The butterfly lady
Monday April 29th 2024, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life


She stopped in her tracks and exclaimed, “I thought that was you!” as we threw our arms around each other.

I was at the clinic for my follow-up to see if they needed to do retina surgery yet.

That department has always been busy in the extreme when I’ve been there, with an employee lounge turned into an overflow waiting room, but at that particular moment there was a single person in the original waiting room and the receptionists were waiting for anyone to show up. One of them called over to me with a smile, Name? Birthdate? so she could check me in without interrupting the joy any longer than necessary; it was putting a smile on her face, too.

We caught up a little bit and then they called Ginny back.

Since I wouldn’t be interrupting any other patients, I turned to that receptionist and explained, My kids are 36, 38, 40, and 42 this spring, and she was the kindergarten teacher to all of them.

Kindergarten! Wow!

I waited my own turn, sitting there remembering the time I’d attended the funeral of our favorite fifth grade teacher, gone far too soon. Ginny had been there. At one point after the service, a 6’9″ young man was helping the family move a tall easel covered in flowers to where they wanted it for their luncheon, and he spotted us talking and came our way with it.

“Alison,” Ginny said, “You need to step out of this man’s way.”

“Ginny,” I said–“That’s my son Richard. He’s coming to say hi to you!”

“OHMYGOSH! Ohmygosh, he’s not little anymore, is he!”

I wished we’d had more time. I always wish for more time when I’m with her. Soon enough they called my name. Did some tests, dilated my eyes, talked to the doctor and the med student tagging him for the day, came back out, and once again as I approached the desk, needing to schedule the next followup, she was coming out, too.

This time we had about fifteen minutes to ourselves. It was glorious. And you know a retired kindergarten teacher would love hand knit finger puppets and she did.

Both her kids had had twins, all four grands were born the same year, college is coming up in a couple of years, and everything is all at once for everybody. She asked after mine.

She had retired, then she had subbed, then covid, then–

–Parkinson’s, and she couldn’t risk falls around the little kids now.

“Oh I’m sorry!”

“Yeah,” as she looked me in the eyes, “I am, too.”

But she knew I knew about living with…stuff, health wise, and I think it helped to be able to talk about it to someone who simply understood and that you just go on with what you have the best you can.

She had put those finger puppets on and she kept them on and we laughed about flamingoes in her lawn and they were still on as they called her back to finish her appointment; we said our goodbyes.

Her one kid who lives a plane ride away is coming with her family next week, the other is nearby. There will be a grand time and Ginny will be surrounded by love and by teenagers, who are such interesting people to talk to, always.

This was our teacher who’d built a little enclosure with hanging beads, ’60’s hippy style, with the monarch butterflies inside it that she had had her students raise. If a kid was getting angry and full of feelings he didn’t know how to deal with, he got a few minutes to calm himself in the butterfly room.

Where the rule was you had to be absolutely still so as not to scare nor injure these delicate, beautiful creatures the kids had put their hearts into seeing coming to be.

The orange and black monarchs would peacefully land on their shoulders or head or arms or everywhere, wings gently folding and unfolding.

It was Ginny’s cure for Nature Deficit Disorder.

Oh, and I got to tell her when I came out: they told me things looked better than they’d expected and for now I don’t need to do surgery.

Because I knew that when you’ve struggling with a new diagnosis, when hope seems a difficult thing, borrowing a piece of someone else’s helps.

2 Comments so far
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What a wonderful surprise for both of you! Extra delightful for the many butterflies/ kids thrived under her nurturing care.

Comment by DebbieR 04.30.24 @ 8:14 am

That’s so lovely! And what an idea that butterfly space is, such a clever way to help kids calm themselves down.

I’m glad too that you don’t need surgery for now.

Comment by ccr in MA 04.30.24 @ 10:25 am

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