( Intermediate Level )
Mr. Frankie, as the students call him, is close to retirement. He had driven for the Arcadian Elementary School District for nineteen years and ten months. When he wasn’t driving he would substitute as the crossing guard at the student’s crosswalk.
Frankie, named after his father, Frank Sr., grew up in the same neighborhood as he worked. Many of his friends, once they graduated, had moved away but he liked his city. Once in a while, they would come back to visit family and friends but this seemed to fade away as each of them started their careers and families.
His father had passed away a long time ago and he felt it was his obligation, as the only child, to help his mom as long as she needed him. She rarely asked for help.
She is a strong-willed Italian woman who did many things for herself. Frankie figures his dad had a lot to do with her being independent. “I will not be around forever. You need to know how to do these things for yourself.”
He smiles when he remembers those words. His mom would get so mad at her husband for what she felt was just being lazy. “Frank, You never want to do things for me! If one of your friends needed you, no problem but when I ask it is a different story!”
Frankie never thought about or planned what he would do once he retired. Honestly, he liked having something to do every day. Weekends bored him.
His mother was in her late eighties now and he didn’t know how much longer she would be around. “Maybe traveling could be an option”, he thought from time to time, “Five days a week and six months out of the year I traveled the same route. Time for new scenery I guess.”
Dinner at home never changed. You would always know what was for dinner by the day of the week. Sounds crazy to most who hear but it was pretty normal for their family You didn’t have to ask or guess what was for dinner.
On Mondays, it was meatloaf, on Wednesdays it was, homemade soup or stew and on Fridays, it was always fish. “Catholics eat fish on Fridays,” his mother would preach.
On alternate days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a pasta dish was on the menu. Today was Wednesday and Frankie knew it would be be a soup or stew. It didn’t matter to his mom if it was thirty degrees Fahrenheit or ninety degrees, soup was on the menu.
He sat down with his mom for dinner and she gossiped about what her friend had done and what she saw the new man across the road do to a stray cat who had wandered onto his veranda.
She finally stopped talking when she noticed her son quiet and deep in thought. “So what is on your mind tonight? You probably haven’t heard a word I said.”
“I beg your pardon. I have heard everything you said.” He smiled at her and hoped she wouldn’t ask for details. He had no idea what she rambled on about. His last day of work was coming. At the end of this school year, he would retire. This was a week and a half away.
His mom smiled back and continued eating her soup. She looked up at her son and asked, “You look like you have something on your mind. What is it?”
” Ya Ma, I do. In less than two weeks I will not have a purpose. I won’t have to get up and be somewhere. I have no idea what I will do every day.”
“I’ve dedicated my entire life, it seems, to driving a school bus. I never really made plans on what I would do once this day came. Any suggestions?”
His mother stopped eating her soup and wiped her mouth with her napkin, “For one thing it will not hurt you to take a few weeks off or even a month before you decide what is in your future.”
“Twenty years of dedication deserves time off. Don’t you think? Retirement doesn’t mean you crawl up and die. It means you relax more. Don’t be in a hurry to do anything. Enjoy every single day!”
“Ma, you’re right. Besides all these years taking care of you has been another full-time job!” He waited for her response with a huge grin on his face.
“Pffft, If anyone had a full-time job it would have been me and I never received a dime for it. I had you and your father to take care of, the house, and to cook. Your dad never likes sandwiches, remember? He always wanted a hot meal.”
“Now that your father is gone I practically do his job also. So not only am I a caretaker. I am a chef, a maid, a chauffeur for my friends who don’t drive and I am a handyman to boot!.
“Believe me, in retirement you will be busier than you ever thought you would be. If your hands are idle then that is your choice.”
Frankie shook his head in agreement. His mom always spoke what was on her mind. She never curbed her tongue. Everyone knew this about her and loved her for it.
The last day of school approached without incident. The staff had pooled their money together and had bought a card, a watch, and had a plaque made for his twenty years of service to their school district.
