Thank You, Nancy!

Nancy was a music teacher at the school district I attended. She was always wearing a smile and her student’s loved “Mrs. T.” She was a very special friend.

I worked part time for the district as a custodian, in between radio jobs when I was in my 20’s. I would get a call each day from the secretary who told my what school I would be heading to each day and who I was filling in for. I remember being at one elementary school in particular for a long stretch of time. It was during this time that Nancy and I got to talk more.

I went into the music room to clean, and she was there working late. I don’t recall what she was working on, but I re-introduced myself (it had been some years, since I was a young boy). She remembered me, and my (now ex) wife and her family. We had some wonderful conversations about life and, of course, music.

I remember talking to her about how we used to put on musical plays when I was in elementary school. We did one on Thomas Edison (The Electric Sunshine Man), the year before they did Annie (Which scarred me for life), and I played the lead in The Runaway Snowman. She smiled as I recalled those memories. She loved working with students and she was glad to share many stories.

After I left the district and moved for a radio job, I lost touch with her. She reconnected with me on Facebook and we began to chat again. She was always interested in my life and supportive during some tough times. When Sam and I got married, she sent congratulations. When Ella was born, she made her a beautiful blanket/quilt. She was right there to congratulate us again when Andrew was born.

Over the past few months, I noticed she was a bit absent more than usual. It wasn’t until just recently I found out she had been in and out of the hospital. During that time, she was diagnosed with cancer and she came home to hospice in mid-May.

Her family set up a page for her on Caring Bridge, which allowed her friends and family to receive updates. You had to be approved to take part, so I reached out to one of her daughters. In talking with her, she asked for my address because Nancy had something for Andrew. I asked for her address in return, because I had misplaced it, so I could send a card.

On Sunday, I sealed up the card and was going to drop it in the mail Monday morning. When I awoke Monday, I saw that a new journal entry had posted. Her daughter posted that Nancy had passed away earlier that morning. I was heartbroken.

Just over an hour after I read of her passing, there was a knock at the door and a package was left. It was from Nancy. Inside was a gift for Andrew and gifts for Ella.

Nancy had made a blanket/quilt just like she had made for Ella, for Andrew.

Ella was excited to open up her gifts, too. Nancy had sent two pop-up books with shapes and colors. Ella loves books and immediately began to read them – while sitting on Andrew’s blanket!

I won’t lie, I was kind of overwhelmed with emotion. Nancy was gone, and yet, she still managed to shower my family with her kindness. Inside the package was a card:

Rest assured that there will be plenty of snuggles and smiles, Nancy. I hope you can here me expressing my gratitude to you for loving my family and for your friendship.

After the news began to spread of her passing, I was not surprised at all to see that she showed kindness to many others.

One post read: “Years ago, a wonderful woman looked at a beaten down young boy who she thought had amazing musical talent. She took that young boy under her wing and taught him the greatest joy in life – music. She also taught him all of the wonderful things music could do for him in his life. When in high school, she believed so much in this young man she helped pay for his vocal lessons so he could continue his talent and passion for music.”

Another wrote: “She was a wonderful, kind woman whose absence in our music department was felt the moment she retired a few years after I started teaching. Memory eternal, Nancy. Thank you for having such a profound impact on me.”

Yet another wrote: “You were inspiring in so many ways and will definitely be missed.. 😢 I’m glad you got to meet my kids and teach Emily music. We love you”

Another: “Mrs. T was a truly amazing teacher. Such devotion and compassion as hers is not seen enough in a lifetime. It was an absolute privilege to have you as a teacher, and for my children’s teacher. Thank you for your kindness and years of dedication. You will be missed.”

There were also posts from friends she had for decades! She obviously was a very special lady.

I began this blog with a picture that had a quote on it:

” There are some who bring a light so bright to the world that even after they have gone the light remains.”

Nancy “light” will definitely continue to shine for many years to come. Her influence and impact that she made on her students will live on through them. Her friends will forever have wonderful memories of her and the times they shared.

I will always look at those blankets and think of my wonderful friend.

Heaven’s choir obtained a wonderful voice this week.

Thank you, for being you, Nancy!

Monday Memory – The Great Joke Off

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It’s a dirty job …. but somebody’s gotta do it!

I don’t remember if it was something I was picked to do, or if it was something I volunteered to do, but in elementary school I worked as a lunch helper. After lunch, we washed the plastic trays with one of those heavy duty water sprayers and run them through this huge dishwasher.

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I remember the over powering smell of bleach in the kitchen, and I remember working hard. I remember Ed and I worked together back there, and I am sure there were others too. I remember we got to split up the left overs and take them home if we wanted to, (They used to make these Mexican pizzas called Fiestadas that I used to love!) which was kind of a bonus!

I don’t recall if we were in the kitchen first, or if we cleaned the lunch room first (maybe Ed can remember), but we also got to help in the lunch room. Now, back in the day, the lunch room was the gym. There were tables and benches that folded up into the wall. They would be pulled out and that’s where we sat with our classes. When lunch was over, we would wipe the tables, help put them back in the wall and sweep the floor with the big dust mop.

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Mr. Steve was the head custodian at the time. He was ancient, but he was a fun guy. He was always singing and told jokes that had terrible punch lines. I really don’t know how long he worked there, but it was LONG after I left elementary school. I know that because after I graduated years later, and in between radio jobs, I worked for the school district as a custodian part time. Mr. Steve (or Mr. Friendly, as he sometimes called himself) was STILL there when I worked there!

