank, to change over accounts and to make sure my name is on everything with his so I can help him when I have to. I thought this was a good sign until I found out he is just preparing for his death. Even when he dies and in his sorrow, he wants things to be as easy as possible for me and my husband. He doesn't want me to have to struggle the way he is struggling now. He keeps telling me that I have a family I should be with, that I should just leave him alone. I can't do that but I can't help him either. My wonderful strong dad is dying in front of my eyes and I can't help him. People say time will help, but they don't know my dad. He is one of the most stubborn, rigid men I have ever met.

My husband retired two years ago and so far, he has been content doing nothing. He has been at my side this entire time. I am starting to really worry about him. What will happen to him if I die? I love him but I don't want to be his entire life. If I die I want him to live. I want him to take all the money and goods we acquired over our life time and blow them on things to make him happy. Let him pay for some nice young women if he can't get one on his own. I want him to remember the life we had together but then to go out and find a new one. For years my kids have been telling me that their dad is just like my dad. For years I only saw the negative side of this, only the flaws, not the virtues. This month has reminded me all over again why I fell in love with him and why we have been married for almost 34 years.

Every day begins with the hope that things will get easier and ends with things worse than they were the day before. My sister is going home on Sunday and I am going back to work on Monday. I love my dad but I can't sit by and watch him pass away too. I'll be there for him when he needs me but, if I don't get back to normal I will die along with him. I'm not ready to do that yet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


A friend asked me how I am doing. She said no matter how old you are it is awful to lose your mother. When your mom is gone, you are an orphan.

I've been so consumed with worry about my dad that I haven't had time to give my mom much thought. I will miss her irritating daily phone calls. The calls I make to her where all she relates is what she ate or what she shopped for (food items) that day. The words she hears wrong because her hearing aids are either not in or not working properly. I'll miss her undercooked chicken. I'll miss hearing her complaints about my dad I'll miss her unconditional love, her concern about me an my family and just hearing her voice in general.

I think most people just take their moms for granted. Moms are supposed to do all the wonderful things my mom did. There never was any reason to thank her or to praise her for being who she was. Not all moms do what they are supposed to do. My mom was one of the best around. I'm sorry I didn't spend more time telling her that I loved her and I know I never said thank you for being you.

If I could turn back the hands of time, my one wish would be to be a better daughter than the daughter I was. If there is a heaven, and my mom is looking over my shoulder and reading this, maybe now she will be able to know how much I loved her. I know when shiva is over an I return to normal life my loss will probably hit hard. I'm going to be strong, for that is what she would want. She would never burden her family with any of her personal issues.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


My sister is really on my dad’s nerves. He can’t wait until she leaves. I don’t blame him. I had a long talk with my niece (sister’s daughter) while she was here. She told me she is in therapy because of her mother. Everything with my sister is a drama and she can’t take it anymore. That is the way I have been feeling for years. My family thought I was exaggerating until we spent this week together. They no longer doubt me.

Yesterday my sister realized the medicine she needed to take was running out. She wanted me to go to a pharmacy when I got home to renew it for her. I told her she better do it here. Aside from being very expensive (she has no medical coverage) I was afraid there would be problems, which, of course there were. My husband had to drive her to three different pharmacies until he could find one that carried what she needed. Then, the pharmacy didn't want to give it to her. My husband had to beg the pharmacist to give her three to hold her to the next day.

My dad is pushing my sister to go home. Aside from getting on his nerves, he is worried about her. He can tell by looking at her that she is not feeling well. I told her yesterday to just buy a Jet Blue ticket. They had the best flight and she has a $100 credit to use up. Of course she had to check every airline in existence before she did what I told her to do in the first place. I think my dad would have paid $1000 for her ticket just to get rid of her.

My dad is having major issues about lots of things. We all know this and are trying not to get on his nerves. She never learns. One of the things he does not like is when people rearrange anything in his house. We needed an outlet to plug in my computer. What does she do? She looks for things she can unplug so she can plug it in. Good thing it is my computer and I stopped her before she did the deed. Yesterday she took a bagel with seeds into the living room to eat without bothering to use a plate. Needless to say he freaked out because he just vacuumed the room. When everyone left tonight, she wanted to do laundry. You don't do laundry while you are sitting shiva, especially in a public laundry room. My mom would jump out of her grave if she knew what my sister wanted to do. We ended up bringing the laundry home and my husband volunteered to do it for her.

