“I Miss the Kids… Because That’s What It’s All About”
This afternoon while I was shopping for my mother’s birthday present (She’ll be 83 this Saturday!), I saw a former coworker as I glanced across the top of the clothes racks I was investigating. He saw me too and when he saw me, our eyes met and for a few split seconds, time stood still as many thoughts went through my head. I had heard through other coworkers that he had had to quit working due to early onset Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia . Before today, it had been 5 years since I’d seen him so I didn’t know what to expect. Would he know me? How bad was it?
My questions were answered when his expression became that of recognition, happy to see me, and sadness all rolled up into one. I was happy to see him and as I said hi, I put my arms up to give him a hug. We hugged and he started to cry.
He had been the custodian at an elementary school where I had been a teacher. I got to know him quite well over the 12 years I spent teaching there. He and I had a great working relationship and had had many discussions over the years. I felt bad now though because he was crying, so I jokingly said something about being sorry I had made him cry.
He went on to explain that he had early Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia and he had to quit work because of it. He told me that when he saw me, it gave him happy memories, yet he was sad because he missed work. He said, “I miss the kids. To be honest, I don’t miss the teachers and staff, I miss the kids. Because that’s what it’s all about.” He said this with such sincerity and honesty, that it brought a tear to my eye as well. He was the custodian who made a really big difference in the lives of the students where he worked. He loved his job, because of the kids.
That’s what being a member of the educational community is all about, isn’t it? It’s about the kids.