I know it’s been a long time since I’ve written a post. Interestingly, I think the last time I wrote was probably in April and I believe what I shared was the eulogy for my mother. Lately, the day before her funeral has been running through my mind on repeat. I think I’ve finally figured out why.
The day before my mother’s funeral was, as is the custom in the faith of my family, her viewing. Some would call it a wake. I knew that it would be much harder for me than her actual funeral mass. The mass was a time of ceremony and the many traditions which surround it- readings, favorite hymns, remembrances. I wasn’t horribly worried about that aspect of the end of life process; the thousand other things terrified me. There were so many tiny jobs that needed to be done and I was lucky to be a very small part of the massive undertaking. I will never be able to thank my siblings enough for all that they did. Attending her viewing, though, was something I dreaded. I had nightmares about it long before she even passed away. There was some debate in the day before everything was to take place as to whether or not there should be an open casket. I wanted my siblings to have the right to whatever they wanted and everyone agreed that someone would simply have to see Mom “prepared” to know whether or not it would work. I will spare you (and me) details, but we were afraid she would not look enough like herself. Those in charge decided after seeing her that it was to be an open casket. I was devastated by this news because, well, I have big problems with this sort of thing; that’s my issue. Anyway, I felt pretty broken that there was to be an open casket. Knowing this, dear Husband tried to distract my brain as much as possible that day.
The way things worked was that there would be a viewing at a funeral home in the early evening. Because of this setup, the actual day had many hours in it before I had any obligations. Husband, Daughter, and I decided we should take a drive to a nearby lighthouse and beach. We would explore, appreciate the insanely beautiful day, look at the ocean a bit, and hopefully find some comfort in the world that we were lucky enough to be a part of. So, off we drove. Upon arriving we distracted ourselves with the sights, got out to do some adventuring, and saw some lovely things. The pictures from the morning are quite lovely, really. Even when I look back at them and know what the day was all about, I still feel the comfort of those moments looking at the lighthouse and strange abandoned military surroundings knowing that my little family and I were genuinely joyful in the moment despite what else was happening in our lives.
After some time, Daughter inevitably needed to access facilities. We found some and for reasons which are still unknown to me, we locked the car doors despite the windows being rolled down. As we waited in line for the bathroom, I realized that I left hand sanitizer in the car. Since I had no keys but needed to fully open the door, I reached in and unlocked the door manually so I could get the life-saving gel. My car, 15 year old beast that it was, did not like this and decided that, despite having no actual alarm system installed, it should begin to honk. And honk. And honk. Husband rushed over with the keys to unlock it remotely and let it know all was well and it could be quiet now, thank you very much. Only it didn’t stop. Even a little. We turned the car on. Still honking. Off. Still honking. This is absurd, we thought. What can we do? Lock. Unlock. On. Off. On. Off. Lock. Unlock. Nope- still honking.
I get flustered easily. Daughter, even more so. But Husband? Nope. The man is unflappable. Not this time. This time he was actually feeling quite overwhelmed by the incessant honking of my car. We were pretty well disturbing everyone who was out at the point trying to enjoy the sea and sky, so we decided to drive a bit and see where we could go to quietly attempt to address this. Eventually, and I had no concept of time at this point, there was quiet. We look at each other and wonder, is it over? What just happened? There was a mild case of the giggles once it had ended. We were all just so relieved. We parked to review owners manuals to try and see if there was anything we missed in our panicked state. We read nothing that would explain what happened. Ok, well, that’s that, we said. We needed to get back and prepare to go to this dreaded event.
For some reason, we decided it would be smart to turn the car off for a second and, when we did, it started all over. Honk. Honk. Honk. Turn on the car. Honk. Honk. Honk. It just wouldn’t stop. But we were more rational now. Ok, we thought. Where’s the nearest repair place that will be open? We found a few options and popped addresses into the GPS. We had to get this sorted! I couldn’t sit outside my mother’s viewing with a car that was constantly honking. So we drove.
