A love lost with the passing of my wife? No way. Mary Lou is still by my side.
She was an educational visionary. She was a natural born teacher. And whether in the classroom or at home her focus was always on what’s best for kids. She would not tolerate any form of bullying in her school.
She was my wife, my partner, my confidant for nearly 60 years. Mary Lou dedicated nearly 40 years to education and loved every minute. Along the way she had me doing her bulletin boards in her classrooms at Lincoln, Ripona and Colony Oak. She capped her career as an educator by serving as principal of Colony Oak School in Ripon for 13 years. She clearly made a difference in the lives of her students, our children and her husband who often needed a stern albeit gentle guiding hand.
Mary Lou turned the low testing Colony Oak School into one of the top achieving schools in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties. At home she made sure our three sons and one daughter were on target with their education, producing four college graduates in their selected professions — one high school English teacher, one assistant superintendent of schools, a fourth grade elementary school teacher, and a police sergeant near San Diego. We lived in the same house in Ripon for some 45 years where we scrapbooked a load of happy times.
She would wait up for the kids to come home at night and chat with them for an hour about their evenings.
Cherished memories comforted me early Saturday morning after it was determined she no longer had a pulse after little more than a year of struggling with ALS. Lou Gehrig’s Disease had robbed her of the use of nerves and muscular movements including eating, swallowing, walking and talking. She had to have a G-tube inserted in her stomach to survive. In March a UCSF doctor gave her six months to live. She made it to mid-September.
She arranged for two four-day weekends where we would take her wheelchair down to Pacific Grove wanting us to have memories to hold after she passed.
In past years I have read about people losing an arm or leg through amputation who continue to feel the presence of that limb and some even attempt to use it when it is not there. The same is true with losing a spouse — her presence is at my side constantly — Mary Lou is with me but I can’t touch her or put my arms around her as I did for more than six decades. Her warmth continues to put me at ease — she is definitely with me.
But in another sense, I am just a basket case today having watched the mortuary crew pick her up for a ride back to Ripon from Morgan Hill where she had leased a cottage to get away from the allergy-producing valley climate. She knew she was dying and worried about leaving me, unsure anyone else would take care of me as well as she had for all those years.
We had met at Pasadena City College. She was the editor of the school paper and I was a production control photographer. We had been accepted into a school fraternity at the same time and were both blindfolded for the indoctrination ceremony. I was on crutches from a skiing accident and felt around with one crutch in the dark and found what I thought was a school pillar — nope, it was her leg.
We were a couple from then on — always knowing what the other was thinking.
When I went into the Army, she moved to San Diego to finish her education. After I was stationed at Stockton Airport with a small helicopter and observation aircraft repair unit, I would hitchhike down Highway 99 on weekends to see her at her parents’ home in Chula Vista. When my ride dropped me off, usually in San Diego, and I would call her on the phone, her dad, a Navy lieutenant commander, could be heard in the background saying, “if he is in uniform tell him to come through the back alleyway.”
It was a wonderful life and we had both hoped it would continue on for more years together, but that was not to be. A priest long ago at St. Anthony’s urged that couples do what they needed to do even when they objected saying, “For you my love!”
And that is how Mary Lou lived he life.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.