What his students did for him meant much more than a plaque or watch. Each of them wrote a short note to him and drew a picture. Each gave him a hug and their gift to him as they left the bus.
Some had drawn him as a substitute crossing guard while others drew him sitting in the driver’s seat of bus number fifteen. With the words written, “We love you” or “You are the best bus driver” and even ” You will be missed.”
Weeks had passed and his mother was right. Relaxing for a few weeks wasn’t all that bad. He and a friend actually had time to go to the local pond to fish. He hadn’t done this in years.
“So Frankie, what is next for you? Are you going to travel or take up a hobby?” his friend asked.
“Nah. I need to stay close if mom needs me. I’ve been thinking of starting a non-profit organization for the students whose parents struggle from year to year to buy coats, backpacks, and other things needed each school year. I just need to know how to get started.”
“Every year I saw students carrying their books in plastic shopping bags or wearing shoes that were either too big or too small. It’s not their parent’s neglect. They do what they can.”
“I have a friend who works at the mayor’s office. I can give him a call on Monday and see if he has information on what to do.”
“That’ll be great. I want to have everything up and ready before the new school year begins. That means getting donations of supplies or money for us to buy such things. I imagine we would have to add to the list as time goes on but for now we can start small.”
“Sounds great. I will give you a call after I talk with my friend.” They both had gathered up their fishing gear and headed to the trucks. Neither of them had caught a fish but they enjoyed just relaxing and catching up.
Frankie received the information needed to start his non-profit and it was simple enough. He needed to fill out the necessary paperwork , name the organization, and file it with at the county building.
Frankie and his mother were enjoying their fish dinner when he mentioned to his mom. “Everything’s coming together nicely and I will go down to the county office on Monday. I still need a name. I cannot file the paperwork until it has a name.”
His mom looked across the dinner table at him. ” Bus Number 15. That had been your life for twenty years. Now you are starting your next chapter. Sort of an extension of the first. So I feel it is proper to call it that.” Frankie looked down at his plate and then back at his mom, “That has a nice ring to it.”
On the following Monday, the paperwork was filed and it was the beginning of a new journey for Frankie. The word got out and businesses donated to his cause. One business gave him office space, free of charge, in the downtown area, so he could be accessible to many.
Before he headed home for meatloaf Monday, he hung a simple sign on the outside of his new office building. He stood with his hands on his hips and beamed with pride.
BUS NUMBER 15 FOUNDATION
To Helping All Students
and Their Families
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Coming soon: topenwithangel.com
Thoughts from Angel:
There are many families struggling in today’s economy around the world. Prices have increased drastically on everything. If you have a chance and are able to help please do.
If you would like to support what I do “Buy me a coffee.”
fade away – phrasal verb: gradually grow faint and disappear
obligation – noun: a duty or commitment
strong-willed – adjective: determined to do as one wants even if other people advise against it
independent – adjective: free from outside control
scenery – noun: landscape or layout
preach – verb: proclaim or teach
alternate – adjective: every other
veranda – non: a roofed platform along the outside of a house, level with the ground floor
rambled on – phrasal verb: to talk or write in a confused way, often for a long time
entire – adjective: with no part left out; whole
chauffeur – noun: a person employed to drive a motor vehicle
to boot – phrase: to emphasize that you have added something else to something or to a list of things that you have just said.
curbed her tongue – noun : to hold back comments
without incident -idiom: without any unexpected trouble
plaque – noun: small wall sign, commemoration of a person or event
non-profit – adjective: not making money or profit
neglect– noun: the state or fact of being uncared for
catching up – phrasal verb: talk to someone whom one has not seen for some time in order to find out what they have been doing
has a nice ring to it – idiom: to sound nice, good, pleasing to the ear
word got out – intransitive verb: to become known
accessible – adjective: able to be reached or entered
beamed – verb: smiled
Question ( s ):
Are there any organizations in your city to help with families in need? Whether it is food or clothing.
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