Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Once a Teacher, Always . . .

By Kay Conner Pliszka

Mom was a teacher most of her life. When she wasn't in the classroom, she was educating her children or grandchildren: correcting our grammar; starting us on collections of butterflies, flowers or rocks; or inspiring a discussion on her most recent "Book of the Month Club" topic. Mom made learning fun.

It was sad for my three brothers and me to see her ailing in her later years. At eighty-five, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of her body, and she went steadily downhill after that.

Two days before she died, my brothers and I met at her nursing home and took her for a short ride in a wheelchair. While we waited for the staff to lift her limp body back into bed, Mom fell asleep. Not wanting to wake her, we moved to the far end of the room and spoke softly.

After several minutes our conversation was interrupted by a muffled sound coming from across the room. We stopped talking and looked at Mom. Her eyes were closed, but she was clearly trying to communicate with us. We went to her side.

"Whrrr," she said weakly.

"Where?" I asked. "Mom, is there something you want?"

"Whrrr," she repeated a bit stronger. My brothers and I looked at each other and shook our heads sadly.

Mom opened her eyes, sighed, and with all the energy she could muster said, "Not was. Say were!"

It suddenly occurred to us that Mom was correcting brother Jim's last sentence, "If it was up to me . . . "

Jim leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Mom," he whispered.

We smiled at each other and once again shook our heads - this time in awe of a remarkable teacher.