“I remember you as a darling six year old… the effort you made with me, looking into the mirror and shaping the words as I worked with you. When? At recesses of course! Those were the early days before there was any kind of assistance or special services in the schools… 1956, right? … I remember your Mom and your dear Dad very well as they brought you to school and explained your hearing journey to me and when it was discovered. They were wonderful parents and you were their all… next to God, of course… And yes, I remember how captivated I was by YOUR blue, beautiful, sparkling and gently piercing eyes, almost searching out the soul of an individual….little did I or anyone grasp why those precious eyes did so powerfully fix on the gaze, eyes and lips of the other. I remember your eyes always in their sparkle, your eyes were dancing eyes and I think from the lovely photos of you and John, they still are dancing…..”
Quote from Sister Ann Rektor – then Sister Emily, Grade One teacher in her first year – Our Lady of Lourdes School, Waterloo, ON.
Oh my! That goes back 58 years and that little girl was me. My eyes glistened reading Sister Ann’s email as I time traveled back all those years. I thought about my parents, Mae and Hubert Runstedler, who were at that time a young couple in their late twenties and early thirties. I thought about their hopes and concerns for their only child – a little girl whose future was uncertain because of her serious hearing impairment. Worries abounded about sending that child away alone to the school for deaf children in Belleville if she could not learn in the regular school.
I felt the tears well up in my eyes as I read the words: and you were their all. Their positive support through the years of my childhood contributed in no small way to my determination to succeed. Every recess Sister Emily would practice elocution lessons with me in front of a mirror so I could learn to read lips and watch my mouth and tongue formation as I struggled to say all of those ‘s’ words which were so difficult for me.
In a school system with no special education resources or assistance, Sister Emily – a first year teacher – faced her first difficult challenge… me. I think she did an admirable job! She made all of those private sessions with me so pleasant; and I loved the extra attention and tried to please her. It moved me to discover that she remembered all those students in her first class and has made efforts to contact them. Sister Ann has been a Notre Dame nun for 60 years this year and will be celebrating with a reception in July in Waterdown.
I don’t remember ever being bullied, I had no special education teachers, and no special hearing devices in the classroom. It must have been a challenge for Sister Emily, but at the same time the needs were simple… more personal time. I wonder if classroom teachers today with all of the demands put upon them have the time to dedicate to one child with a special need. But Sister Emily completely gave of herself to ensure that one little girl would be able to survive the regular school system and be able to stay at home with her loving family. How do you repay a gift like that?
Lately, Sister Ann and I have been exchanging emails and speaking of days gone by. We have spoken about the special friendship I had back then with Judy Lavigne (Kroetsch now) and we continue to be close friends today. She was quite moved to find out that my granddaughter will be making her first communion later this month. Sister Ann hopes to be able to attend, personally or in spirit for sure, and witness the granddaughter follow the same path as her grandmother so many years ago.
Sister Ann and I are planning some good personal visits over coffee in the near future. Then we can hold hands as we walk further down this lovely memory lane! God Bless you Sister Ann!