Let me tell you, driving on busy thoroughfares surrounded by people trying to get from point a to b as quickly as possible while your car will not stop honking is not a pleasant experience. Lots of those people honked back. They were so angry with us. They obviously had no idea what was going on with our car, they just knew they didn’t like it. We didn’t like it either, but what else could we do? We had to get ourselves to a place where this could be fixed, and everyone seemed so intensely angry with us. I found myself wishing I could tell them all, This isn’t our fault! Please stop being mad! but there was no solution. After several failed repair shop attempts, we arrived at one manned by a very kind gentleman who could see the frustration on our faces. He let us know that he had a guy who could probably fix it in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, that guy wasn’t in yet and, when he would get there, he had lots of other cars to fix first. We were welcome to wait. As we were dejectedly leaving, he mentioned a dealership not too far away.
Since the car had stopped honking about a minute before we got back into it, we decided the best thing to do would be to call the dealership before arriving. Husband told them the situation and asked if they would be able to fix it or, if not, if they could recommend somewhere else because we had someplace very important to be. The lovely human on the other end of the call explained that this sometimes happens and gave us a quick fix to solve the problem. Boom. Done within a minute. I, of course, burst into tears of relief, and we got on our way to go prepare ourselves for the events of the evening.
Once we got everything figured out, I thought to myself that the whole situation would probably be funny one day. I pictured telling the story to my siblings and laughing as it sparked other stories about Mom and us suggesting what she might have said. I imagined it as something that would one day something to look back on with a wistful fondness somehow. Now, I don’t know if it’s just not been long enough or if I’m just not the right kind of person, but I don’t really see that happening anymore. That whole series of events…? Sure. It may sound funny to the outsider. But let me tell you, it was not. It was awful. Feeling severe grief is hard enough, but add to it frustration, anger, even a bit of embarrassment, and I was beyond overwhelmed. It was so hard to be moving among all of these people who made lots of judgements about us without knowing anything we were experiencing. I received “the finger” more times that day than I ever have, all combined. And I’m from Jersey. People yelled. Shouted in their cars. Stared us down. And, yes, honked. It just felt so miserable to have so many strangers mad at me for something that was completely out of my control. I knew that I would remember the feeling as one of the worst I’ve ever felt and that I would do anything to not feel it again.
As I said at the start, this has all been rattling around in my brain a lot lately. I think I finally know why. You see, I took over a class in my school this week. There were a lot of events leading to my shift and they are unimportant to the story. It’s a group of first graders who have had the short end of the stick for a while. There’s a lot going on with these kids, and I want to do all I can to help them. They deserve someone who is present, who loves them, who respects them, and who will do all she can to meet their needs. I am hoping I can be that person. But before I stepped into this roll, I was not a classroom teacher anymore. I have been serving my school in a different capacity for a while, and I had no idea how different it was to be in the classroom right now. The very day I accepted these little people as my charge, I started to feel an immense pressure. A pressure that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but one I knew I had experienced before. Once.
Being a teacher right now feels so much like being in that honking car. I go along all day shouting what I need into the world. Honk! Honk! Honk! Please wear masks. Please get vaccinated. Please allow us to be safe in our workplace. We need more materials. We need more support. We need more people. We need more snacks! We need more HELP. We need more more more more. And the world just gets so mad. Flips us off. Tells us we’re whining or that we don’t even have real jobs because *summer*. Laws are passed that give people who have no idea what we do all day the right to choose what we teach. In some places, parents are now being encouraged to call hotlines to “report” teachers for educating about the flawed history of our nation. People are winning when it comes to ending vaccine mandates and masking rules. We get our budgets cut while we’re trying to do all we can to stay on top of what the young people around us need. So we honk and honk and honk but no one hears anything we say. All they do is get mad and get mean.
The day of the incessant honking was one in which I felt entirely helpless and, when I looked forward, I knew the day was going to get worse. I felt like I was in a state of being completely overwhelmed and that I was moving toward a stituation of more severe anxiety, fear, doubt, and despair. I feel that every day now. And all I can do is honk.