An Incomplete List–Writing with Students

At NCTE last week, the other Paper Graders and I discussed this blog space and what we want to do with it from here on out. One thing we thought we’d add is some of our own personal writing, the writing that we share with our students in class. We write with our students–probably not enough–but we have all witnessed the shift that happens in a classroom when the teacher enters into that writing space with students. 

This piece began as a writer’s notebook activity at UNHLit16. Penny Kittle shared with us an excerpt from the novel Station Eleven and invited us to write about our own loss using the same approach as the author did. I started a few tentative sentences then in the few minutes we had and wanted to come back to it.

When introducing mentor texts to my students this fall, I did come back to this piece. I shared the mentor text and then what I wrote that was inspired by it, and I talked with my students about how the mentor text helped me in my thinking and writing. 

An Incomplete List

No more golf courses. No more jiggers of Jack with a slice of lemon, ice cubes, and a splash of water. No more collections of dimes. No more support socks. No more suspenders. No more hearing aides. No more breakfast pears. No more ham steaks. No more need for your vegetarian daughter to roast turkey on Thanksgiving. No more corn on the cob. No more rhubarb pie. No more bottles of Italian red wine.

No more typing your responses to your students’ writing for you. No more worrying that you’ll fall and this time you’ll really get hurt. No more meds spread out across the bottom of a cereal bowl, hoping you were keeping it all straight. No more slow walks next to you as you pushed your walker. No more visits to the neurologist reviewing your symptoms to see what may have changed and to hear about what was coming for you as the disease progressed. No more opening my door to see you on your side in the lawn, having fallen backwards off the porch after ringing the doorbell. No more worrying about how to help you through the loss of yet another thing your body could no longer do.

No more complaints about salad or vegetarian meals or black beans. No more sideways glances at 4 ounce diet coke cans. No more huge bowls of popcorn inhaled on a Sunday afternoon. No more stopping at Chipotle to pick up a meal for you–brown rice, steak, pinto beans.

No more bracing for yet another conversation about politics, or church. No more copies of America magazine handed to me, open to a page containing an article you want me to read and talk to you about. No more worries something’s wrong if you haven’t heard from me. No more calls to let you know I made it back to Boulder.

No more phone calls from you for tech support. No more text messages with nothing but empty text bubbles. No more face time calls where you say, “Sarah, how am I seeing you right now?”

No more walks with you around Viele lake on Christmas day. No more walks around Mesa Lake. No more watching you turn your hat backwards for a little extra power to loft a rock across Lost Lake. No more worrying about how we would get you in a row boat so we could get you closer to the fish. No more hands of solitaire in the cabin on summer afternoons. No more cocktail hours, dinners on the grill, fishing at sunset.  

No more trips to Poland where we argued about whether or not you should buy the $300 stained glass panel that would be difficult to get home on the plane, where we walked together through Auschwitz and you sat on a low wall and cried because you were alive when the horrors there were happening but were oblivious to them in your Dearborn, Michigan childhood, where we sat at a cafe in the square at the center of Krakow and enjoyed the life happening all around us. No more trips to Rome–except I could go, but I wouldn’t have you as my tour guide, speaking in Italian with the locals, showing me the places of your life there so many years ago.

There was only one frantic drive down US 36 to the emergency room at St. Anthony’s North.

But you were already gone.

No more Dad.

This entry was posted in #UNHLit16, cultivating real learning, life and death, mentor texts, teaching writing, writer's notebooks, writing, writing with students. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Incomplete List–Writing with Students

  1. Sarah, how brave you are to write about your father. This piece shows the love, the respect, the joy, the worry you felt in your relationship with your father. It also shows the heartbreak of losing him. Thanks for sharing it.

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