For the second time this school year, our high school suffered a death in the student body. Dealing with death in high school is unfortunate, but not new. What is different I suppose is the way generations handle the loss both in person and on social media.
During the last week of the summer a boy in 16.5’s junior class killed himself. We live in a small school district and the kids were clearly upset. (I tend to think some of the energy spent on grieving was reflective of others in the grade.) Instagram accounts were full of tributes to the boy. On the community pages on Facebook there was sometimes (in my opinion) over wrought hand wringing asking how could this happen here? How could the signs be missed?
A couple of weeks ago, as winter break was ending tragedy struck 14.5’s freshman class when a boy was rundown (accidentally) crossing a major roadway near our house. There’s probably more to the story – but you can see the reaction of the kids in all of the grades at the high school the loss was felt.
When I took 14.5 and some of her friends to the corner 24 hours after the accident to leave flowers and remember their friend – each took out their phone and commemorated the moment on Snapchat. Back on the community pages of Facebook was the same hand wringing asking how could this happen here? In this case, there was also a link to an accident a couple of years ago that claimed another life.
Perhaps – one day – the intersection will be made safer. Perhaps one day the lessons of the immediate past will be learned and used.
For now though dealing with death in high school is a generational process – and it plays out across social media. I can think back to my high school days, I can remember four of my classmates passing during my years at Carey High School on Long Island. One was murdered, one (maybe two) died from cancer and one was in a car accident.
Dealing with death in high school in the 80’s though was (in my opinion) a much more solemn moment – not commemorated with pictures and posts – but with shared memories and a few hugs.
Generally speaking, I am not one to pine for the good old days – way back when life was easier in the early to mid 1980’s (way back then). I like to think at least I am someone who embraces life today and cherishes the moment. But after taking 16.5 to register for driver’s ed, finally I can yearn for the good old days.
Perhaps because we were recently talking about it, or perhaps I just remember – but the fact that there was nothing momentous about my registering for driver’s ed. That’s a stark contrast to the 90 minutes we spent tonight getting the deed done.
Way back in the old days of 1984 (or maybe it was early 1985) I took a form a check and walked up to the office at the school where I took driver’s ed and I was done. Tonight, we walked into the high school up the road, and there was easily 75 kids (and assorted parents) on a line snaking through the front hallway and down an adjoining corridor.
There were two women in the school’s office taking checks and forms – and writing (as in pen to paper) names on lists. One of the parents commented that in 2016, there should be a better way…
Yeah I thought, they could do it like they did way back in 1984. It wasn’t an event. It really should not have been memorable. In contrast I suppose it will be.
So, finally I can yearn for the good old days. The days when putting pen to paper and handing in a check wasn’t an evening out – it was just another stop along the way.
While it’s not quite time to start preparing to go back to school here, with about two weeks of summer vacation left for my girls, I can look back at all that I learned over the last eight weeks. As they get ready to go back to school, my summer school is coming to a close.
Lesson one was (and as if this writing is) 16.0’s lifeguard career at a semi-local water park. Forgetting the driving and scheduling that I ended up jumping through – I can honestly say I am proud of the work ethic she has shown this summer. It’s clear to me work ethic is a learned trait. I saw my mother work hard to provide a home for her three children – and I’ve tried to emulate that. From my days at Valley Caterers (perhaps even before that when I was delivering newspapers) through my career.
I’m pretty sure my girls have seen how hard I work to make sure they have a happy home to live in – OK, sometimes I remind them too. They don’t get everything they ask for – but they know that nothing comes without work, and that is a trait 16.0 has shown this summer.
Lesson two came just this week when 13.5 had her orientation for high school. I have to admit, having them both on the same school schedule will help me. But 13.5 got into the orientation and took it seriously. She even surprised me by jumping into fall athletics at the school (she tried out for and made the tennis team). For her, this is a whole new approach to school – being active and eager. We’ll have to go over to the school next week to get her into an art class she really wants to take (another sign of her taking an active interest in her education).
I spent a lot of time with her over the last 12 months talking about taking a new approach – no long lectures, no screaming matches. Just timed conversations that seemingly worked.
Lesson three was also last week when 16.0 took a week off from lifeguarding to return to Camp Good Grief as a volunteer counselor. This was something I introduced the girls to about five years ago as a way to be able to talk about the loss of their mother. Both have said their years there were good – and I’m so thrilled 16.0 feels the need to give back a week to help other kids overcome an obstacle they’ve dealt with.
Two weeks to go until first bell at the high school. I supposed that’s also two weeks to go until my summer school is out.
Heading into the middle weeks of September we turn the calendar to the second week of school. For 14.5, its been about getting used to high school and working commitment to the soccer team into her life. For 12.5, it’s about seventh grade, foreign language and fall softball. All in all, as the calendar turns, we are stepping into the fall swing of things.
Junior varsity soccer is a pretty big commitment – sometimes I am not sure 14.5 realized what she was getting herself into. But to her credit, as she does, she is gutting it out and making it work. The school work part of being in high school is starting to dawn on her as well – but for now she is managing her school work and commitment to her team mates.
I think 12.5 is starting to understand the differences in work between sixth and seventh grade – the same as she is recognizing the difference in commitment to her fall travel softball team versus fall ball at our local little league facility. We were out on the field most of this bright sunny (and hot) Sunday – where her team split a double-header.
So, for now, if you are looking for me changes are I will be on the sideline of a high school watching soccer or if I am not there on a random ball field somewhere on Long Island watching a 12U team compete.
Along the line, I am sure there will be some bumps in the road – there still has not been a test at either school, religious school hasn’t started yet, my travel schedule has calmed down and more can make it complicated…but or now with one foot on the soccer field, one on the softball field we are stepping into the fall swing of things.