My dad got through today without going off too much. When he talked about my mom, he cried, but then he got himself together and kept going. We had some more people come over and he even seemed to enjoy the company. I made sure to tell my friends to keep it quiet. By 6:00 everyone left. We cleaned up, sat with him a little longer and then went home. We told the friends that wanted to see us to come to my house. I'm glad they only stayed a short time. I love them, but I am wiped out.

Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully it will be better. I have lost so much weight. I now weigh less than I did twenty five years ago before my son was born. I'm not crying tonight, which is good. I'm not heaving which is also good. Maybe tomorrow I will be able to get down more than one meal.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Day After

I thought my dad was doing better. He seems to be coping, crying but a little better. He called about my mom's life insurance and pension this morning. Taking care of business was a good sign. Boy, I was wrong. This morning we only had a little bit of company, which was good. My cousin showed up. We talked about old times. We used to be great friends and somehow we drifted apart. It was good to talk about old times. A friend of my sister showed up also. With only one person extra, things were also good. Then came the lull. My dad ate his favorite meal--the meatballs I made him and he napped a little. Later on a couple of people that worked with my mom showed up. This was good too. Unfortunately, two very old friends of mine also came. My friend is a teacher at a pretty prestigious high school and she was telling us a crazy story about a police visit (future post). We were laughing. My dad couldn't take it. He went into the other room and cried. It was too noisy. People were happy. "We are in mourning for your mother. I know this is what is done at shiva, but I can't take it." I told this to my friends and they left. We told everyone we could contact not to come tonight. I know this is wrong. I know I am in mourning too and I have a right to company but I can't stand watching my dad cry. We will be at my house Saturday night. I will let people who want come to see me there. My sister is going home on Friday. I have mixed feelings. She is good for my dad in some ways but in other ways she is driving him crazy. My husband and children finally see what I have been saying about her for years. They see that I am not exaggerating. She does not handle things like an intelligent adult (another post). Things are calm now. Everyone except family is gone. We are going home soon. My sister has one friend coming over. That will be good. Until tomorrow. Only time will tell what that day may bring.

My dad just said he wants people to come tomorrow. It is okay with him. If there is too much laughter, he will leave the room. Things are just too strange for me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Funeral

Part of me was afraid to tell people about the funeral. I was so afraid that no one would bother to come. After all, it was in the Bronx. People from Queens and Long Island are afraid of that part of the city. Boy was I wrong. There must have been over 100 people at the chapel, mostly friends of mine. Lots who have met my parents over the years and really liked them. Friends of my dad's showed up too. He didn't think anyone would. Most of his friends are gone. Many are too old to get there. My Aunt had some of her friends show up too. Cousins came. Even my sister had a friend there. (She has lots of friends, they just all live in Texas.) Her children and husband arrived last night so my dad was surrounded by family. The service was beautiful. The Rabbi did a wonderful job, explaining everything and saying all the right words. I read my eulogy and California Guy's adapted poem. My sister read a letter that my mom had written to us three years ago and left with my dad to read after she was gone. The Rabbi said that it was much better to be eulogized by people that love you than strangers. I agree. I did same thing for my mother-in-law when she died a few years ago. I loved my mom so much. I had to be one of the ones to wish her a formal good bye. I even looked inside the casket to make sure that it was my mom inside--something I never thought I could do. (Jews used closed caskets--there is no viewing)

To me the cemetery is the worst part. I fall apart when I watch the coffin being lowered into the ground. It is so dark and so cold. The thought of never seeing the sun again is just too awful to bear. My mom is buried next to my dad's dad. At first I thought we should leave that spot for my dad and put her one over. Then I thought why should she be alone. Better to be next to someone who loves her than to be alone for years. Jews "bury" their own. That is, we take the shovel and throw dirt on the casket until you can't see it anymore. Really religious Jews fill in the entire whole, using every drop of dirt. We are not that religious. We just covered the top. When I had the shovel, I just kept going and going. I wanted to be the one to help my mom. I continued until someone stopped me. The reason behind this is simple. In life, we do a favor and expect someone else to do a favor in return. Burial is the final favor that cannot be returned. My dad cried, but he was not as bad as I expected. We were afraid he would try to jump in the grave with her. My aunt couldn't even bring herself to pick up a shovel. That was fine too.

