I ran into my friend Patty at the Farmer's Market in front of Pulaski Heights Baptist Church this morning. Patty teaches Gifted and Talented in a local Junior High. Hadn't seen her in awhile. She is from Philadelphia where her 94 year old Mom still lives. 94. God bless her.
Naturally, the Penn State story had been much on her mind, especially since she thought for awhile that she had grown up with Tim Curley, the Athletic Director that got canned and indicted. Wrong Tim Curley. She actually follows this blog and has followed the posts about the horrorshow in the place formerly known as Happy Valley. She was particularly intrigued by my suggestion that Penn State might have taken a different path if there had been more women in authority there. We stood underneath the entrance of the old church and talked while we watched it rain.
"I think you may be on to something there," she said. "Men just don't get it. Or, rather some men don't."
"What's there not to get?" I said. " I mean, even if there's no sexual assault going on, there's something just really squirrelly about a grown man being in a shower with a little boy after hours. Hell, I will not touch a child outside of the presence of an adult. He was in a shower with a kid."
" I know. Any woman would have been horrified by this news and heads would have rolled. But here's another take on it."
"You know, I'll bet none of these guys ever taught school."
" When you're a schoolteacher you are trained not to touch a kid, not to be behind closed doors with a kid. Stuff like that. Now I can't help giving hugs even though I'm not supposed to do it but that's just me. But when you teach at the secondary level you have to know the rules and you develop a radar about this stuff that obviously nobody had at Penn State."
She looked out at the rain for a moment.
"Can you imagine what those poor boys..." she said.
"No," I said cutting her off. "No frame of reference for it. Biggest lie in the world is contained in the phrase 'I know how you feel' unless you really do."
"Ya know," she said. " I had one of my former students come see me last Spring. She had just graduated from Fayetteville and moved back to Little Rock."
"She's a writer. She wanted to show me a story that she had written. It was about a girl who was a victim of date rape."
"I hope it wasn't autobiographical."
"I'm afraid it was. She told me about how the experience caused her to plunge into a severe depression. She couldn't sleep. She almost had to drop out of school."
"That's just awful."
" Yeah, she couldn't even bring herself to tell her mother about it until fairly recently. And it happened over 2 years ago."
"Wow. Poor kid."
"Think of those poor boys. What must have been going through their minds at the time? This has got to still impact their lives. It has to."
"I can't imagine."
"Neither can I."
"And here's something else," I said. "Where the hell was Mrs. Sandusky all this time? What would your response be if I told you that I'm going to make our basement a playroom and invite kids from the foundation..."
"Most of which were already troubled," she said.
"For sleepovers and stuff. You would be good with that, right?"
"Of course not! And about that time I would be thinking I was married to a lunatic. Although it sounds like she had a screw loose as well. And here's another thing. Guys like Sandusky makes it harder for people like us who like working with kids."
"One of the questions on cross was 'How's your hearing Mrs. Sandusky?'"
She let that sink in.
"This is making me ill. I need to buy some stuff and get back home. Need to quit thinking about this stuff. Which is gonna be hard to do back when I go home to see Mom Monday morning."
Patty's mom is still pretty sharp. Still lives in the home. Still pretty self sufficient. She writes a poem every Christmas. It is a cherished tradition for their family. This year's poem came early to Patty's mom this year. Woke her up at 2 in the morning the other night.
94. God bless her.
My advise to Patty? Don't look at a sports page while you're in Philly. Don't listen to sports radio.
Give yourself over instead to your Mom and this year's Christmas poem.
Give yourself over to love. And to being safe. Because safety is an illusion in some places.