Thursday, September 11, 2008


My dad brags to people about his son-in-law, and how great of a teacher and coach he is. Dad, who isn't sporty in the least, will go to games just so he can sit there with me and cheer on Paul's (MY) team. Since Paul is the "least successful" of his siblings (and I say that because of how it's been said to US), people don't brag about him, they don't praise him for doing a job he LOVES, and doing it well, at that. I think our marriage came along at the perfect time- Paul's dad has passed on, and my brother moved to Australia- a father needing a son, and a son needing a father. When I tell Paul about how my dad likes to brag about his son-in-law changing children's lives, I can tell he gets excited about it. For once, someone else recognizes what a fantastic person Paul is, and what a great difference he's making to this world.

Although Paul is very busy with work, and quite often brings it home with him (and by bringing home work I mean various viruses and all the other factors that occur with children), I'm so glad to have someone who obviously cares so much about other people. The bad side of being a teacher/coach's wife is the attachments I form. It's easy for Paul, he's been doing this for over ten years, and while this is going on my 5th year as number 1 team supporter and fan, I can never get used to saying goodbye to these kids when they graduate. It's widely known that I cry at every graduation ceremony, every "last game of XXXXX's elementary school career", because I just get so attached to these kids. Being around all the boys (Paul coaches mostly boy teams) on weekdays, weeknights, weekends and holidays you start to learn about them all.

Paul isn't a normal coach. He cares about these kids, sometimes too much. One boy in particular was growing up with only his mom, older sister, and younger sister to guide him into adulthood. His mom was working at least two jobs, his older sister had a job, and he was to take care of his younger sister. He was at St. Mark's because of a gift from a God-Mother type, who wanted to make sure he made it to high school. The boy had a father, although he rarely saw him. For one summer basketball season, Paul noticed the student was running awkwardly, and asked him what size his shoes were A 10 and a half, he replied. Gently, Paul asked, "and what size do you wear?" A twelve, he replied sheepishly. That day, Paul worked out a deal with a friend who works at Footlocker, and bought the student a nice pair of basketball shoes. Not wanting the kid to feel like a charity case, Paul pretended his brother got him those shoes, but they were the wrong size, and did he want them? The kid took him up on his offer and took the shoes, and played so well that season. This boy would be a constant source of worry for us over the years. There would be days that he'd come to school with no lunch, having had no breakfast. He would act out against other teachers, and when brought to talk to Paul would break down in tears because although he's not around much, his father hadn't gotten in touch with him in over a year, and he was afraid he was dead. His sister attempted suicide, and his mother began having heart palpitations. A twelve/thirteen year old boy, left to parent himself. There would be nights that I'd beg Paul to let me invite him over for a nice hot dinner, and a calm place to study and just be a kid.

I think his father figure was Paul, and although I know Paul can handle that, it just breaks my heart to think that he's probably in a public high school, where the teachers won't care as much as we do, because he's just another of the 34 students in their class. They won't notice that he's worn the same shirt three days in a row, won't notice that he hasn't eaten in three days. Even though we know he's acting out because he's scared, hungry, tired, and just weak from all the pressure put onto his 13 year old shoulders, I worry that the school will see just another troublemaker who takes school for granted. Even though he's been gone for a few months now, I worry every day that we're the only ones who can help him, which may be irrational, but I can't help it.

So although I say Paul brings his work home with him, sometimes I wish he really would bring it home, so I can stop worrying about whether or not the kids are doing okay.


Kj said...

This got me all weepy. You're both terrific and this child, this boy, will have you in his hearts forever and maybe that will carry him through high school. It just might make a man of him :-)

Tell Paul I think he's the bee's knees too.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story. I got all teary when I read about the boy's shoes. You're married to a wonderful man. :-)

HamiHarri said...

That is so sweet your father is so proud of your husband :) It sounds like he has good reason to be.