After the funeral we all went back to my dad's house. He lives in Co-op City in the Bronx. Parking is almost impossible. Again, I thought no one would come but I was wrong. We had a house full of people for hours. My dad is really on edge. He was screaming at everyone for the littlest things. We are all used to him yelling at my sister, but, when he got on my daughter (his pride and joy) and my husband (who he loves as much as he loves me) we knew he was in really bad shape. In spite of this, I still think he might be okay in the end. My dad is friendly, but he doesn't have a lot of friends. He keeps everyone on the outside. In spite of this neighbor after neighbor stopped by to see him. Many of these people are old, and have been living years without the spouse they loved. Many were of different races and nationalities. They all expressed love and care for my dad and it is my hope that these people will give him the strength to go on.

Last night was bad. My sister had to go to the airport at midnight to pick up her kids. My dad called me hysterical at 1:30 saying "No one is here. They all deserted me. I'm all alone. We are burying your mother tomorrow and your sister is missing." I managed to calm him a little and got my sister on the phone to get back to him to calm him down. Now that is over, he might be okay. I hope so. I love my dad and want to help him start living his life again.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Mom and Wife

California Teacher Guy wrote a poem about his mom. It was so beautiful that I adapted it to fit mine and plan to read it at her funeral tomorrow.

“Fifty-eight years
wasn’t long enough, Ruth,”
Dad said at the hospital
as we clutched each other
and remembered the
wonderful woman
who was his wife.

He still wakes
and listens for her in the dark,
longing to make sure she is
safe from harm
And then he remembers…

She is gone, the love of his life,
The woman he lived and breathed for
is no longer here.
He will be strong.
He will carry on and love and be loved
by the children and the grandchildren
they created together.

It's Over

My mom died at 12:30 AM today. If my dad survives the funeral, he will be okay.

The funeral is tomorrow at 9:30. The sooner it starts, the sooner he can start healing.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Decision Day

The doctors want to do more cuts--just a little cut in her skull, just a little cut for permanent dialysis, just a little cut to stop the blood clots. We all agreed--NO MORE! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! The doctor said she will die without the dialysis. It will happen this week. He recommended that we stop the breathing tube also. We are doing it tomorrow. My dad just wanted one more night. They are moving her to a hospice type room where she will be kept on a morphine drip and hopefully never wake up and know what her life has become.

I feel sad. I feel like I am ending my mom's life, even though I know the right thing is being done. The thing that she would want is being done. I feel relief. My husband and I went out for dinner tonight and I was able to eat. We went to Home Depot and I was able to shop. I spoke to my Rabbi--he was comforting. He will officiate at the funeral and give my mom the Orthodox funeral she wants.

My dad wants to die. I know he won't kill himself, he is not suicidal. I am afraid he will die of grief. There is nothing I can do but be there for him. My sister has been with him non stop since Monday. She is afraid to leave him. It is good for them to be together. She has spent very little time with either of my parents in the last 25 years. She is suffering too. I know part of it is guilt. I have been good. I've been telling her how good she is now. I haven't said anything to reinforce her guilt. It is hard, because I am angry at her for her years neglecting them. I will never let her know about this anger. She is doing the right thing now and that is all that counts.

Once they remove the breathing tube she might have minutes, hours or days but her time will be limited. No one can live without functioning kidneys. I know I will adjust. My sister will adjust and my kids will be fine after a while, even though losing the grandma they love will hurt. I just pray that my dad will adjust too.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Icing On The Cake

The AP test is almost here. The kids are ready, at least as ready as they will ever be. I think I've killed more trees than any other teacher giving them handouts. I know there is no way they can possibly finish everything that I have given them. I ask them about how many people their mom will cook for if she invites 10 people over and they tell me 20. I tell them that is my philosophy with prep work. Even though there will be leftovers, it is better to have to much than too little.

