LOOKING BACK – LOOKING FORWARD

Looking forward – January 2021 providing an amazing setting sun

2020 has finally come to a close. Many wonderful things happened in this past year but i am heaving a sigh of relief that it has come to an end. The many incredible memory moments with family and friends were mixed with sadness. Les – the best man at our wedding died of Covid 19. Eloise – an old friend of more than fifty years – died of cancer. Jerry and Les had been friends since college. He and his wife, Maureen, continued to be our close friends down through the years. When Les was admitted to memory care it was a difficult reality for us to accept.

We met Eloise and her husband through our local parish church. When Jerry volunteered to teach religious instruction to one of the two fifth grade classes at the church he was assigned to observe Eloise’s husband Joe who was experienced in teaching this age group. The fact that Eloise and Joe were our contemporaries and that their four children were close in age to our five, made it very easy for our families to become close. And in the “it’s a small world category,” after we had been friends for over ten years, we discovered that Eloise had been the boarding school roommate of another close friend of ours.

Covid 19 and the restrictions on daily life that it brings with it have been at times very difficult to deal with. But with loving family and good friends, and technology – zoom gatherings that now stretch from California to Rome,Italy, and the fact that Jerry and I both enjoy bridge and scrabble (we are now playing both games electronically) and golf – we are able to stay pleasantly busy. The pandemic is so much easier on us than on our children and grandchildren. They have had to deal with school disruptions, family and social disruptions, work disruptions. It has not been easy. We are very proud of them.

Being a political junkie I have found the four years of Donald Trump’s administration very difficult to accept. And the fact that he still refuses to accept the election results is for me a nightmare. I can not wait till he is no longer “sucking the oxygen” out of our political landscape. He seems to thrive on dividing the country. It does not appear that he focuses on the needs of the county he was four years ago elected to lead. I will be happy when he is gone and when his family is gone.

This evening we had a fire pit dinner on the patio with our two local families. It was very special as Jerry invited those who wanted to to share New Years resolutions. Some did and some didn’t and that was just fine. I have always liked the concept of new beginnings and the start of a new year is the perfect new beginning. I was going to say something about the political climate – a topic that frequently comes up in our politically involved family but it seemed that moving into that area of conversation might have a negative effect on the prevailing caring vibes that were dominating our gathering.

When I am feeling down about about the future both politically and socially, about lack of justice and lack of caring, about what the future holds for our children and grandchildren, it is our same children and grandchildren who make me hopeful.

For example – today, January 2 is Granddaughter Annie’s birthday. Annie is a Teach for America volunteer in Florida in a Miami – Dade school. She graduated from the University of Virginia this past year. Except of course, thanks to Covid, there was no real graduation. Annie teaches Intro to Reading to 7th and 8th graders. Her students are from minority backgrounds;. Having attended a local public school in an affluent community she was not prepared for the poverty and overcrowding and lack of supplies she would experience in the school she was assigned to. One would think this would have been an essential aspect of the Teach for America training.

My own father who put himself through law school by teaching in a New York City public school and who graduated into the Depression could never afford to give up the financial security teaching provided as he and my mother worked to develop their own law practice. My father taught minority students in a low income area. Though Pop”s students and Annie’s students were and are from minority backgrounds I never heard my father say that his school was short on supplies or on such basic needs as chairs for the students. I never felt that he thought his school did not provide the rudimentary supplies needed for facilitating effective teaching.

When Annie arrived for her first day of in-person teaching Introduction to Reading, there were seats for 20 seventh and eighth graders. Over 30 students had been assigned to her class. When she questioned the lack of space and appropriate seating, the school administration eventually and randomly removed 10 plus students from her class and they were placed with another school employee – not a qualified teacher – who did the best he could which was having these students spend their days on paper work. Finally a qualified substitute teacher was found to work with these students. But until that happened warm hearted, caring Annie had to deal daily with the displaced students coming to her classroom door begging her to take them back. It was not Annie’s decision – it was an administrative decision. Right before Annie left for Christmas vacation, her own classroom teacher’s desk collapsed and just fell apart. I wonder how long it will take to get that repaired.

Annie teaches a total of 135 students. She has forty students per on-line class – 28 of whom regularly attend and now there are about 20 students in each of her in-person classes. Annie loves her students and I think they they realize they are very blessed to have her in their lives. One of her students even called her to wish her happy birthday.

Jerry and I and our contemporaries are probably now past the point age wise and health wise where we can make a significant impact politically or socially. But we must continue to be supportive of those ideals we believe in. I like to ponder the words of C.S. Lewis, ” You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” And we are never too old to appreciate a magnificent sunset!!!

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