I enjoyed working as a custodian. You had a section of rooms that you were responsible for and stuff that had to be done nightly. In the middle school and high school, there were many more after school activities to clean up after. There were also more things that had to be set up. Before basketball games, the bleachers had to be pulled out, etc… At the elementary schools, you had some after school stuff, but it was never as often as the middle or high schools. As a part timer, when they needed me, I went wherever they needed me. Sometimes I worked during the day, and sometime I worked at night. Mostly I worked at night. You went in at 2 or 3 after school let out and you went to work cleaning your section. You always brought along your cart from room to room.

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One vivid memory I have of working as a custodian was whenever you worked days, there was always the possibility of a student throwing up. If that happened, you got called to go clean it up. Not sure how they do it now, but back in the day, they had this sort of minty smelling sawdust that they sprinkled on the floor to soak it up. After it soaked it up, you swept it up and were done. I will never forget the smell of that sawdust!!

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Best Custodial Memory

Nancy was my bus driver all through middle school and high school. She was awesome. I probably drove her crazy. I sat up front because I wanted to be the first off the bus. She had my sense of humor. She laughed at my dumb jokes and often shared some of her own. She was the best!

The bus drivers, the cooks, and the custodians were all in the same union at our district. It was not odd to have a bus driver bid on a custodial or kitchen job and get it. Nancy ended up working at one of the elementary schools in the head custodian position. I would get to see her occasionally when I was sent to work at her school. If I knew I was going to be there, I’d always make sure I had a bad joke to tell her.

Summer Cleaning

I don’t remember who it was, but one of the custodians was off on medical leave one summer and they asked me to work for her all summer. It was at Nancy’s school. The first few weeks of the summer, I stayed on night hours, and then eventually, worked days.

Most custodians hated summer cleaning. It meant taking every thing out of the rooms and deep cleaning. It meant stripping the floors and waxing them. It was a lot of hard work. Some of those file cabinets and other things that were in teachers rooms were heavy!! In some cases, the painters needed to paint, the electricians needed to re-wire something, or the carpenters were in to do something.

I remember the first time I had to strip the wax off a floor. You had to use this huge floor machine. You spread the stripper on the floor and then used this machine to strip the wax off. I remember Nancy showing me how the machine worked. She turned it on and started moving it back and forth with no effort at all. She then told me to try. That machine almost threw me across the room!! It took me almost 2 hours to get the feel of that thing, and the minute I let my guard down, I might get tossed across the room again! It was crazy!!

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It was also embarrassing! That machine whipped me around like a two year old!!

The Great Joke Off

That summer was one I will never forget because of the “Great Joke Off” as we now refer to it. There was a room that had one of those blackboards on wheels. When that room was cleaned, they moved it into the hallway. The room was pretty close to the custodial room. When Nancy and I were on the opposite schedules (she on days and I was on nights) it was often the place where Nancy left me my “Things to Do” list for that day.

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I don’t recall who started it. It was probably me, at least that’s how I remember it. Before I left one night, I wrote a joke on the chalkboard, knowing it would be the first thing she saw when she walked in the next day. She would then return the favor and leave one for me, when I walked in. If memory serves me correctly, despite the fact that we both enjoy a good dirty joke, the jokes posted on the chalkboard were always clean. After all, teachers, the principal (who I now know, has the same sense of humor as both Nancy and I), or our boss could walk in at any time!

Many of the jokes I put up on the board were jokes (“stories”) told by my Life in America Teacher, Manny Balos. Other jokes were ones I had heard Soupy Sales tell on his radio show. The rest I used were ones that my dad or uncle told me, or that I found in old Larry Wilde Joke Books (Remember those?!).

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Here are a couple jokes from that summer that come to mind immediately:

A young husband just married a couple of weeks comes home from a really hard day at the office. As soon as he walks in, he collapses on the couch. He is just worn out.

His bride comes in and looks at him sympathetically and says, “Darling, you look so tired and hungry. How would you like a nice steak smothered in onions, with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and some delicious pie a la mode for dessert?”

The new husband looks up at his bride and says, “Not tonight, Honey, I’m too tired to go out!”

This is one of my favorite Soupy jokes –

A guy is at a bar after office hours and he is drinking with his friend. He sighs, and says to his friend, “Boy, I just have to have another drink before I go home. My wife is always on me from the moment I get home till I leave the next day about money. She is always nagging me and asking me about money. Last week she wanted two hundred dollars. The day before yesterday, it was one hundred dollars. This morning she asked me for another one hundred and fifty dollars!”

His friend says, “Wow! That’s awful. I’m sorry, pal! What could she possibly do with all that money?”

And the guy says, “I don’t know I never give her any!”

(Rim shot)

Imagine an entire summer filled with bad puns, stupid punch lines, and laughter to start the day! I worked my tail off that summer, and that joke at the start of each day made it worth coming to work! It was a summer I won’t forget.

Thanks to Facebook, Nancy and I have remained friends. Depending on her mood, or my topic, she even reads my blog every now and then. She continues to post silly puns on my Facebook page and I return the favor. In a way, the Great Joke Off continues, only it is not daily. Thanks Nancy, for your friendship and the many laughs!

So this dog walks into a bar ….

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