Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The photo was taken October 12, 2006. 

Miss Chamberlain was my English teacher during my sophomore year in high school.  I got a phone call from her last night.  She lives in California now in a retirement village.  She is blessed in that many of the residents in her complex are bright, well-educated people with whom she finds common ground.  Her health is not good, and although she plans to become a centenarian, the trip to that goal is not easy for her.  She called because she was "down" and needed someone to cheer her up.  I hope I was able to do that.

When I was a lad of fifteen and a self-professed detest-er  of school this teacher saw something in me that I did not see in myself, for otherwise she would have given up on me, I'm sure.  She was one year only in the school and moved on to other places and endeavors.  What I am about to relate I learned after many years had passed.  Betty married a fine Christian gentleman.  However, he died young and left her with five children to raise.  She never remarried, but supported her family on her own.  Her endeavors included teaching, and that not entirely in America as she spent considerable time in missions endeavors abroad.

When I was about fifty-five years of age, I discovered that she was living in Northern Indiana and teaching school there.  It was not far to her home, so I contacted her and we made a visit there.  As you may have noted there was a forty-year gap between this visit and our common experiences in the English classroom.  But the thread of friendship had remained unbroken and we picked up, as the saying goes, where we left off.  We met I think twice after that visit and the above picture was taken on the most recent face-to-face.  But we have had many telephone and email conversations over the years.  She moved to California several years ago, and I have remained in Indiana.  When Betty calls, BBBH refers to her as my "girlfriend."  Well, she certainly is not a girl anymore, if she ever was.

Yesterday she told me that an old gentleman to whom she had become quite close, with whom she had a standing Wednesday evening dinner date, had failed to show last week.  It was learned that he had passed away alone in his rooms.  I began to see more clearly why she was blue.  We had a good chat, and I really think she felt better after we talked.

But, remember youngsters.  Going down the hill is harder than the trip up.


Jim said...

It's good that you're there for her.

Shelly said...

I love how the two of you have kept contact all these years! I am so glad you were able to lift her spirits.

Secondary Roads said...

It is so good to have someone like that in your life. How good that you gave her that positive feedback. I've seen that happen with Sylvia when she met a former student.

vanilla said...

Jim, everyone needs friends. There is a cliche that is totally true.

Shelly, friendships of long-standing have special meaning in my life.

Chuck, sometimes it is not what we say, but that we are there to listen.

Rebecca said...

Great story! My uncle was an English teacher and many of his pupils stayed in touch until his death. They loved his STENTORIAN voice, they always said, haha!

vanilla said...

Rebecca,the students stayed in touch with your uncle because he made a positive difference in their lives. Good man.

Sharkbytes said...

I think it's going to be hard to see an increasing number of people in my generation die. Just in the past month I've learned of 5 friends or acquaintances who have cancer. It's really nice to have people who mentored us in our lives.

vanilla said...

Shark, watching the peers go on before is one of the hardest things about aging.

I had some good people to help guide me in my early days.

Vee said...

It's great that you had a teacher who made such a positive difference in your life. I wish she had still been in the high school when I attended there.