British Columbia, Canada
In September 1980, I started grade 8 at Gladstone Secondary, School, in Vancouver, B.C. Canada. During the early months of grade 8, I met my(now) former Guidance Counsellor Sheila Maurer, a well-known and popular, very much-loved Guidance counselor at Gladstone Secondary. I first recall meeting Sheila after introducing myself as the younger sibling of one of my two older sisters who was not only an immensely popular student when she had attended Gladstone but who also just graduated from grade 12 just a few short months before had started grade 8. Sheila was a short-medium built woman who had black short curly hair and was always smiling as much as possible while being extremely busy throughout the school day. Anyhow. Once after Sheila had found out whom I was related to sibling wise she liked me automatically. I am not saying Sheila did not like me before she knew who I was related to, but I think her knowing the above had helped her remember who I was as a person and student. Soon afterward, Sheila and I got along fantastically, and I have quickly grown to love her as if she were my second mom. Her nickname was "MOM" by various staff and students. Why? Because Sheila was very motherly in personality, she always looked out for everyone including all students and staff within the school, she was always ready to help anyone whenever she had the time to spare. On a couple of occasions, I had accidentally called Sheila’s mom when having acknowledged her she seemed unfazed by it. Most of all Sheila was an extremely warm, caring, and gentle person who would never raise her voice at anyone, Sheila was just an extremely gentle sweet soul that is extremely rare to find in a person, especially a person who was deemed as an authority figure. In other words, Sheila was a lot like the character "Mrs. Garrett " from TV's 80's sitcom "Facts of Life", played by the now-late actor Charlotte Rae. After I got myself adjusted to being a first-year high school student, I had dealt with some social issues regarding my having been bullied by several students. I was a good target of being a bullied victim due to my having been noticeably different than most of my peers, especially whereas I also was known to have some learning disabilities. I was also socially and physically awkward. If you are wondering what I meant by my being socially and physically awkward, I was extremely quiet and shy. And I was known to only be seen being kept to myself or hanging out with a just as equally awkward, tomboyish-looking girl whom I was friends with since grade 7. Physically I was tall, very skinny, wore extensively thick coke bottled type of glasses, and had worn braces on my teeth. In other words, I had the complete look of a typical, goody two shoes “NERD!” So, my grade 8 year had started with my being bullied to the point where Sheila, a student peer counselor, and another Guidance counselor had to intervene to put a stop to it especially putting an end to the sexual derogatory slang names I was being called by some of the other students. So as the bullying had continued throughout the whole school year I was always in or around Sheila's office every day, where I had helped her organize her office in between classes, after school, and during my lunch hours. Sheila was always happy to see me no matter what kind of day she was having. I can recall two major events, or shall I say moments that took place during the first term of my grade 8 years which involved Sheila. The first memorable moment or shall I say the event had taken place during my school’s Grade 8 Mixer, an after-school mini dance social that was held every year for Gladstone’s new grade 8s (freshman). Anyhow what I remember most about the grade 8 mixer that year was randomly noticing Sheila dancing along to the song. "Echo Beach, " by the eighties band. "Martha And The Muffins. ". Anyhow, just seeing Sheila dance with another student somehow struck me funny because it was weird for me to see an immensely popular much-loved school authority figure like Sheila to be dancing with anyone. Sheila was there at the grade 8 mixer to function as one of the chaperones. The second memorable moment involving Sheila during my grade 8 year, was my having invited her to breakfast at my Home Economics class. The kids as well as myself in my Home Economics class were required to cook a Pancake breakfast as part of our cooking assignment. And so, each student in the class was also permitted to invite any staff member in the school. So, of course, my cooking partner and I had invited Sheila as our guest. On the day of the Pancake breakfast, my cooking partner Brenda Britt and I were busily scrambling trying to have everything cooked by the time Sheila had arrived at our table. Upon Sheila's arrival, she had decided to help my cooking partner and myself to speed up the cooking process. Our in-class grade had depended on how well our cooking assignment was presented. After Sheila, myself, and my cooking partner, Brenda, had sat down to eat it was noted that our pancakes were half cooked. Sheila was a surprisingly good sport where she managed to have eaten something from her plate without saying a word for the risk of not hurting my feelings. Although Sheila viewed our cooking fiasco quite humorously, where I had later learned she had chuckled at the thought of how she had ended up having to eat half-cooked pancakes which were a first for her. To my surprise, Sheila did not end up getting sick after having eaten some of the infamous Pancake breakfast I had cooked. By the end of my grade 8 year the bullying had finally ended although I later had learned from my mother that Sheila had confronted one of the students, bullies, by her having had yanked one of the bully’s hair indicating towards the bullies that if the bullying towards me didn't stop that the students who were bullying me as well as their friends who were also involved were all going to be dealt with Sheila. I never mentioned to Sheila what my mother has told me above because I do not feel that Sheila would have done such a thing, especially yanking a strand of anyone's hair. I was advised by my mother to keep my mouth shut about what she has mentioned to me regarding Sheila's confrontation with the bullies as indicated above. On my last day of grade 8 I recall Sheila had signed my yearbook, it stated. ", Many thanks for all your help in the office it is a pleasure to see your happy self every day. "S. Maurer.
