top of page

Unexpected Places

"Sometimes the things you lost can be found again in unexpected placed." -Daniel Handler

I move toward September 5 with having been given a gift. While I don’t like the use of the word “lost” to talk about someone who has died (“I ‘lost’ my mom on September 5. “ If she were “lost”, wouldn’t I be out looking for her?

I come back to the above quotation and focus on “can be found again in unexpected places”. The teacher I had for the last semester of 5th grade and all of 6th grade, recently turned 88. Joe Popp had a major influence on my life, and we’ve stayed in touch all of these years. I became a teacher because of him. I sailed through elementary school until I hit 5th grade and had Gladys Rucks as my teacher. She played favorites. The favortism was bestowed upon my classmates whose dad’s owned businesses. This was probably my first life lesson in how the world can work! I began to have stomach aches. School avoidance. My parents met with the teacher who found her to be “cold and poorly responsive.” The last school day before Christmas break, Mrs. Rucks informed the class that she was “going back to school” (I couldn’t imagine that a teacher would have to “go back to school”) and that Joe Popp and Florence Erb would become our new teachers. I ran all the way home ( I lived 14 houses from the school) and excitedly told my parents.

Joe Popp was our morning teacher. I already knew him as head of the patrols as I was a patrol guard. When I’d gotten my first pair of glasses (pink!) in 5th grade, I’d keep them in my pocket because I thought they made me look ugly. He asked me one day while he was passing me in the hall why I didn’t wear my glasses. He asked me to put them on. Then he told me “you look so intelligent with them on”, and I kept them on from that day forward.

It wasn’t just that comment , however. Joe Popp helped me to believe in myself – someone other than my parents. He inspired me. I became a teacher because of him.

When I went back to my elementary school as a teacher, he was still there. Not only were we now colleagues, but I had his daughter in my first class! Through those years from my having him to my having his daughter, Joe and Done, his wife, and I stayed in contact.

So….if I “lost” my mom… I move toward September 5….what did I find? At his party, each of his 4 now very adult kids had memories of my mom that they shared with me. Mom was the Learning Center Director (librarian) at the school I attended as a child and later taught at. The Popp kids had wonderful memories of her that they shared that day. Memories of her that brought tears of joy to my eyes. My heart was so full when I left that party.

Now I’ll move on to my grief process over Bill, my husband. Bill died on October 22, 2021. Two year marker is upon me. I recently had to put Louis, our big old Maine Coon kitty down. Louis had pulled through, in his 15 years with us, 2 major surgeries and the loss of most of his teeth. He was “our boy”. In December of 2022, our orange Maine Coon, Fred, got suddenly ill and died. Both of these cats were “our” cats – Bill’s and mine. Louis was a MAJOR connector with us. Another part of Bill is gone.

Yes, I’ll eventually get another big kitty, both a black one and an orange one (although I still have 2 fur babies).

So…what was “found” after the death of Louis:

When Bill and I bought our home in 1995, there was a small brick home on the lot next door. There were 5 houses on our street. Eventually, the owner died, and through a series of events I don’t need to get into, the house was taken down. That lot has had 2 owners and nothing has been done with it. Bill and I always talked about buying it just to know that no one else could build there and it would be a nice buffer between our house and the one south of us. The one owner wanted $125,000 for it (it was worth $23,000) and the next owner wanted $85,000. It’s been on and off the market for years. My realtor’s been watching it for years and years. Found? The price dropped to what it should be in today’s market and I bought it. The day the offer was accepted, a single buck came to it and was staring at me through my kitchen window. While we have had and continue to have small packs of deer in our lot, I haven’t seen this lone buck since the day Bill died. It was a reminder, a sign, from Bill that while he knew I was grieving Louis, the lot purchase was achieved and he knew it.

In our lives, we “lose”, we have “losses”, but we also “gain”. Does this always balance out? Nope. Does it ever balance out? Sometimes.

The love we carry in our hearts for them, the sharing of memories and stories, and the moving toward and recognizing good, helps us to carry our loads…

Cry, let go, be sad, attend groups that help…

Then take moments to recognize goodness, seek out small moments of happiness, and inch toward what’s making life work for you….

bottom of page