THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY
April 12, 2016

Friday, February 3, 2012

Poetry Friday: An Elegy

On Monday evening, a dear friend's son passed away. He was 15.

I first met Grant, his mother and his sister in the spring of 2002, when they joined our Moms Club playgroup. Grant and my son, Robbie, were going to be in the same kindergarten class that fall.

Kathy and I became friends -- talking about how school was going for the boys. I could sometimes provide her with day to day insights, through Robbie, into life in the classroom. Kathy appreciated these insights because Grant had cerebral palsy and Robbie was (what they call in edu-speak) typically developing.

My son is in the mashed-up  middle row. Grant is in the front row.

"Can you ask Robbie if they went outside today?" Kathy might call and ask. There was mud on her son's jeans and she had no idea how it got there. I will never forget the day she called me, thrilled, because Grant's aide had sent him home with a map. Not a normal map -- this one explained the various, multi-hued stains on Grant's T-shirt. Some came from lunch, some from an art project, some from recess.

Another time, she called me, laughing. At recess, Grant's aide had been approached by a serious little boy. He thought it would be a good idea for the two of them to ride Grant's wheelchair down the slide. That was my vehicle-obsessed son. (I drafted a picture book about this incident. Maybe I'll go back to it some day.)

Due to redistricting, the boys ended up at different schools, but Kathy and I stayed in touch. The kids saw each other for birthday parties, or get togethers, but less and less frequently. When my son was diagnosed with dyslexia, Kathy understood the frustrations of coping with the school system. She helped teach me how to be an advocate.

She also understood the process of letting go of that fantasy kid all of us create during the waiting time of pregnancy or before we take home an adopted child. We all let go of that fantasy at some point, as we parent a real, wonderful child -- a human being -- with all of his strength and weaknesses, all of her needs and wants.

Losing a child is unbearably painful. I am hurting for my friend. It was a gift to have her son in our lives. I had planned to share an elegiac poem by a well-known poet. Instead, I wrote about one memory of Grant.

The Map (firstish draft!)

by Laura Shovan

She emptied her son’s backpack every day
after the bus put up its wheelchair lift and drove away,
after she rolled him up the ramp and through the door.
Once there was a map in his backpack, mirror image
of the pale blue T-shirt she dressed him in that morning,
ironed and clean, now streaked with God-knew what.
The map of his shirt said a black smudge was finger paint
(it was nearing Halloween, his aide wrote,
they were doing spiders), green was grass from recess,
the glowing orange splotch – not a pumpkin –
Miranda “borrowed” a highlighter from the teacher’s pen jar,
drew a lopsided heart on his shoulder. The brown was chocolate
(they told Robbie not to share his MnMs, but…)
When her son died, she thought about the map.
If he had worn a map on the last day, what would she know?
The spider and the grass, the misshapen heart,
chocolate melting on a quiet tongue.

Today's Poetry Friday host is Karissa at the Iris Chronicles. 

12 comments:

Robyn Hood Black said...

This is beautiful, Laura. I've been thinking of you this week and praying for your friend after seeing your facebook posts - but had no idea how to respond. You've responded with warmth and love and appreciation for a precious life in this poem. Thank you for sharing these glimpses into that life.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Robyn. Thank you so much for reading the post and keeping my friend in your thoughts. It was such a shock. Losing a child -- it's beyond comprehension.

jama said...

What a beautiful poem, Laura. This is such unbearably sad news. Will keep you and your friend in my thoughts.

Katya said...

I'm so sorry for your friend's (and your) loss.
You wrote such a beautiful poem, I am sure your friend will treasure it.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Katya. My friend did have a chance to read the post. She says she will always think of our boys' near-Calvin and Hobbes moment on the slide.

Tabatha said...

You wrote a beautiful tribute-poem, Laura. I'm so sorry about Grant's death.

Tara said...

Oh Laura...what a beautiful way to remember Robbie. I'm so sorry for your loss - but the particulars you write about speak to the bonds we create because of our children, and the lives we are fortunate to share through them. I loved, too, these lines:
"we parent a real, wonderful child -- a human being -- with all of his strength and weaknesses, all of her needs and wants."
Children, for all they bring into our lives, are such blessings.

Jules said...

Thank you for allow us to know the gift of life and the gift of death. Please bring our love, our sorrow, and our laugh back to your beloveds.

Author Amok said...

Thank you Tabatha, Tara and Jules. My friend has been reading the comments and I know she appreciates the good wishes everyone is sending her. Our family -- especially my son Robbie -- will forever be affected by knowing Grant.

Ruth said...

This poem brought tears to my eyes. I am so sorry for your friend's loss, and yours. I know she will love your tribute to her son.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hi Laura, thank you for sharing these moments with us through Poetry Friday. I know that our hearts have been touched deeply with your story and with your poem. I am a mother myself, and I know that these are moments when words are not sufficient. yet, you have managed to share this compassion beautifully through verse. Will say a quiet prayer this evening.

Mary Lee said...

I am glad Grant's mom has you for a friend.