As I was about to begin my grade 9 year at Gladstone things at home were chaotic due to my (now) late father a very abusive alcoholic, psychotic man who was causing a lot of major family problems as the result of his drunken rages, violent arguments with my mother. My father's threats of physical harm or death towards my mother had also created enormous emotional hell, especially towards my mother, two older sisters are, and myself. It was also the same year I was going through a lot of emotional and physical changes within myself(puberty). And it did not help that I did not have anyone I had felt comfortable to "OPEN UP" to except Sheila. As much as I loved Sheila dearly I was still pretty scared to "OPEN UP" to her despite she always encouraged me or anyone to come "talk" to her if we had any issues that were going on in our lives, overall her just letting us student's know that she was "there" for any of us was reassuring even if there were times she was insanely busy or running around throughout the school like a chicken without a head as Sheila would sometimes have humorously stated. I will never forget one moment during the middle of my grade 9 years it was one winter day on February 20, 1982, what made it momentous? Well...it would signify the many private heart-to-heart chats I would have with Sheila. So, on that particular February day back in 1982,
Sheila had noticed me standing outside her office, she noted the depressive expression on my face. Sheila had said to me, "Do you want to talk?" Without a word from me I immediately had followed Sheila behind her into her office. After several interruptions by other students barging into Sheila's office, Sheila and I were finally alone to talk. As I recall my sitting privately with Sheila in her office, I was wanting to open up about what was going on with me, the insanity at home, such as my fathers’ threats to kill my mother and the rest of the family, or his frequent drinking binges leading to intoxication that made living at home quite unbearable and impossible. As I stayed sitting on a chair next to Sheila in her office, I recall feeling hyper in an anxious type of way, and I was close to tears, but I just could not bring myself to say anything. All I was able to mutter out a raspy, barely audible, "I'm scared" after Sheila had inquired as to how I had felt about my parent's divorce. To this day I cannot comprehend why I would have been upset about my parents divorcing, especially since I knew how much of a hellish marriage my parents had. And my parents never got along due to them both being complete narcissists whereas they both always had played the victim of whatever situation they felt they were both going through at any given time. Anyhow during my above private chat with Sheila back on that February day in 1982, I still was able to recall Sheila gently attempting to get me to just say something to her, although it was clear within Sheila's extremely understanding, compassionate mind and nature that I was in no doubt PETRIFIED! So, Sheila just made little written reminder notes to herself describing the emotional state I was in which I later noted lying on her desk. It started. " She is very frightened' "unable to tell me what's wrong". "Encourage her to write things down". Sheila's' tremendous patience with me on that above particular winter February day back in 1982 was remarkable showing not a hint of disappointment, or impatience. Instead, Sheila gave me an extremely warm smile and had asked me whether I felt I would have been able to come to her again to try to talk to her if needed? I said "YES" Sheila also asked me, would it had been easier for me to have written things down in terms of expressing my thoughts, and feelings? I nodded a "Yes.” Sheila then had asked me if I saw her again whether I could write and show her whatever was to have been written. Again, I seemed to respond with an agreeable "yes". I recall the day after my first initial private heart-to-heart talk with Sheila. I made a little note about it inside my little Hello Kitty Diary, which was dated February 21, 1982. It stated, "Yesterday me and Mrs. Maurer talked; she had asked me whether I felt I could talk to her sometime?" "I said yes". I so badly had wanted to "OPEN UP" to Sheila so the next thing I recall is my then having had created a handmade Journal type book for Sheila. The handmade journal type book I had created for Sheila was in a lot of ways like a Journal where I had poured my guts about everything, whatever was going on in my head. I recall even having made a dedication page for Sheila which was included at the beginning of the Journal type book which I later mentioned to Sheila about it. Sheila responded to me with a very genuine pleased smile about the dedication page I made for her once after I had proudly presented the completed Journal book to her. It was also during the same period when I had started to write private letters to Sheila for her to read and for her and me to discuss once a letter has been read. The purpose of my private letters to Sheila was to help me “OPEN UP” to Sheila since I was able to express my feelings and thoughts better in writing. Anyhow, Sheila had kept every single letter I have written to which were stuffed inside a file folder, tucked away inside the filing cabinet in Sheila's office. I recall sometime later one of my best friends, Ellen, who also attended Gladstone, had found out about the letter folder inside Sheila's filing cabinet. Due to my private letters to Sheila, Ellen seemed envious of the extremely close unusual bond I had with Sheila sort of as if it were a mother and daughter type of relationship. Ellen wanted to read those letters in the folder, but I said: " NO THEY WERE PRIVATE". Although unfortunately the letter folder somehow later disappeared after Sheila had transferred to another school and long after I had graduated from Gladstone.