A few of my kids are really uptight about the class. They are nervous as hell. I know I made them that way by giving them such hard stuff to do all term. Now I am using the opposite strategy. I'm telling them that the test really doesn't matter all that much. The important thing is that they learned a lot. They learned that they could take Calculus and that they would understand it, even if their grades didn't show it. They learned how to approach problems and how to look for clues. I tell them that the exam is like licking the bowl when mom is making a cake. Eating the cake which is good. The icing is just an added treat. Whether they score a 1 or a 5, my kids are successes. Getting college credit is nice, but most will never graduate early anyways. And, if they do, it just means they will work a year longer in their life. Saving money in college is also a myth. They will pay by the semester, not the credit. Completing the class and doing their best is all that matters. that is what makes them winners.

Another Thing For Us To Do

In a new memo, my AP is telling everyone that since the school's daily attendance is 90%, we should have 90% attendance in our classes every day. He walked into a few classes this week and saw only 71% of the kids present. This is not acceptable! If kids are chronically absent or cutters, parents must be called. if we need working numbers we can call dean's office, nurse's office or guidance counselor. If all these things fail, we should just keep of a log of our efforts in case we are asked about this.

I don't have the energy now to fight with him and I also don't have the energy to do this. Even if I did, I refuse. How much more can we be expected to do? Does he have any idea how time consuming this activity is? It would take more than my lunch and prep periods and I only have poor attendance in one class. Imagine teachers with 5 bad classes! Besides, school ends in a few weeks. Even if I could get these kids back, what would it accomplish? They've already missed too much time to be able to pass. His memo of last week told us to fail kids with more than 10 absences. And, if they have been cutting, the probably know nothing and will just be discipline problems.

I'm guessing that this new push has something to do with school ratings. Again, school ratings do not affect me or any other teacher directly. We won't get bonuses or even thank you's. Even if they were given to teachers, I can guarantee that I would never be given one. I know the kids in my AP class nominated me for the Heart Award again this year. I know that Principal Suit will give it to someone else and tell anyone who mentions me that I am not the kind of teacher he is looking for. That is fine with me. I don't need the award or even his thanks. I need him to stop making these crazy demands on my work day.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Gray is a nice color. It matches everything. My new bathroom is gray and I have lots of gray clothes. My love of gray ends here. I don't like living in a gray world. I like definite answers to things. I like black and white. That is why I became a math teacher. Math is not a wishy-washy subject. There is a beginning and an end--a definite end. While there might be multiple routes to get to that end, the final result is always the same. While there is room for discussion and which roads are best traveled to reach the desired location, there is no doubt as to what that location is.

Medicine is gray. Doctors think they know what to do and lots of times they do. But, there are often too many roads to choose from and they don't all lead to the same destination. Unlike math, a wrong turn cannot be fixed with the back of a pencil. A wrong turn can cost someone their life and cause lots of pain. No matter how good the doctor, there is no guarantee of success when they choose the path they will follow. This is not true in math. The worse thing that can happen is that a problem comes out wrong and someone will show the correct method.

My mom is living in a gray world now. We are gambling with the tracheotomy. No one really knows if it will help her or not. My dad is torn about his decision to do it or not. How can he agree to let her die when there is a chance she can live? How can he subject her to a life of tubes? How can he make any decision when he doesn't know the outcome?

I have a new appreciation for the fine doctors and nurses in the critical care business. Every day they work with patients that are very ill and help people make decisions about life and death. They don't tell you what to do, but explain the choices that can be made in terms anyone can understand. They are trying to make sense out of the grayness, but they can't turn it black and white. How much easier life would be if they could.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pulling the Plug

The social worker said pulling the plug is not an expression we should use. My dad said, "Isn't that what we are doing?" The social worker came up with some more nice words to try to cushion what we are about to do. My dad said "I'm old. I'm from the Bronx. I call it the way I see it."

They have to remove the breathing tube tomorrow. It is no longer safe to keep it in her mouth. She can get infections and pneumonia, that is if she doesn't have pneumonia already. Her white count 1s one, when it should be around ten. She is on dialysis. She is getting transfusions, plasma, platelets every day. Our option is a tracheotomy and a feeding tube through her stomach. She would never want this. She can't get well. We are not going to let the doctors do the procedure. The end will come in a day or two. They will make her comfortable and she will feel no pain. My dad is surprisingly calm. I know it is going to be hard for him, but he might get through this after all.