I awoke from a dream where I was with our grade school nurse, Mrs Korwin. At a very young age, I began having a “nervous stomach” where I thought for sure I would throw up, and missed several days of school by actually throwing up. No one knew what to do with me, because as soon as it was understood that I was staying home, I was fine, watching Leave it to Beaver, and eating peanut butter sandwiches. It really had my parents befuddled, and the sickness to me as that little girl was as real as the toes on the ends of my feet.
Cue, Mrs. Korwin, a robust woman, with a warm soft bosom and arms that would completely engulf me, and when she laughed her body would wiggle and it was the safest place I knew in those bewildering days. Mrs. Korwin came up with a “pill” (no doubt a placebo) that was just for me, and if I felt sick, even if she wasn’t in her office, I could go in and take a pill from my very own bottle and lie down or go back to class. Mrs. Korwin offered me a place of comfort and peace, that for some reason, I desperately needed. She understood me.
Later, in my final year of high school, she taught me psychology, there were just a few kids in this class, and she really lit the flame of my love of psychology, and at the time, I was in independent art, so she asked if I would paint a mural in her office over the bed, and I painted Winnie the Pooh and his buddies with Bandaids and crutches and a huge tree. It was a gift I could give her and she adored it and loved watching its progress. Such an encourager.
Years later, I was bouncing my baby son on my hip when I saw her at a graduation and she told me her office was being moved, and it was making her heart break that they couldn’t move the mural with her. She made me smile. She gave love so freely, and in that she brought healing. She encouraged my love for healing, and she was the reason I went into the medical field, and studied Psych, and I bet there are hundreds of stories like mine from children in that small town, who just needed someone to validate who they were and take note of their special gifts.
I will always honor Mrs. Korwin as one of the greatest mentors of my life. She lost her battle to cancer some years ago, and I am so glad that I saw her when I was bouncing Ricky on my hip. I was able to say, “Thank you, because of you I’ve been taking care of the terminally ill, I have studied psychology, and am using my art to bring joy. I will never forget you.” She laughed that robust, belly jiggly laugh, and wrapped her arms around me and little Ricky to hide the tears in her eyes. A moment in time forever caught in my store of beautiful memories.
I recently reconnected with her son, Tony, who is every bit his mother as an encourager and teacher. We all grew up together pretty closely, he was a year ahead, but when you only have 200 kids in your high school, you get to know one another fairly well. Tony is a little fella, and has always been beloved among us for tons of reasons, he smiles easily, he just was a friend to everyone. Not surprising that he was his mother’s son.
I found out through our renewed friendship that he had gone through heart surgery some years ago, and now has polycystic kidney disease. This means that his kidneys are so full of cysts that they are unable to filter out toxins anymore and he has just had surgery to put in a shunt that will help with dialysis.
I was reading what his students were writing about him, and it brought back the many memories I have of his mom:
“One of my favorite teachers needs a kidney. He unflinchingly allowed me to be the only girl in the computer club, in a tiny little farming town. I’ll never forget one of the teachers hesitantly buzzing him over the speaker system, saying “There’s a girl in here who says you need her to mess with the network cables in the back of our computers?” to which his voice came over the line: “Yes. Let her do it.” (I love this one!) He also believed me when my cat ate my balsa wood bridge… apparently that’d happened to someone before. He currently works to teach kids photovoltaics and he is kicking ass at it. Please spread the word.”
And more beautiful comments: You are the greatest teacher I’ve ever had“–Cynthia. “You helped me grow so much in these past three years.“–EF. “I felt like family when I was in your class.“–Francisco. “You bring an aura to people’s lives (that) just makes everyone want to smile.“–Cecilia. “You came to Desert Mirage the year we needed you most.”
Sound familiar? The beautiful red apple does not fall far from the tree.
I want to give back to Mrs. Korwin, and to honor her son who has given so freely what she has bestowed upon him — character, humor, empathy, insight, compassion, the desire to teach and watch children thrive. Here is Tony’s plea. If one person should read this and feel the power of donation upon their heart, please call or write.
Tony’s picture is so much prettier than his kidneys, I think we should seek a matching kidney to go with his picture. Don’t you? Like his students say, Pass the word!