My son wrote this. Wish I had …
It was with relief that I saw they had chosen to hold an open casket funeral. Everything was all the more real–the words she had broken through her lips, the things she had bent her fingers to touch. And as it came my turn in the somber casket line, I realized it was indeed 17 years since I had last seen Mrs. Myszkowski.
Truly, it was 17 years since I had last seen most of the people in the church. Other than her family, which was rather large and intimate, mourners flocked in abundance from Fieldsberry High, my alma mater. This much was to be expected; out of the 72 years she sauntered around this earth, 45 of them were spent at Fieldsberry, preaching American History to half-awake teens, disengaged and awkward with few exceptions.
Yet if there ever were an exception, it was me. National Merit Scholar, captain of the lacrosse team, president of student council–you’ll have to excuse my lack of modesty, but I refuse to acknowledge any equal in reference to my high school days. That said, I would love to add straight A’s to the list, but I can’t. So, I won’t lie to you.
Still, my reign at Fieldsberry launched me above the proletariat masses; those many who skated through Mrs. Myszkowski’s sermons with no appreciation of a Gadsden Purchase, those many who now artificially formulate a romanticized vision of her effect on their complacent lives, those many who now surround me seated in the de facto “student section” of the funeral service.
It is under this context that you’ll understand why I chose not to return to that high school world for 17 years; I have others who will confirm. You’ll also understand, as her son offered an invitation for anyone willing to share his thoughts on his late mother, why my walk to the pulpit was met with universal approval.
“Thank you all for giving me a minute to share,” I began, “it goes without saying how much we all love and miss Mrs. Myszkowski.”
“For many of us in the room, that is how we knew her, Mrs. Myszkowski, the loving and caring American History teacher who commands far too much respect to be called by her first name by us lowly students.”
Small chuckles and caring grins materialized across nearly all the faces looking up from the crammed pews of the sanctuary.
“I’m sure we all have dear, personal memories of Mrs. Myszkowski. We hold them close and dare not forget the smiles she gave us. In my case, I don’t think I could ever forget the time I shared with her if I tried.”
“You see, Mrs. Myszkowski has a very special place in my heart. To tell you the truth, she was my first love.”
The chuckles and grins vanished into stares of confusion. I paused as the words settled.
“It was my Junior year of High School, something like 20 years ago when I first enrolled in her American History class, an introduction and experience I’m sure many of us here share. From the start of the class, I could tell there was something unlike anything I’ve had with other teachers or really anyone.”
Hushed murmurs from the crowd began to populate the silence as I looked down, brushing away a tear from my cheek.
“Every day, I couldn’t wait for my one o’ clock period. I’d stay after class, just talking and doing homework with Mrs. Myszkowski’s caring guidance. It didn’t take long for things to become physical.”
The pews erupted, confused murmurs from the family turning to shouts. The students and faculty remained silent, but if embarrassed glances made sound, ear drums would have broken.
Her son, now briskly walking toward my position, was not silent. He screamed something indecipherable. But I got the point. This was not the result he expected. Welcome to my world, sonny boy, I thought.
“I know this is taking a lot of you off guard. It was wrong. It is wrong. But I have an obligation to myself and Mrs. Myszkowski to share what we had.”
I again paused as frenzy engulfed the sanctuary. Looking down on the casket before me, I took a breath. I whispered directly into the mic.
“I loved you, Mrs. Myszkowski. We will not forget you. Thank you.”
No one shook my hand as I paced through the receiving line, avoiding disgusted glances from her family. No one shed a tear as Mr. Myszkowski closed the casket, trying not to imagine the words she had broken through her lips, the things she had bent her fingers to touch.
They will forget you, Mrs. Myszkowski. They will write away all 45 years you spent at Fieldsberry High and question the methods for which you were once so revered. They will forget the romanticized vision of your effect on their pedestrian lives. Soon enough, the memorial bench they put outside the school will fade, splinter and disintegrate, like you.
And when they look at my transcript from high school, they will forget the the B you gave me in American History