Sunday, May 16, 2021


Occasionally we witness a special story unfolding before us. We do not know the exact time and place the story began, but we seem to realize we have reached the climax. While we watch the participants experience the moments falling into place, we wonder if, by watching, we become part of the tale people will remember for a lifetime.

I see my high school seniors in front of me, those I have taught through a masking-wearing, desk-cleaning, sanitizer-using, anxiety-causing pandemic this year. They stand in formal attire on the steps of the White Palace at Wheeling Park, posing for the perfect prom photo that never seems to happen. They are a mass of excitement, nervousness, and tranquility as they embrace a moment many wondered would ever occur.

I decide to stand back from the crowd of attending guests and away from the uneasiness of mingling with too many people when my batteries are low. I just watch. The seniors process down the steps across a red carpet. Couples, groups of friends, and individuals take their moments on stage to enjoy the applause of the gathering throughout the parking lot; it is a gathering applauding more than just a group of high school students at a prom, though.

The previous graduating class did not have this experience. Across the country, uncertainty, safety concerns, and social distancing shut down everything in school last year. There were no in-person classes, no spring sports, no graduation ceremony, and definitely no prom. Schools joined the rest of a world on pause until a more safe, more comfortable moment for all to arrive. That pause left people everywhere on the proverbial edge. Many lived with an anxiousness about whether we could plan too far into the future and whether a normal beat and rhythm would ever return to life.

A different world exists inside the ballroom atop the White Place. Their story continues to unfold with the "Hollywood" theme spreading across the back wall and throughout the candle-lit tables at the prom. Anxious smiles of trepidation are now supplanted with joyous smiles of celebration as the seniors realize that life can have a better ending.

From the teacher table near the rear of the ballroom, I can observe the festivities from a comfortable distance. I can see those seniors who spent the entire year facing not only the rugged trek of their last year in high school but also the dark shadow that life could possibly grind to a halt yet again, transporting them back to a time where doubt and frustration permeated their lives.

I see the students who struggled with remote learning, missing the day-to-day interaction with their peers and teachers. I see the student-athletes who occasionally had to contact-tracing quarantine, never fully appreciating the type of senior season they anticipated when they were young. I see the students who had covid, experiencing isolation while they joined us with brave smiles on a Google Meet. I see those who hated masks, constantly allowing last week's reused and ill-fitting mask to fall off their nose. I see those who showed up day to day, putting on a brave face even though doubt hovered in the back of their minds.

I see those students who persevered and made the best of a situation no one ever expected. Who are they? As audience members and role players in this story, we see the people we know in the starring roles. As parents, we see our children. As brothers and sisters, we see our siblings; as teachers, we see our students; as coaches, we see our players; as previous graduates, we see ourselves; and as a community, we see our future.

After a night of breaking bread together, celebrating the comical awards ceremony, and taking countless pictures and selfies, the young celebrants realize that the end of this magical evening has arrived. The graduating class slowly gathers together for a final dance with stragglers only prolonging the inevitable. The dance is one traditionally done in a circle to a slow song which reflects the finality of the dance and their time together. The lights dim slightly as the graduates sway to the last song. In this closing scene, all of the seniors are able to see one another, knowing that they shared this story together.

Roll credits.

Sunday, May 9, 2021


Every Thursday Mom and I pull up to the door to Classic-Changes Hair Design in Elm Grove. Rain or shine, Mom has a standing hair appointment with Cindy every week. Mom does her best to get around, but she never lets her limitations keep her from seeing Cindy. "It just makes me feel good," she says lightly patting her freshly-styled hair and smiling.

Being somewhat follically challenged, I can no longer appreciate the feeling of leaving a hair stylist's chair with a fresh cut. The closest feeling I have is after I trim my scraggly growth of a beard. Even then, it is not the same thing. It is more of a chore to keep the hair from growing into my lip or causing a rash on my skin. I cannot picture myself saying, "It just makes me feel good" then smiling and going about my way in the world.

Mom is different, though. Having her hair done is a treat for her. God love her. She deserves it, doesn't she? Out of respect for her and all mothers, I will not mention her age. I will not say anything about a weekly hair appointment but will do everything I can to make sure she arrives on time and does not have to wait when she is done. You know the reason, right? 

The past several weeks, I have pulled up to the curb outside of Classic-Changes every Thursday after a long day at school, hopped out of the car to help mom, then walked her to the door. One time I shut off the car and took a little nap. I was so tired. This week, I had no time to nap but ran some errands for her in Elm Grove. I don't mind, even when I am tired. You know why.

I do my best to make it to the door as she is leaving, but Cindy is always there walking her out if I happen to be running late or snoozing. Mom loves going to Cindy because she knows exactly how to make her look and feel great. 

A couple years ago, Mom was going through some health challenges, but even then she was determined to keep having her hair done on a weekly basis because keeping a routine was making life a bit more normal. I can remember the tender care that Cindy took with Mom as she personally knew all too well the challenges that Mom was facing with her health. Cindy continues to do for Mom what mothers have done for so many people in their lives: she takes care of her and helps Mom feel better about herself. 

