In September, we lost our Grandma Faye. I say “our” because she was as much a part of this school as any of the teachers or any of the children. Perhaps she was more so “ours” because we loved her — and she us — for many years. We built Grandma Faye into our curriculum, from her weekly visit to read to the children to our spontaneous visits to her apartment — a favorite place to visit with her old doll carriage, polar bear figurines, and view of the playground. “Can you see us play, Grandma Faye?” “Oh yes, I love to watch you.”
I first met Grandma Faye in the pines. I was being trained in for my new teaching position in the Autumn Room on a beautiful fall day. Grandma Faye was out for a walk. She immediately filled me with a feeling of warmth that only a Grandma can. She had a simplicity and a sincerity about her.
Faye loved the children. She adored them. She brought small gifts around holidays. She shared her handmade puppet who had on one side a smile and on the other a frown and brought favorite books. She asked questions and remembered favorite students. Faye invited struggling children onto the couch to sit next to her as she read. She loved to make the children laugh. She loved to hug them. She loved to be with them.
Faye loved us teachers, too. She remembered details about my life I’d forgotten I’d shared, asked after my husband, and delighted in my pregnancy. I will always cherish the memory of her holding my baby girl when we came to visit. She sent me two cards after my baby was born. I know each of us teachers has treasured memories of Faye.
It became clear early this fall that we may not have much time left with Faye. Her wish was to see the children as much as possible. We brought them to her every chance we could in her last days. They sang with her, hugged her, held her hands, asked her questions. Though Faye was declining, she was ever herself. She lit up when she saw the children. I will never forget the tenderness they showed her, somehow grasping what teachers failed to explain– don’t step on the tube that goes into her nose, be quiet, be gentle, sing clearly. One morning, a group gathered flowers for her and brought them to her. As she held them, they shared a book with her. Though Faye could no longer read to us, we could read to her. Faye died the next morning.
There is a melancholy to loving anyone. We know they are not ours to keep or change, only ours to hold close to us for a time. For some, we are blessed with a long time. For others, it’s much shorter. When we grow to love the seniors, we know in our hearts we will have a short time. We know Inver Glen will likely be their final earthly home. Sometimes it is with fear and a bit of sadness that we begin to care for these people — We don’t know how long we will have. But it is impossible not to know and love them. With Grandma Faye, we were blessed with many years and many happy memories. We are grateful.