When Dads Walk Away…. {Slice of Life}


Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

What happens when dads walk away?

As a ‘dad-less’ daughter, I know kids are left behind to wonder why. Why did he go? Why didn’t he want me? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t he want to be around? What could I have done differently to make him stay?

Or, worse yet, kids left behind think mom pushed dad away, and surely, if mom had done things differently, then dad would’ve stayed. It’s her fault.

As a teacher, I see the fall-out, too. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes blatant. Always painful.

Last month, I asked my juniors and seniors to develop a written piece for National Day On Writing (#NDOW).  I provided three photos and asked students to choose one (or more) and write about it/them. The piece could be fiction or nonfiction, personal or not, metaphorical or literal.  As always, my kiddos did not disappoint!  Heads dropped. Pens and pencils began moving. The room was silent. The feeling, intense.

They wrote with focused purpose until the bell rang. They came back the next day and insisted we continue without interruption. We revised and edited (this was tougher to get them to do, but required).

By day three, we shared at our own comfort level. If a piece was too personal, a student did not have to share the content, but everyone had to discuss the process with his/her partners.  What an amazing three days!

Students DiscussingNDOW_Discussions2

During the writing process, emotions were raw for several students.

One young man, an accomplished football player and struggling student, was stuck during the first day of writing. When I asked him how I could help, he was speechless. I ventured carefully, asking which photo he chose. The dark, stormy one. I wasn’t surprised, based on his expression. Then I suggested he create a bubble map to organize his thoughts. Several students were creating their own that day:


Graphic Organizer


Tears began to fill his dark eyes. He hastily brushed them away. I backed off.

A few minutes later, when I came back around, I noticed a few words on his paper:  dad, confused, success, failure. He looked up, met my eyes, and said nothing. I quietly moved on and left him to reflect and write.

By the third day (sharing day), my student had written a brief piece and discussed the process with his partners. His content was his.  His process, he was ready to discuss … mostly.

Fast-forward a month, to this past week. 

My students have been honing their ability to identify and interpret figurative language and author’s tone in print and non-print text, and assess the impact of each on a reader/viewer.   As I worked with small groups, various students had interesting, funny, and thoughtful ideas, examples, and questions to share. Then came the group with the young writer.

As we finished our small-group discussion and began to clean up before the bell, my young football player-turned-writer said, “Mrs. Kyle, I want to show you something,” as he took out his phone. I get a kick out of this line from students, because I never know what I’m about to see! 😉

As he swiped through his phone and found what he wanted to share with me, he mentioned Will Smith, and said, “I have this video clip that you just reminded me of, when we were talking about tone.  Watch all of the emotions Will Smith goes through and how his tone changes.”  With that, he hit play. The video clip was in his SAVED YouTube list.

As we watched the clip together, leaned in over his phone at the conference table in our classroom – his back to his classmates – I could feel other students looking on, but no one interrupted. My young writer watched my face for reaction as we watched the clip together. Tears filled my eyes. I looked up and saw they filled his, too.


As the clip ended, he said softly, “This makes me cry every time I watch it.”

I replied quietly, “It made me cry, too. My dad left when I was very little. I always wondered why. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

He nodded and the bell rang.

29 Years Ago: Slice of Life


 Slice of Life hosted at the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.
Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

I can’t believe it’s been 29 years.

The fear is still palpable, a lifetime later.

Board the bus. Board the plane. Sit quietly, nervously.

Waiting. Short flight ~ Miami to Orlando.

Plane lands. Board the bus.

Recruit Training Center, Orlando. 

Source:  http://usscanopus.homestead.com/rtc1.html No longer in existence, RTC housed thousands of recruits 1968 - 1994.
Source: http://usscanopus.homestead.com/rtc1.html
No longer in existence, RTC housed thousands of recruits 1968 – 1994.

My new life begins.

Uniform issue, hair cut, shots, ushered to barracks. Midnight? 1:00 AM? The air was cool that November. The night was still and quiet, punctuated by the barking orders coming from left and right. Didn’t matter how cool it was.  I was sweating.  Teeth chattered. Scared out of my mind.

Eyes straight, recruit!
Heels to toes, recruit!
No talking, recruit!
No crying, recruit!
You belong to Uncle Sam, now.  There’s no crying here!

A fact that fell on deaf ears as we solemnly moved along the concrete paths that led to the place we’d call home for the next nine weeks… if we made it through training.  Many did not.

What had I gotten myself into?
Short hair and shots… welcome to Boot Camp, recruit!


Four months before, June 1985, right out of high school, not ready to go to college, though prepped for it,  a post-graduation trip to Disney would be the SHARP left turn my life would soon take.

The air was hot and humid that June day. The recruiter’s office offered respite … and promise … for the next chapter in my life.



c. 1985

Mom was devastated.

Turns out, the loss of one of her brothers in Vietnam was too much to bear.

Knowing her daughter enlisted broke her heart.  She did not understand why I did it.

I didn’t understand either.

Fifteen years after her beloved brother’s death, it was my turn to serve our country, an honor carried on by my maternal grandfather, my twin uncles, and now me.

Little did I know then, the impact my decision would have on the rest of my life.

God Bless the men and women who came before me and continue to serve long after me.  Thank you for your service, and for many, like my Uncle Larry, the ultimate sacrifice.

Cpl James Larry Walden "Uncle Larry"
Cpl James Larry Walden “Uncle Larry” 1947 – 1970, twin brother of Cpl James Garry Walden


Thank you to the families and friends who keep memories strong.