Back about twenty years ago when we thought we would live forever, there were four of us who hung around and partied together. I was dating ‘The School Marm’ and our friends were Don and Isabel.
Don smoked heavily and had a bad heart, last I remember hearing he was on a transplant waiting list. He continued to smoke, drink and buy lottery tickets until one night, in his sleep about ten years ago, his heart gave out.
The School Marm actually was a parochial school teacher. About all I knew about Catholicism was apparently they allowed bleached blondes as school teachers. She asked me to go to Mass with her one Sunday. Sure, by all means. We walked into the rear of the sanctuary and I was a little behind her as I was looking all around, admiring the stained glass winnders. I didn’t know that when Catholics reach the back pew they stop, grab a hold, kneel down and cross themselves. I’m still sightseeing, still walking and she’s on her knees. I nearly ended up on my face before I realized where she had gone to.
She smoked. A lot. And taught class from the opening bell to recess, recess to lunch, lunch to recess then till quitting time. There were long spells where she, a heavy smoker, couldn’t smoke. So, when she could smoke, she went at it with her ears back. She’d light her next cigarette off her current cigarette. Twenty years ago, she coughed a lot.
Out of curiosity two years ago, I did a google search on her name. I found her obituary. She had died three years prior. It had been many, many years since I had spoken to Isabel but after learning of The School Marm, I found Isabel’s phone number and called. There was no reply, so I left a message.
About a week later, she replied but this time I was the one who couldn’t take the call. She left me a message saying that she had lost touch with The School Marm years ago and didn’t know the first thing about it. I kept that message on my phone for some time and would replay it, as hearing her voice brought back many fond memories.
Earlier this week, someone I almost never hear from sent me an email entitled, “I thought you should know.” It was a copy of Isabel’s obituary.
Isabella Louch. On March 22, 2013. At the age of 72, peacefully surrounded by family at Hamilton General Hospital.
I guess I’m the only one left.
Back in the time of Don and Isabel, Don and I worked with Jake Rotter. Jake was in his forties and had more ailments than Peggy Ann McKay. He said one day about his health, “I don’t understand it. For the longest time I was healthy as a horse, then things started to go downhill.”
“When did things start to happen, Jake?”, we asked him.
“When I was twenty-one.” he declared. We thought it was funny. Half the man’s life he had been sick. When you’re in your thirties and forties you never think about dying.
My mother recently turned ninety and is in excellent health. Her brother is ninety-five and his sight is failing him but he still copes very well living alone. I hope I’ve inherited their genes.
My father died in an accident as did my brother. I have had faith that the Good Lord would simply not do that to my mother…. have all three of her men pre-decease her. I guess I figured I had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, in a way. My faith is a little rattled today, though.
For various reasons I had gotten out of the habit of going to church. I’ve been the past two Sundays and enjoyed the service very much. I think I’ll make it a habit again. You just never know.
“I cannot go to school today”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry.
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there’s one more – that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut, my eyes are blue,
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in.
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My toes are cold, my bones are numb,
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is …
What? What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is ………….. Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”