New Names

It’s for sure that I’m too old to deal with high school students. Nothing could make me go back to work a five-day week teaching them; about all I can take is three days so substituting. By the end of the third day, I’m exhausted and my patience has long been tried to the point of insanity.  
Just the other day, my temper was tested. The class had begun, and things were going along well. Students had their assignments and were working. One boy moved, and when I asked where he was going, the class told me that they were allowed to work in pairs. I said “okay,” but added that the first bit of goofing off or the first time I saw a phone out that I would send the boy back to his original seat. 
All worked well…for about fifteen minutes. Then I looked around the room to discover this same student had his head ducked and his eyes intently looking at something. Yes, he had his phone out. He also had the hood of his jacket up to conceal the headphone he was wearing.  
I quietly walked to his table and called his attention. He looked up and I instructed him to return to his original seat. That’s when he exploded. In answer to his question “why,” I reminded him of the conditions for his sitting with his friend.  
Let’s just say the child didn’t take kindly to my moving him. He began to mumble under his breath, and when I asked him what he said, the boy mumbled louder a string of profanities. Jumbled in there some place was his announcing that I was a “punk-*** n****r.” In all my 60+ years, no one has ever used those words to describe me. To say an old white man with thinning gray hair was shocked is to understate the situation.  
He next called me a “bitch,” another term that I found curiously used since the term refers to a female dog. I did understand the intent of the slur, looked at him, and answered, “but I’m not your bitch.” Then I instructed him to go to the office. To his credit, the boy did so and was sitting there when I called to check.  
Within five minutes, a girl walks to the desk. She asks to leave class. When I ask what the reason was, she said she wanted to go let in a friend of hers who was locked outside the building. I sat stunned for a couple of seconds. Too many times this year we’ve already heard of violence and carnage in public schools, and this girl wants me to dismiss her to let someone in locked doors. The look on my face must have answered her question, but I told her there is no way a person can release a student so that she can open a locked door for anyone. I added that the person would need to get into the building the regular way…through the front door.  
See why I no longer am able to work as a teacher?  During those earlier years, I’d have gone ballistic on the boy who cursed me. I would have personally escorted him to the office to make sure he arrived. No student would have opened a door for another individual because students didn’t leave during class time.  
I’m a relic who just doesn’t fit. However, this subbing job has opened my eyes to the differences in public education, and I don’t much like them. Additionally, my job has given me the opportunity to be learn new names for myself.  

Father's Day Thoughts

Yesterday was Father’s Day. I spent some time with son Dallas and talked on the phone with daughter Lacey and Josh Fritts, a former student whom my family claimed as one of our own when he was a junior in high school, thirty years ago. Most of the day, Amy and I enjoyed being together at home. I never take this special day for granted. 
When I was a boy, my dad didn’t have much time for Father’s Day. His shift work at the mill sometimes caused him to be absent on the Sunday when he was to be celebrated. We attended church when he was home, and I remember the one hymn that we always sang was “This Is My Father’s World.” We presented Daddy with things we’d made at Sunday School, and Mother always gave him some small gift. That seemed to be fine with the man because he never wanted any special treatment or gifts.  
The last Father’s Day with my dad was in 1965. He was in the last stages of lung cancer, and it’s possible that he spent the day in the hospital. He passed the last day of August that same year. Jim and I were 13.  
For years, the day honoring dads was gloomy at our house. We always remembered Daddy and agonized over his absences. On some days, I felt sorry for myself and whined about not having a dad like most of my friends. My attitude wasn’t admirable, but it was honest.  
I adopted a dad when I married Amy. Her stepdad, Vaden Netherton, and I became good friends, and I always enjoyed spending time with him. He loved our two children and spoiled them rotten. Vaden was also one of the best persons whom I had ever met. I only heard him speak ill of another individual one time. I enjoyed spending those special days with him and being able to give him presents that for so long I hadn’t been able to give to a father figure. The same kind of cancer that took Daddy stole him from us, and I grieved as much when he died as I did when Daddy died.  
One of my biggest blessings in life has been being a dad. I can recall most every moment of the days Lacey and Dallas were born, and the memories of my first looks at both of them still make me smile. My two children have always made my life fuller, and they’ve been quick to keep me in line when I’ve roared too loudly or fussed too much. Their mother’s guidance led them to being the kind of individuals whom others respect. I have always have been proud of “three” children, including Josh, and brag about them to anyone who will listen.  
Father’s Day is special for us men. Sure, we always appreciate the attention and gifts and meals that come with it. However, we know that it is we who should hold celebrations for the children in our lives and for the women who have brought them to us. Thank you for making my life better than it ever could have been without you, Lacey, Dallas, Josh, and ...Amy. I love you all.  

Smiling This Month

Without exception, May is my favorite month of the year. Yes, it’s my birthday month, but so many other things are imprinted on my memory, and they bring smiles to me whenever they surface.  
The other night, I scooped up from the back yard our dog Sadie’s latest offerings. After tossing them into the woods, I turned to go back inside. A sudden breeze came, and instantly, the faint fragrances of early blooming honeysuckle and the blooms of some other undergrowth blew across my face. For just a second, I was a boy again who was filled with excitement and energy.  
Image result for prom dance picsIn years gone by, May was that month when high school students attended prom. Girls bought formal dresses, and boys rented tuxes. Except for weddings, many males would never wear such an outfit again. Cars sparkled after washing and waxing, and sometimes parents would loan their cars to boys for that special occasion, but only after receiving promises that sons would drive extra-carefully. Savings were wiped out with other expenses that included corsages, gas, and special meals. After-prom activities varied from couple’s parties to boy-get-togethers. The latter usually included consuming illegal alcohol and ended with boys on all fours while they begged for God to stop the world from spinning. 
Image result for high school graduation picsSeniors looked forward to graduation in May. They usually finished the year a few days before younger students. Those free times were filled with class lunches and graduation practice. Family members gathered from other cities, and a large contingent celebrated the end of high school. Seniors looked forward to gifts and cash that family and friends gave. Walking across the stage to receive a diploma and handshake from the principal was the most exciting part. 
Image result for teenager working at restaurant picsBack in the day, the end of May and the school year immediately led to the first day of work at a summer job. During my summers, I worked the curb at the Copper Kettle and the counter at Burger King. A couple of summers I worked for the city of Knoxville maintenance. A group of high school boys cut weeds, picked up litter, and hauled everything to the dump on Asheville Highway. The pay for any job never went above $1.35, but a portion of every paycheck was placed into a savings account to pay for things during the school year.  
Image result for mother's day picsMother’s Day was a special event in May. In elementary school, we made crafts and cards in art classes to give our mothers. Roses were in bloom so that we wore red buds in our collars on Sunday. As my brothers and I grew older, we met at Mother’s house for dinner, which she cooked, and gave her presents. Always the pragmatist, she asked for usable things. One year, we presented her a contractor-sized wheel barrow that she wanted to haul flowers, dirt, and leaves from her gardens. A magnolia tree from another Mother’s Day grew so large that the new owners of her house cut most of it. Left are offshoots that have themselves grown twenty feet in height. 
Amy and I will head to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days sometime this month. With any luck, we’ll be at home when the blooms are fullest. The air will be so thick with the scents that each breath is a thing of pure joy. May seems to be the happiest month of the year. Good weather and exciting events make it that way.