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Chuck's column: Losing family hurts

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A good friend of mine lost her mother this week. Mom was in her 90s and had lived a good full life, but I'm sure the loss is still a heavy one with her family.

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This weekend marks the 28th anniversary of my mother's passing also. Thursday, March 7, 1985. I remember it well, partly because I was in my third year here at Rosemount High School. I happened to be in the main office that morning at 9:35 when someone said I had a phone call. It was my brother telling me Mom had succumbed to her cancer.

I've witnessed a number of students in the last several years experience the loss of a parent. When I hear of a situation where a student has had to bury a parent, I think of how difficult that would have been for me when I was in high school. It was difficult enough with Mom only 61 and me being 28. Dad would leave us 15 years later.

When I was in high school, I think I could have been gone for several days before Dad might have said, "Where's Chuck?" However, had I or any of my siblings come home a minute after curfew, we would have been subjected to Mom's wrath, which none of us really wanted to endure after experiencing it once.

Dad worked in a factory all his life. He was up early in the morning and off to work before any of us were up to prepare for school. Mom, however, was the one to make sure we got out of the house in plenty of time to get to school. Mom usually didn't have to be at the bank where she was a teller until 8 or after. I remember my elementary school days and walking with Mom from our house to school because the bank was only one block parallel to our Catholic grade school. Very "Leave It To Beaver, " I have to admit. Fondly recalled, however.

Dad's side of the family enjoyed the spirited beverages a bit more often; Mom's side was more, shall we say "level-headed" about the activity. Mom, however, enjoyed a good cold beer from time to time in the summer. One of my funniest memories of Mom came on New Year's Eve when the bank was celebrating not only the holiday but their anniversary as an institution in our community. It was one of the rare times Mom drank champagne. When she got home, I was too naïve to know, but she raced from the foyer of the front door to her bedroom for some reason. Dad was laughing. He went in to check on her, and when he came out, he was only laughing harder for she had "gotten sick" before she made it safely to the room off the bedroom. She spent much of the day in bed.

I had great parents. When Mom left us, we suddenly discovered Dad. And for the next 15 years, he finally felt like a parent because we centered our love and attention on him. When he left, the world was truly a different place.

I think of my students now when a loss such as this occurs so early in their lives. What can one say? There's no making sense of it, that's for sure. The lesson it teaches about life and its harshness at times comes crashing down upon them. I remember a family in my hometown who had six kids and both parents died within a year of each other. It was a tragedy that shook our town.

I hope as my students who have lost a parent grow older, they can hang on to their remaining parent for many years to come and that their memories of the "missing" parent grows ever brighter. Parents. We truly owe them our lives.

Chuck Brooks is a teacher at Rosemount High School.

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