Monday, November 5, 2007

Kathy Eyerly -30 years ago


The longer I teach the more I meet my childhood friends over and over again. Never exactly the same - but there is often enough similarity in spirit, demeanor and personality to take me back 30 years. I remember thinking, when I was a child, that being able to remember "30 years ago" would be so cool. You know what? It is.

But I do miss some of my friends.

I had a dear girlfriend when I was in about the 3rd grade. She and I remained friends even after she moved, during our Jr. High years, to Illinois (remember when 7th through 9th grade was called Jr High?) I remember my Mom telling me back then that when she was little (30 years before Kathy Eyerly) her schools were usually 1st through 8th and then High School was 9th through 12th. (My Mom moved 14 times in 12 years) My dad went to a Catholic school that was 1st through 12 and the farm kids took off for planting and harvesting.

Anyway, my friend, Kathy Eyerly, died soon after she turned 21 -- of a brain hemorrhage (aneurysm). It was sudden, as you can imagine. She left behind a young daughter. Ironic, I think, that Kathy was the one friend who stayed at the funeral home with me when I was 11 and my dad died. She seemed unafraid of his body, of the strange smells of a funeral parlor, of the somber adults, of death in general. She seemed to have to no uneasiness with me either. I was as likely to break into sobs as easily as I might retreat into silence. She even had me giggling because I was so shaky that I could not make it across the room without spilling the water out of the little dixie cups the funeral home provided for the bereaved. I remember trying to get a cup of water to my Mom who was imprisoned behind a seemingly impenetrable and endless line of mourners hugging her, crying on her, leaning on her. I remember telling Kathy, who was trying to maneuver her way with me across the huge room, " just follow the trail of my drips." It was a moment of smiles for us. No where else would dripping water across a floor EVER be acceptable. But I could not help it -- I could not physically get across the room without spilling my drips of water as profusely as tears flowed. It was as if EVERYONE and EVERYTHING was crying. Kathy giggled. I giggled and we moved through the room ducking under grown-up's elbows and winding gracefully through the crowd as only 11 year old girls can.

I see Kathy in many of the vivacious, earnest, rosy cheeked girls I teach here at my beloved Catholic school. I went to public school. It is somewhat of a miracle that Kathy went to public school. She came from a large, Irish Catholic family.

All during my childhood I secretly wanted to go to Catholic school. Their lines were so civilized. They didn't jostle and taunt each other loudly at the bus stops. I was willing to bet none of them ever had a fellow bus rider bring a switch blade to school. By the time I was in 7th grade I longed for my idealized version of a peaceful school bus ride with no aroma of marijuana lingering in the stale bus.
I know Catholic kids weren't perfect. It is just that they seemed nicer as a group.

Somehow, Kathy and I ended up in the same school. I was grateful for her. I miss her. I wish I could share with her my joy at finding my way home to Rome and my love of teaching in a Catholic school.
Somehow, I am sure she knows. In the meantime I am reminded to pray for her each time I "see a bit of her" in so many of the students I teach.

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