So every Thursday, I want to make sure that Mom goes to Classic-Changes. I may be tired and worn out, but I remember all of those times that Mom has probably felt that way as my brother I were growing up. I think of all of those moments when Mom cooked a nice dinner, fed my dog, listened to me complain, or tossed some clothes in the wash. (These were just last week!) Yes, Mom knows that her hair will look better once she visits Cindy, but Mom deserves this weekly trip for reasons far beyond simply looking good.

💛 Happy Mother's Day to you, Mom! 💛

💛 Happy Mother's Day to all! 💛

Sunday, May 2, 2021


One morning somewhere in the nexus of Daylight Savings Time when the world was springing forward from a November that had fallen backward, I swiped my fob on the outdoor keypad at school, entering the small, dark elevator foyer into a world in which time celebrated its inconsequential victory over someone who had lost the ability to distinguish the past from the future. 

My black jacket, drooping on my sagging shoulders, covered the wrinkles in the khakis and unpressed shirt I had worn two days earlier. A dark toboggan and black Under Armour mask swathed my entire head except for my eyes which locked onto the glow of my cell phone. As the elevator slowly ascended from the first floor to the third floor,  I checked my text messages, my email, and all of my social media, looking for a tidbit of light to start my day. I remained focused on my cell phone, reading the last of the emails I should have read days ago as the doors to the elevator slid open into the third-floor elevator corridor.

I had no sooner left the elevator, my head still fixated on my phone, when I found myself jumping, grabbing my chest to capture the breath I expelled, and yelling, "Ahhh! Oh! Shit!" A dark figure stood in the shadows of a gray morning light emanating from the only window in this corridor. Childhood nightmares of discovering a fanged clown under my bed or a lead-footed boogeyman in the closet poured back into my adult psyche, assuming their grip on my soul once again. I tinkled a little, too. Just a little, not a lot. Enough to make me uncomfortably check for wet spots.

I pushed myself up against the adjacent wall as I switched on the phone's flashlight. I uncomfortably examined the figure from a distance as I slowly moved the light up and down. "Damn it. Shit," I grunted. "It's Joseph holding Baby Jesus." I took a picture while I laughed and attempted to catch my breath. As I rushed to my classroom, an uneasy feeling remained with me throughout the morning as I warmed the cold chills of fear out of my body. 

As I left school at the end of the day, I ventured back to the elevator. Since I had become despicably lazy over the past year, voices told me to take the stairs as a futile means of exercise after a day of sedentary activity. I ignored those voices, wanting to address my need to confront the statue. Not confront Baby Jesus or Joseph. Just the statue. Confronting Joseph and Baby Jesus is disturbed and would only add fuel to gossip around the school that I have not "been right" since the pandemic began.

Those multiple cups of coffee and stacks of research papers had ignited small vestiges of critical thinking as I examined the statue for what it was. I can see why I was startled early that morning. The statue stood nearly my height and had been placed uncomfortably close to the doors of the elevator. Sure, it was far enough away from the doors so that a person would not walk directly into it, but it was definitely close enough to scare the shit out of anyone who was not paying attention. And now I did not think that was Joseph or Baby Jesus. Joseph had that circular, self-inflicted bald spot atop his head and Baby Jesus did not have that holy glow or halo around his tiny head. It was probably Saint Francis of Assisi and a child. Shouldn't that be a baby deer, raccoon, or some other small animal then?

Clearly, I am still obsessed with this statue. I recently started a small group text of people I thought would know the identity of the statue. According to the Catholic Online link a member of our group sent me, this statue is of Saint Anthony of Padua who is traditionally seen holding - Baby Jesus.😨 I am a failure of a Catholic who is teaching Catholic children in a Catholic School. Do not tell the religion teachers or my mom. The guilt! The Catholic guilt!

Saint Anthony. Franciscan Friar. Man of poverty. Speaker to fish. This is who scared me this morning.

As I was reading about Saint Anthony on this website, I discovered an intriguing tale about him – a fish tale, if you will. 🐟🐠🐟🐟 As the story goes, a group of heretics would not listen to Saint Anthony as he attempted to talk to them, so Saint Anthony chose to "preach his message to the fish."  He did this to calm his own heart while giving glory to God. (Fascinating and quite cool, right?) According to the story, fish began to gather around him in the water, inspiring the people who refused to listen to Saint Anthony. I guess if the fish were listening then perhaps they should give Saint Anthony a listen.

Saint Anthony? He is recognized as the Patron Saint of Lost Articles: lost things, religious articles, and, of course, lost people. Oh, the irony.

I took the stairs and walked outside to a chilly, sunny afternoon. I carried my black jacket at my side, practically dragging it along the sidewalk. My cell phone remained in my book bag as I walked to my car with my head up thinking about tomorrow.

Works Consulted

Chircop, Philip. “Anthony Preaching to the Fishes.” A-MUSED, 13 June 2016,

“St. Anthony of Padua - Saints & Angels.” Catholic Online,