He’s Having a Cornea

My 6th grade teacher had a heart attack right in front of us, in the middle of class. The thing is I had no idea at the time. I mean, I watched it happen, but the full weight of what was happening just did not connect.

He was talking and then he stopped. He put one hand on his chest and the other arm reached out, (did he grab a chair??) and he started to go down. Was it slow motion, or is it just my memory seeing it that way? I don’t know. He didn’t fall, he just ever so slowly started to bend his knees.

We had an open concept classroom at that school, thank God, so one of the other teachers saw what was happening, rushed over to help him before he could even go down and called, “He’s having a coronary!” to one of the other teachers. I had never heard that word before, but I knew that the cornea was part of the eye, so I was relieved to know that he just had something really serious in his eye. Did they dismiss us to recess? I honestly don’t remember. I don’t remember seeing the paramedics take him away. I don’t remember anything after seeing the other teacher rush to his aide and say what she said. And I basically put the whole thing out of my mind, and brushed it off because I figured he’d be ok once he got that thing out of his eye.

It wasn’t until many years later that I was talking with my mom about someone else having a heart attack or coronary that it clicked what had happened.

I was going to say that I don’t know whatever happened to him. Did he make it? Did he come back to school? But now as I am typing this, I think I vaguely remember that he did come back to teach after some time away, and I seem to remember that I was wondering why he didn’t have an eye patch––I mean, if you take that much time away for your eye, it’s gotta be serious, right? Like, serious enough to warrant an eye patch.

What impresses me was that they did a great job of shielding the kids from any trauma witnessing that may have caused––at least, I think so, I don’t keep in touch with anyone else who would have been in that class so I don’t know if they were affected at all. What amazes me, though, is how little I knew or understood about that and how much of that was that the teachers sheltered us well, and how much of it was my own unawareness? How much did the teachers/parents expect us to know and how much did they expect us not to know?

One thing I remember feeling often as a kid/youth is “Why doesn’t anyone just explain things to me?” I so often felt like no one was communicating with me. Not just about my teacher’s incident, but so many other things in life too. Why won’t anyone explain it to me? Would I have understood? Would I have listened?