Sheila also knew that school academically was extremely difficult for me due to my learning disabilities although she did what she could. to try to help make things easier for me academically wise. I continued to hang out in Sheila's office every day, it was my haven where I felt very safe to be. I took over her office at times, answering her phone or taking phone messages. I would even have tidied up her desk, which was a favorite thing for me to do because it was then I would find out which student was in trouble or skipping class etc. Sheila did not care if I found out stuff about other students because she knew I was not going to say anything to anyone. Another thing, Sheila was also known to be disorganized in terms of her having difficulties keeping her desk clean, so she always welcomed \me to declutter or organized her workspace for her. I recall one day while in Sheila's office I heard her trying to sing a song by her favorite singer “Cleo Laine” which I happened to for some reason to find amusing. Sheila would sometimes even have lunch with me and some of the other students in her office. She was a blast to talk to, she was always pleasant to be around with among other things. Sheila and I still had continued to have some private heart-to-heart chats which to this day I cannot seem to recall what they were about, but I loved her dearly (still do) and I believe she had felt the same way. Sheila would jokingly at times say to me if I did not go to the class how she would put me over her knee and whip me with a long-wet noodle. Occasionally, if I were upset about something Sheila would end up giving me a friendly comforting hug. Throughout my years at Gladstone, I remember having Guidance classes with Sheila, and what I remember most about them is her always asking us girls. " Is everything OK with everyone here?" The response was several muttered "yeah's " from some of the students. And in return, Sheila always responded to us with a" please come to me if you need to talk". It was Sheila's way to assure us, kids, that she was here for us if any one of us kids needed to talk. If you are wondering what Guidance classes are? It is equivalent to a Health class.
From the start of my ninth grade, Sheila had always given me Christmas and birthday cards, including postcards from Hawaii. During after-school hours or school vacations, Sheila would also allow me to phone her at home. Other times I would walk with Sheila after school to her car after my having hung out inside her office once school had let out for the day. I remember one Easter back in 1982 Sheila had surprised me with a large chocolate Easter Egg enclosed with a Strawberry Shortcake Easter Card. I was quite surprised after all Sheila did not have to have given me anything, but she was extremely generous and good-hearted. 1982 was also the year that Sheila has begun referring me under sweet endearing nicknames such as "muffin" or "Chickadee." In my 1982 yearbook, Sheila wrote. “To a lovely Muffin.” Another memorable moment in 1982 is that I attended one of our school's drama productions where I not only had spotted Sheila in attendance but I also was introduced to her darling adorable then 8-year-old son. Sheila also allowed me to be seated next to them as we had watched the school's drama production. As I had briefly met Sheila's young son, I was envious of how he had such an impressive mum whom I had wished she was my mother too. I remember after the drama production had ended Sheila drove me home afterward without my even having asked her to. It would also have been marked as one of the several many drives to my home by Sheila.
1982-1983 was a teenage milestone for me, I was about to turn sixteen and once again Sheila surprised me with a gift and a very specially written birthday card. It had read the following:
Growing up is an exceedingly tricky thing to do. It is terrifying to leave the comforts of childhood and into adulthood. Pick up your load of responsibilities one at a time. Do not rush you have plenty of time.
Love Your Friend
The personally handwritten message above to me on my birthday card from Sheila had spoken VOLUMES as to show just how special I was to Sheila and just how much she TRULY had loved and understood me without her ever being judgmental towards me. As of the present day, I still have that special birthday card. In 1983 there was an incident that my best friend Ellen and I participated in that could have prevented us from being permanently banned from Sheila's office. What happened is that both Ellen and I had decided to snoop into a confidential file of a student that was filed away inside Sheila's filing cabinet. I do not know why Ellen and I have done what we did other than only plain curiosity, but I guess at the time of the above was also solely the case of major teenage stupidity that just invaded our brains. Anyhow, I guess as a form of revenge on us the guilt of our misdeeds had struck us like a bolt of thunder for what Ellen and myself had done so we both then had confessed and apologized to Sheila for our wrongdoings. To my surprise, Sheila did not seem to get angry or annoyed with me for my having snooped inside a student's file because she knew I would not go divulge personal information about someone to the whole school. Although Sheila was more annoyed with Ellen regarding the student file snooping incident. Ellen and I were lucky we were not permanently banned from Sheila's office due to our snooping and stupidity. When I think about it now, I noticed how Sheila had never become angry with me except for only on one occasion but to be honest I cannot seem to recall what I had done to have caused Sheila to be angry with me. However, on a few occasions, I have had witnessed Sheila become extremely angry about something unrelated to me or my having seen her crying in her office which was related to Sheila having found out that her cat had died at the vet and how she then had to break the heartbreaking news to her young son.
