The first week of school
Mr. MacComber made us write our autobiography
even though most of us hadn’t done anything more exciting
than go to the state fair over summer vacation.
We went through each year of our life
trying to remember something significant enough
to be recorded for all time.
I wrote about my father not being there
and how his not being there
left a giant hole in who I thought I was
and who I thought was supposed to be.
I wrote about how I felt like a freak,
different from everyone else,
because I was the only person I knew
who had never met their dad.
And I wrote about how sometimes
thinking about him made me want to scream
and sometimes it made me want to run away
and try to find him.
Mr. MacComber gave me an A
because I was good at writing
but then he wrote a long note
telling me I might need to go see a shrink
because it sounded like I needed some help.
But he didn’t say it like that.
He said I was mentally unbalanced
and he recommended psychiatric help.
The rest of the school year
Mr. MacComber kept watching me
like he expected me to fall apart
in front of him and the entire class.
I fell apart a little bit every day
but it was on the inside
where no one could see.
@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
All Rights Reserved
Beats me why if you say or do anything out of the ordinary why some people instantly think you are crazy. Or if they don’t they feel or make you feel awkward around them. I have been different all my life. I suppose in your childhood days not to have a father was quite rare. These days every second person is the same it is rare to find a together family. I will always be different until the day I die but am I crazy. Who knows what normal really is anyway who knows how things are really supposed to be. We are who we are with what we have at the time. Why can’t people just accept that !!
– Anne McKenna
Susan, three days to go. What a great job! You inspire us all with your dedication.
You have to wonder how some insensitive teachers make it in the field. The fact you kept writing tells me a lot.
He was a horrible teacher, and my English teacher no less! Luckily I had had a couple of great English/writing teachers before him so they helped me stay strong.
What a cruel and insensitive thing to say to a child! You poured your heart out and he stomped all over it. He may have thought he was helping in his heavy-handed way, but all he did was inflict more pain. I’m really sorry he said that. Hugs!
Thanks for the hug. He was a great big jerk of a teacher.
Take 2 – I agree with the last 3 comments and although I have already said my peace. I have to say yes people can say some cruel things without thinking. It has been happening to me all my life. I expect just like you did you think about things for a day or two and then let them go if you can. Luckily in this case you did or you would not have been able to continue your passion for writing, for fear of anyone else saying anything hurtful.
I see a psychologist have done for quite a few year. She is one of the most wonderful people I know. Why not because I am mentally unbalanced as he put it. She keeps me going, that’s why she gives me the courage to keep going when sometimes all I want to do is give up. I know I can’t do that and I know I never will but somehow she makes my life easier. Just knowing there is someone that you know you tell anything to without being judged when you have no one else that would understand.
I am glad though that you did keep up with your writing and you have been a great inspiration to me. I of course am a want to be or a gunna writer, I write though for me, because it helps me. After all sometimes what else do we have but our hopes and our dreams.
– Anne McKenna
I think there’s nothing wrong with getting help by talking to a professional, been there, done that a lot in my life. But he could have handled the whole thing differently and back then, therapy wasn’t talked about like it is today so it was really a bad situation.
Yes, our society really frowns upon expressions of distress. Instead of, “You’ve never known your father, so of course you would feel sad and curious and angry and many other things,” it’s, “Oh, you have all these feelings so you must be mentally unbalanced.” Argh!
Yeah….to be fair, it was a long time ago and we (as a society) didn’t deal well these sorts of things. That was back in 1973 where you didn’t talk about your problems in public, people with depression got no treatment, etc. Nowadays I like to think it would be different.
I’m a teacher and that makes me cringe.
I just assume that every kid comes with some issue. There is no such thing as “normal” to use as the standard to compare anyone to. If a student confessed to me how she felt about never knowing her father, I would like to think I would handle it better. My advice (see someone who can help) might be the same, but my delivery would be a lot more sensitive. Like writerjenn said, “It makes complete sense that you would feel that way. I can’t imagine what that is like for you, and someone whose job it is to hear about such issues and give advice and guidance might be an even better person to share this with.”
Yeah, he could have done things so differently. 30+ years ago, kids going to therapy wasn’t talked about or taken as easily as it is today so that really made it sting.
As a teacher, I’m cringing, too.
My class just wrote their own class constitution as a part of our government unit, and in Article I, Rights and Responsibilities, in the section about teacher responsibilities, they wrote:
“Teachers have the responsibility to listen to students and not make them sad.”
I’m holding that one in my heart for the rest of my years of teaching…
Oh I love that they said teachers should listen and not make students sad. Perfect!
tanita says 🙂
Wow. Nothing like a vote of confidence from a teacher – A for effort, little girl, good job there revealing yourself. Now, hide again.
Ugh. I send Mr. MacComber a virtual kick in the shins.