Monday Cain walked into the lunch room and vomited, the stomach flu had arrived in my classroom. Cain along with 6 of his classmates and his teacher would miss the rest of the week. That very morning his mom had told me both parents would be gone for 7 days starting Thursday. I hoped that they wouldn’t get the flu and that Cain would be better before they left.
Last Monday Cain returned to school. Nana walked him down to the classroom. He was already missing her and his tears were a clear sign of his misery. I knew he’d missed school all the week before and even without vacationing parents it is hard to come back to school after illness.
As Nana tried to say good-bye, he cried harder and harder. After watching her struggle to leave I responded to her pained look and said softly. “You go, we’ll be ok.” I hugged him, pulled the classroom door shut and gave him job after job to keep him busy.
The rest of the day was tough for Cain. Whenever he had a slow point in the day he’d begin to weep. Fortunately our line leader was absent, so he assumed those important and prestigious duties. I also had him pass out, collect and organize anything I could think of. On Tuesday as Nana walked Cain to the classroom he was crying again. As I looked closer I saw the tears in her eyes too. This process was hard on everyone. I said quietly to her, “the first ten minutes were the hardest, he’ll be ok. She left and the day was better than Monday. The school secretary stopped in mid morning, Nana was on the phone and needed to know how Cain was doing. Fortunately he had dry eyes at that point.
On Wednesday he entered again with tears, and as I wished Nana a good day. I could see the tears on her face. This little guy is so loved, his sadness was tearing at his grandmother’s heart.
On Thursday, Cain entered with his grandfather. I knew about Cain’s love for Poppa. A few weeks ago when we’d had a snow day Poppa and Cain had gone snowplowing. Cain wrote about how Poppa drove the truck and he got to operate the plow. “ Is this Poppa?” I asked Cain. He nodded tearfully. “The one who you helped plow the driveway?” More tears. “Poppa drove and you got to do the plow, right?" I quoted from his writing. “Wow!”, I exclaimed, “ Poppa is bringing you to school! “ I was trying for big excitement. “Give him a huge hug and go hang up your coat!” I instructed. As I walked back to the door with the grandfather I noted the tears running down Poppa's face. “Really, he’ll be fine,” I assured him. As Poppa wiped his eyes he said, “His parents will be back tonight, but this is really hard.”
On Friday I watched for Cain to arrive. I wondered how he’d separate from his mom or dad after their absence. I’ll have to find out tomorrow. He stayed home.