Cleaning out my hard disk (yes, i have no memory), i remembered this.
About Yelena (r.i.p.)
There’s a glorious irony in that Israeli Remembrance Day, when we remember fallen soldiers – all friends, relatives, students, colleagues, gives rise to Israeli Independence Day – the 58th year of statehood and the reason for our greatest joy.
That strange second when one ceremony ends and other begins is always a snap of the fingers. Our kibbutz ceremony went from remembering our roots to gazing into the sky, as we enjoyed a 6 minute display of fireworks shot into the dark sky from the roof of our beautiful communal dining room. Sometime during the switch from ground to sky, I caught the flu.
So, with a dubious song in my heart, I excused myself from joining the communal singing in the pub – even though my son was to play guitar after the ‘singers’ grew hoarse and/or quiet enough to listen. I went home, drank tea and went to sleep. School the next day – had to rest.
The next morning, I gathered my forces to teach, to create magic juice in the hearts of my students to help them digest the particular english structure of ‘I am..’ In this special, special ed class, the ‘I am…’ unit has been going on for some length.
We’ve investigated it from the point of view of name, age, nationality and present moment states such as hunger, boredom and tiredness. We have used the southpark caricature site to build our own self-portraits. We have computered, written and spoken.
And yesterday, the day in question, I brought along Counting Crowes singing ‘Colorblind’ with the wonderful line, ‘I am ready, I am ready, I am ready, I am…fine’
With enough repetition, any language structure can be learned and even internallized. I thought the song could help instill that particular sentence in their minds. I am ready. Always a good concept.
Then, after the lesson,I scraped myself back to the English office which is 3/4 of a kilometer due south. There was an 11:00 meeting scheduled, but since my trip was lengthy, I arrived late. A pair of red eyes greeted me. (I am ready, i thought)
‘You remember ‘Y’ from Kibbutz B,’ she looked at me. ‘Yes, yes,’ I said, tensing at what might be next. I give after-school tutorials over on Kibbutz B and Y was someone I knew.
‘Y killed herself. Yesterday, sometime during Remembrance Day.’
‘What? no. no..’
Y. A 49 yr old woman, the mother of 2 students of mine. Her first son had been my student for 6 yrs straight from 7th to 12th grade. And now I’m teaching her younger daughter in 6th grade. Y, herself, had called me this past winter to ask if I’d agree to help her learn English.
She started to come in January. Immediately, i saw that she was one of the club. She was one of those undiagnosed ADHD adults who’d been suffering, not knowing what was up. She knew her own intelligence but was unable to teach herself and could not sit in normal adult education classes. She had always had to trick herself to be able to concentrate. I knew the score.
She wanted me to help her, to listen to how her brain worked and to guide her. She drew strange diagrams to help her get the sounds. A cat helped her remember how to say ‘music’ – mew zic. We taped our lessons for her to use during the week. I photographed her pronouncing the bizarre sounds ‘th’, ‘ew’, ‘thr’…
Her own hieroglyphs graced her pages, helping to reinforce her visual memory. We spoke of concentration and her art. She had large pieces of art and wanted to have a show. i gave her the number of the man on Nir Oz who puts together shows in the kibbutz White House, a gallery.
She was interested. She was gathering her inner resources. She was out of work and had time to redirect herself.
And she was learning the basics of reading, she was getting the melody of the language. Till one day she told me she had just found a graphics job and would be unable to continue studying with me. I still have the photos of her trying to say the word “world”.
It’s over now. All the hopes of putting together her head, her show, her direction have ended.
This woman who’d left my immediate world after only a few months was gone. She’d killed herself.
‘Who found the body?’
‘her son (my first student) and her ex-husband.’ (they’d still had an on and off relationship although there’d been talk of abuse on his part).
‘What about her daughter?’ the one in 6th grade.
Who could help me understand how to help her daughter.
This day of pain. The what if’s that linger after such a brief intersection. What if i’d called her, kept in touch. What if English lessons and ADHD support sessions could have been more than bandaid therapy. I’d known nothing of the other parts of her. The pain I’d seen was only a shadow of the pain she’d been living with. what if i’d known…?
Yet, there was that glimmer…her relief when she knew she’d met someone who respected her effort. She was ready. She was ready. she was…fine.
but she wasn’t.
all in a day’s pain.
chance intersections in life. How and when they occur. What do they mean to us? How do they shape our future?
How will her lively, artistic, dyslexic daughter relate. Special ed is specially heartbending. Nothing can be taken for granted. Are we ready? We are as ready as we’ll ever be.