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Fourth Grade to the Grave

Fourth grade wasn’t easy for me.

Lost as last year’s Easter egg, was how I spent the majority of it. 

Apparently it is fourth grade when you learn why math works, not just how to get the right answer.

I didn’t have a problem with school til they decided the right answer was no longer the right answer.

I don’t know how old my fourth grade teacher was. I figure she had been set up with AARP for a while. Her hair was short and gray. She had beady eyes that turned into bug eyes when she looked a particular direction through her bifocals. She sat on a small frame, and reminded me of Mr Rogers by the year-round cardigan sweater she wore.

She and I got along like oil and water. For an entire year, I was the permanent itch in her crawl. We clashed like plaid curtains in the Sistine Chapel. 

There was one parent teacher conference. I remember my parents were clearly able to identify the problem. Their solution, I needed to do better.

Needless to say, I finished that year feeling a bit defeated. 

I was a difficult student. I didn’t have a problem paying attention. My problem was paying attention like normal people pay attention.

To this day, I absorb information much better while in motion. When directed to physically sit still, mentally I assume you have just placed me in four point restraints. You might as well bury me. I immediately begin fighting for air.

Mrs Wroten retired after my fourth grade year. I hadn’t seen her since, and it didn’t look like I would be seeing her anytime soon either.

I was out with the monument company not long ago. While walking through the city cemetery, something caught my eye. June Wroten.

The name June Wroten was engraved right in front of me on a slanted slab of granite. June Wroten was my fourth grade teacher.

I was disappointed to find she had no children of her own, as I glanced at her online obituary. It made it especially hard to accept a teacher put up with me and never had children of her own. That in itself spoke volumes on her behalf.

I have cleaned hundreds of tombstones. June Wroten and my ex-husband are the only two I’ve ever talked to.

I knelt down and began trying to right a 30 year wrong. I apologized for being a class clown. For talking during announcements, sharpening too many pencils, for never having a pencil.

I always did respect and appreciate her. After all she did pull double duty that year. The two fourth grade classes were combined for weeks when the other teacher had a family emergency. So not only did Mrs Wroten have me, she had another entire class to put up with.

But it wasnt until I looked at the dates on her and her husbands headstone that I realized just how much truth there is to, never truly knowing what an individual is going through.

Mrs Wroten married later than most in life. She dearly loved her husband. The two were happy. However, his last weeks and months were difficult.. He had several surgies and required care 24 hours a day. For the first time I realized, he passed away the year I was in fourth grade.

But now that my eyes have been opened to the burdens she carried while doing her job.

For thirty years, when asked, I had nothing good to say about Mrs Wroten. The perfect example of what I do too often in life. I speak before I know all the facts.

I am ashamed. 

Like my daddy said all those years ago, “ Mandi Lee, do better”.

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