34 is not a monumental age by any means.
For me, it is a little more bittersweet.
I have now lived half of my life without my dad.
In order to honor him and everything he brought to my life,
including my love of learning and a personality that draws people from across the room,
I am bringing back his name as part of my own.
Call me Ishmael.
Because I’m pretty excited to bring this small piece back into my life.
New name, same me.
Fifteen years ago tonight, I said goodbye to my dad for the final time.
I didn’t know it would be the last time I would give him a hug and tell him I loved him. I didn’t know that his heart couldn’t take anymore. I didn’t know that I should have gone with my mom to the hospital when they called. I didn’t know how to react when the doctor came to tell us he was gone. I didn’t know how I could feel pain so severe, while simultaneously be completely numb to it. I didn’t know that I would somehow sing at his funeral days later. I didn’t know that burial felt so concrete.
I didn’t know that I would start my freshman year in college without a father. I didn’t know that I would get married almost four years later and not have him there to walk me down the aisle. I didn’t know all of the milestones in my life that he would miss.
I didn’t know that my heart would still ache fifteen years later.
I remember being told how important parent and community relations are as a teacher during my undergrad years. Today simply provided me with another example of just how true that is.
Spring Lake held its annual barbecue where parents are invited to join students for lunch outside. As a teacher, this can be stressful because of the significant surplus in people and fear of losing a child or something just going awry. I have had a fair turnout in my previous two years, but not like I did today. I gathered my 16 students and gave them the run down on procedures. We patiently awaited our turn in line, got our food, and then found a sunny spot on the grassy knoll.
I only had 5 students without parents who sat around me and were quite pleased that I shared my lunch time with them. But more than that, I saw parents who took the time and effort to break away from their busy lives to become part of the Spring Lake community. I am thankful to have a good relationship with most of my parents and was blessed to see so many of their faces showing support for their children and my students.
As I looked around, I was also surprised to see a noticeable increase in parent, family, and community participation. The South Omaha councilman was present, along with several other key members of the community, and even administrators from my district. Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be there and proud to be a part of the Spring Lake community.
I cannot underestimate the power of community. I hate to be cliche, but “it does take a village”. Today, I got to be part of that village.