Visiting Old Teachers
(Cameron Perry, Bill Warden, Elizabeth Ramsey, and Russ Basham)
My beloved 4th grade teacher at Avoca Elementary School was Mrs. Cameron Perry. Every now and then I thought of her throughout my own teaching career; always with the fondest of memories.
Last fall I became determined to find her.
And find her, I did.
When we really want to do something in this life, we tend to find a way to do it somehow.
Somehow. Some way. When we really want to.
I found her last fall at her home in Johnson City. Her dear husband came to the door, his mind bright and sharp as ever. I found him tenderly caring for Mrs. Perry, watching her every move and breath with that beautiful bittersweet combination of true love and deep sorrow that comes from watching a loved one dwindle away before our eyes.
When I spoke to Mrs. Perry, it was obvious that she hadn’t the slightest recollection of virtually anything anymore. She just stared blankly from her wheelchair, scarcely moving a muscle nor saying a word.
I decided not to stay long. I could tell Mr. Perry was very tired, although he made me feel most welcome the entire time I was there and thanked me effusively for coming to visit.
I turned to go, but something inside me - possibly some warm memory from long ago - told me to go hold Mrs. Perry’s hand. As I did, I looked into her eyes and said as meaningfully and with as much emotion as I could, “Mrs. Perry, I want to tell you something special. I became an elementary school teacher, just like you.”
Suddenly the tiniest flicker came alive in her eyes. It was a most beautiful light. No, it wasn’t much. Nor did it last long. But when one is speaking of “light”, a little can be a lot.
Her husband was thrilled. “She remembers something. You hit something special in her mind. I can tell.”
Then we became speechless. Sometimes we say more when we say nothing. Tears of mixed joy and sadness spoke well enough.
This lady who once had a mind as quick as a cat, could now barely raise her head. And then, only slowly. Yes, the light faded away - as quickly as it had come.
But unseen does not mean nonexistent. The light lives on. In me. And now, perhaps in you too, my friends.
The pic above is of my hand holding hers, as she once held mine. Once upon a time.
(Below: Bill Warden, Elizabeth Ramsey, and Russ Basham)
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