This is the 20th installment of “Old Pueblo Abuelo,” a weekly thought on positive things happening in the Old Pueblo from a sometimes cranky and often times humorous grandfather actually born in Tucson and writing from my desk in Tucson.…
There’s a certain joy in teaching children. It’s hard to explain. In many ways, I need them more than they ever needed me. Some of the first children I taught are about to pass into their forties and some, sadly, never had the chance to hold children of their own.
I started out teaching over 32 years ago at a school that works miracles with children with the most severe needs our society can imagine or, in many cases, pretend don’t exist. Rillito Center will always be in my heart and in my soul. The faces and spirits were beautiful there, and I know they still are, but the weight of too many children dying from natural causes never seemed natural to me at all. I think of them often. Heather, Kirk, Victor, Michael… too many. I had to leave knowing there were others ready to take my place. If I didn’t leave, I’d be in another profession or an administrator. My heart broke too much.
So, I went to a school where “normal children” were taught. I’m still searching for the definition of “normal” because none of us are normal. Even here, there is joy and heartbreak. Thankfully, more laughter and smiles than sadness but the tears flow too often. The loss of colleagues is sort of like the loss of parents and even siblings – life prepares us for those kind of losses. We know there are coming. But the loss of a child?
Rio Vista lost a child to brain cancer in 2001. Jessica was a second grader with reddish hair. She was joy. She was happiness. One day in May, she came in and her left hand was shaking and she passed away only two days later from exploratory brain surgery. She was only seven or eight and she was gone forever. To this day, the feeling of being inadequate and without the power to change her life still haunts me.
Then, almost 20 years later, Emory tried to dash across a street and she never made it to the other side. The media reports that the investigation as to why she would do that is ongoing. She was 6-years-old. That’s why.
Now, all those feelings come back like a monsoon that changes direction and heads back your way. We fear the destruction that might come with it but we know we need the rain that it brings. We need our pain and the fact that words are hard to come by in times like this is reassuring. This should never be easy.
The pain of losing Emory will one day fade to a distant memory of what once was but not today. Not tomorrow. Not next week.
Teachers will always be here for the families, knowing there will be someone to take our place, but there will never be enough children to take the place of the ones we lost along the way.
I will see you again Jessica and Emory. I promise.
Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019, became a member of the Sunnyside Los Mezquites Cross Country Hall of Fame in 2021 and he was a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee and he earned a Distinguished Service Award from Amphitheater. Contact Andy Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org