Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thinking of you today......

Three years ago, our family went through that dreaded transition from Early Intervention to Early Childhood/Pre-K that many families of childrens with special needs have to endure.  This is your initiation into the world of IEP's, FAPE, No Child Left Behind, inclusion, and the difference between "appropriate" and "best"......Terrified yet?   

We had absolutlely SUPER EI therapists, some of which we are friends with to this day (love ya Amy!).  Honestly, we were spoiled by good people before we made it to the school system.  I grew up in this school district, as did my parents.  One thing that happens is that people remember you as a 15 year old angel as opposed to the Mom of a special needs child.  We had a lot to overcome. :)  

One thing was that on paper, Lil Man is a lot more scary than he is in person.  That was an issue, as was the fact that it took people a while to understand that he was capable of a lot more than what he tested as.  They just don't take Mom's word for it.  wink.....wink. 

Well once we got our IEP straightened out, they sent out the teacher to our house - 1 to 3 times a week.  That was when we met her.......I knew the minute she walked in that I was we were going to love her.  She took one look at Lil Man and said, "What's this?!?   I am going to have to go back and re-do all of my goals and lesson plans!"

Her name was Ms. Bobbett, Cynthia.  She was born on Valentines Day in 1953, on the south side of Chicago.  Her Dad died at the age of 31 leaving his wife and TEN kids to carry on...yes, I said ten.  The next year, Ms. Bobbett's Grandmother died and her Mom took in her four brothers and sisters.  So, by the age of 32, her Mom was raising 14 children in the projects on the south side of Chicago!!!!!  Ms. Bobbett once told me that her Mom required three things of the family.....the ONLY things they were to concentrate on were God, the family, and their educations....in that order.  Most of the 14 graduated college.   

At 17, Ms. Bobbett traveled to Liberia, Africa with Sargent Shriver.  That was the beginnings of both the Peace Corps and Head Start!  They made the cover of magazines - Jet (?) I think.  While in Africa, Ms. Bobbett contracted TB (tuberculosis) and ended up spending the next two years in a TB sanitorium and losing a lung to the disease.  She didn't dwell on it, but did tell me once that she always made a big deal of holidays because she only got to see her Mom through glass for two Christmases. 

She started her career on the south side (58th  & Cottage Grove for the locals) of Chicago at the first Jewish private school, respite, therapy, & social facility for for Special Needs children and their families.  It sounded neat.  They provided schools and therapy, but also social events (think Boys & Girls Club) and 24 hr. respite care. We always got a chuckle about the fact that she was the only African American ,unapologetically Christian, teacher in a rich Jewish school on the south side of Chicago during some of the most turbulent times in history! She didn't talk about that school a lot, but I have a feeling there was never a dull moment there.  Unfortunately, it is no longer there. :(  Eventually, she made her way here and we are so thankful that she did. 

There are lots of great school teachers, and I firmly believe that they don't get paid what they should.  I think many times they are stuck in the middle between parents and the districts and it leads to conflict and burn-out.  I believe that anybody who knew Ms. Bobbett would tell you that she set the bar high when it came to "her kids."

While all of this was going on, we were in negotiations with the district.  It came down to most of their parents don't know or can't educate themselves on the ins and outs of Special Ed.  They didn't know what to do with a parent who knew the rules and called them out when they didn't do something right.  I think they were also afraid that I would pass on my knowledge to other special needs parents, and THEY would start asking for things that the disctrict should be doing all along.

We had many discussions about doing right, and expectations when it came to Lil Man - for his education, behaviour, etc.  She reinforced what I had been thinking all along.  She really encouraged me to homeschool Lil Man.  The plan was that I was going to pull him out to homeschool him when he reached the "regular" Kindergarten level (she was Pre-K).  It also helped to have somebody else in here that Lil Man had to learn to take direction from.  And if you knew Ms. Bobbett, it was best to take direction.  LOL!    We both firmly believed that special needs or not, if you can figure out that throwing a fit will get you something, you can learn the meaning of "No!"  (Mean Mommy)

So on May 22, 2008, Ms. Bobbett was here for the last day of the regular school year.  We were to have a little break and then do summer school.  Lil Man was doing really well that day.  I think he knew that she didn't feel well.  She seemed a little off, but she said she just had a little headache and thought she was getting an ear infection.  She said that her throat "itched" - like an allergy attack.  Before she left that day, she said she was looking forward to the break. She was just tired.  I convinced her to let me take her blood pressure before she left.  She had high blood pressure and was doing well at getting it down and keeping it under control.  I remember taking her BP three times that day because it was almost low!  She laughed about that and said she was going to get some fried chicken if it was that low.  LOL!   

She sang the "rainbow song" that is on the playlist with Lil Man.  They always started and ended with that song.  She got ready to leave and was talking about going to an award ceremony for her Grandson.  Then she gave both Lil Man and myself a HUGE hug.  We always gave hugs, but this was different....fierce.  She was going out the door and turned to say, "I just love you guys.  I am so thankful that we met.  I love you!  See you in a week!." and she was gone.

She was supposed to call me the next day(Friday) by lunch time (early dismissal for summer break) to let me know the schedule for summer school.  She didn't call - which was weird.  I called her room and got the answering machine.  I called later and got the secretary, I think, who acted really weird.  Finally on Saturday, one of our school therapists called me to find out if I had heard anything.  Ummmm, about what?

She broke down and told me that Ms. Bobbett had a stroke on the way home  - we think from our house.  She was in the hospital.  She passed away the next day, with her kids and family by her side. 

That summer was rough on Lil Man, and us.  But we knew what had happened.  How do you explain that to him?  He was REALLY depressed.  To this day, we cannot say "Let's do school (work)" because he looks for her to come through the door.    sigh.....

So today, we celebrate our friendship.  We miss you friend....our two hour phone conversations, our "conferences", bouncing ideas off of you, hearing about your kids, grandkids, and "the sisters".  Your signature exclaimations of  "Go Jesus!", laughing about doing yoga & diets.  We know you are in a better place, and we will all be together again someday.

For those who knew her, take some time out today to get a red balloon.  We all knew that was her favorite color and that she LOVED balloons.  Send one off to her today with love.

Hugs!

Steph, Big Chris, and Lil Man

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2 Comments:

Blogger Lacey said...

Wow, she looked way to young to have a stroke. I can't imagine if we lost one of our therapist. They are with you for so long, and are a part of your life. What an incredible women!

February 14, 2010 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Tears of sadness for what you've missed without her, and tears of joy for what she's gained. What a tribute!

February 14, 2010 at 11:55 AM  

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