I was at the milk cooler, at school, getting the milk order for the class: 6 chocolates, 4 whole milks, 3 skim. In my peripheral vision I could see another child coming up alongside of me.
"Hello Aran, how are you today?"
"Mrs F. I'm not Aran, I'm Nazir...Don't you know me anymore?"
I looked over at Nazir and the hurt in his eyes was like a knife through my heart
"Don't you know me anymore?" just echoed through my head
"Of course Nazir, I am sorry, I should have looked at little closer."
It's true he and Aran shared the same build, the same features but Nazir, Nazir was my former student. My little man, the youngest in the room who had the biggest heart of all. When I was having a bad day all I had to do was hear Nazir's belly laugh and it would just make me forget my troubles. And when he was finally able to master printing his long hyphenated last name the look of pride on his face reminded me of why I do what I do.
"No, sweetheart, I could never forget you, Nazir".
On the way back to the classroom this encounter sent me free falling into a flashback from not so long ago.
It was one of the last times I would see my father.
He was slipping away and would alternate between staring up at the ceiling and rambling incoherently about working the lines on a boat. We don't remember him being a seafaring man but this was some sort of dementia caused by his kidney failure.
I was standing at his bedside with the rest of my family, keeping Dad company, when he pointed to me...
"You there, grab that line, no need for slacking."
I kind of looked around the room and then pointed my index finger to my chest.
"Yeah, you, grab that line!"
"What do I do here?" I mouthed to my family
"Grab the line." my brother said
"How?" I asked
"Does it matter?", my sister said, finding this mildly amusing as she wasn't on the hotseat this time.
So I just pantomimed, in the air, what I thought grabbing a line would look like.
I looked over at my Dad for some sort of look of approval.
"Thank you, sweetheart", he said
"Dad, do you know who I am?" I asked, because this was the first time I had heard him call me sweetheart in a long time....
"Of course I do, you're my little Rene."
And his eyes were clear and bright and as blue as the ocean.
This was one of the last conversations that I had with my father.
One I will remember forever.
Peace - Rene