Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 10, 2009

How Can We Stop Wanting

While visiting Pat in the hospital a few days ago, my friend told me about going there by ambulance, and asking the driver to please turn off the siren as they passed her school, which is at the bottom of the hill on the way. She said, “One of my students gets so scared when she hears it, cause her mom gets scared because it reminds her of sirens she’d heard in Vietnam. I don’t want her to be scared.” So the driver agreed it wasn’t such an emergency, that slippery word; but the ambulance was chosen as she was at best in no shape to drive. He switched off the sirens and suggested he visit the school sometime and show the kids what a safe place an ambulance can be.

Pat’s a teacher even in an ambulance, though I don’t know how she’s managed in school this past month or two, not that she’s made it there every day. Not long ago, she told me of a girl who asked, “Can I whisper something?” Then told Pat that her mom was back in jail, that she’d stoled something, and this time would be in for a long time. Pat hugged her and said, “You’re my girl.”

Of course she wanted to do more.

Maybe it’s not enough, but it’s the best you can do. A thought almost every teacher has had, fielding whispers, or reading a confessional sort of essay, and scribbling on the bottom: Let me know if you want to talk. It’s that feeling not-good-enough you have when you’re in a sick room saying some pretty inane things. And maybe what the wonderful teachers in Pat’s school feel when, she told me, some made a plan to go out and look at the sky at five minutes past nine every night and think of her.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell them,” Pat told me, “that five minutes past eight might be better. I can rarely stay awake till nine.”

None of it’s good enough when we’d rather find the cure for cancer or at least convince Pat to eat more than a teaspoon of cottage cheese, to persuade her the pudding or grapes aren’t bitter. But if all we’ve got now is looking at the sky I’ll join in. I get to hear the little frogs in the wetlands peeping. Pat’s got the sky from the fifth floor now, but hopes to be home soon where she’ll be close to the pines. My daughter’s got her view of a KFC and L.A. traffic, but when we’re looking at five minutes past eight, or somewhere between then and five past nine, cause none of us are perfect, we can remember that all this sky is connected and vast and absolutely beautiful, even if it’s not all we want.



  1. This touched me so much, Jeannine.

  2. Beautiful.

  3. Ah Jeannine, I’m holding you both in my heart under the sky.
    Sending you all my love.

  4. Thank you for helping to hold up the sky for Pat. I’ll hold your friendship–and all those beautiful children– in my thoughts.

  5. I’ll look tonight.
    I’m so sorry this is getting harder. She just sounds such an amazing person.

  6. Beautiful post, Jeanine.

  7. I too will look up into the vast sky and think of you and Pat and send my love. Hugs to you, Jeannine.

  8. Thanks, Cindy. Enjoy your weekend with your girl. I just got mine home for a few days, too.

  9. Thanks, Laura.

  10. You’ve got one of the great hearts under the sky. I know Pat is feeling it.

  11. Thanks for the sweet message and roses, Melodye.

  12. She’s so much about caring, and strength. We just want her to know she’s loved even as some aspects of her strength get diminished; the love doesn’t.

  13. Thanks, Jill. Warm wishes for your weekend.

  14. Re: I wish
    Yes, I think Pat is part of your wonderful teaching tribe. Thanks for the good thoughts.

  15. Thanks for the thoughts and hugs, Lorraine! Have a good weekend.

  16. This made me cry, Jeannine. What a beautiful person your Pat is. As are you.
    I’ll be looking up at that sky tonight and thinking of you both.

  17. Amy, I’m sorry you cried. I think of talk to Pat daily, so it’s a big part of life: so good for most of twenty-five years, but sad in the present. It helps me to write of her here a bit now and then, and of course sadness is simply part of life. Thank you for thinking of us.
    And I like thinking of Sweatpea running amock in parks and bakeries!

  18. This was really nice.

  19. Thanks, sweetheart. I hope you have a nice Easter weekend.

  20. Please don’t be sorry, Jeannine! I cried because what you wrote was so true and poignant and beautiful, and also because I know how difficult it is to face parting from someone you love. I am glad you are writing about it, and I’ll keep sending good thoughts your way after I tuck Sweetpea in bed at night.

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