In late 1983 I had to secretly move to Edmonton Alberta with my mother for us to escape from my dangerously unpredictable, psychotic father. I was in no doubt extremely heartbroken and extremely homesick while having been away from Sheila and my friends while I was living in Edmonton. Although a few months before I had to move to Edmonton Sheila surprised me by her taking me out for lunch as a farewell to me. Sheila knew just how top-secret my move to Edmonton was to be for the sake of protecting my mother's safety, as well as mine, away from the psychotic hands of my father.
In my school yearbook that year Sheila once again had signed it, saying. “.. I will miss my friend very much.” S. Maurer. However, after I had moved to Edmonton. Sheila and I had continued to write letters to one another back and forth, as well as my having racked up the long-distance phone bill due to my having called Sheila on a couple of occasions aside from my also having called my two older sisters back home to Vancouver.
I will never forget one of the first letters I had received from Sheila which had arrived months after I had moved to Edmonton. What I recall about one of the letters how it started from Sheila's letter intro which not only was written cursively in Red felt ink, but was stated as follows: “Dear Marina, I'm finally sitting locked inside my office with a cup of coffee, with the door closed without no interruptions.” Then later, as I had read the rest of the letter, Sheila had filled me in with the events at Gladstone and the going on of some of the other Gladstone students I knew. I also recall Sheila also mentioned in the above letter how some of the kids had also known I had moved away or had asked about me. Although Sheila never told any of the students who had asked about me as to whereabouts to which I had moved. It surprised me to hear how some of the students at Gladstone had asked about me while I was living in Edmonton. Why? Because I did not think many kids at Gladstone cared about me or as to my whereabouts, nor did I think many of the school's student body had even liked me personally, especially since I was not exactly a popular student. However, it was unfortunate that for some reason I had not managed to have saved any of Sheila's letters to me.
As Christmas 1983 had approached I had spent the Christmas holidays back home in Vancouver with my sisters. My mother had remained behind in Edmonton. However, Sheila knew I was going to be spending Christmas in Vancouver and I have mentioned to her that my mother had made her something incredibly special for Christmas which unknown to Sheila it was a beautiful needlepoint portrait that took my mother over a year to complete. I had brought along Sheila's Christmas gift from my mum with me to Vancouver in preparation for my giving it to Sheila. A couple of days before Christmas Sheila had decided with me to personally come over to meet me at my eldest sister's place for us to have seen one another again and of course for me to present her with my mum's Christmas gift. I will never forget the look of Sheila's surprised, beamed face after she had opened my mother's needlepoint gift. Words cannot describe how much my mother's gift had touched Sheila, but it did, nevertheless. Because once I returned to Edmonton after the Christmas holidays, I had received an incredibly special letter written from Sheila not only thanking my mother for the wonderful Christmas gift but parts of the following handwritten message in her letter had etched in my mind years later which had stated as follows:
" I have your gift hung up on my wall, every time I look at it it would make me think of you both (my mother and me). " You will always have a special spot in my heart".
That phrase "You will always have a special place in my heart" made me feel as if Sheila truly had loved me as if she viewed me as a daughter she never had, in other words, I was certainly someone incredibly special as well as extremely dear in Sheila's eyes which little did, I know such a feeling from Sheila would have remained permanently for years to come.
Despite the continued letter writing to Sheila while living in Edmonton, I was having tremendous difficulties adjusting to living away from my friends, my two older sisters, and my new school. Due to severe homesickness and my coming back to Edmonton in tears after the Christmas holidays in Vancouver my mother had asked me whether I had wanted to move closer to the family, whereas we would both have ended up moving to Victoria, B.C. soon afterward. I, of course, more than welcomed the opportunity to move since I hated living in Edmonton. So, in early 1984 my mother and I had crammed all our belongings in a rented U-Haul trailer attached to our old beat-up Ford Torino and drove to Vancouver stopping there briefly before we moved to Victoria. My living in Victoria was noticeably short-lived due to my having had difficulties adjusting to being away from my friends and two older sisters despite every other weekend I would have taken the ferry to Vancouver. On June 30, 1984, my mother and I had risked our safety by permanently moving back to Vancouver from Victoria just three weeks before my father's sudden suicide(hanging) on July 11, 1984, which was a major signal to the end of the constant running and hiding from my father my mother and myself had to endure. My father's death was also an enormous relief from the constant violent arguments between my parents and the death threats made to my mother by my father. And finally, my father's death had removed the fears I had towards my father in general. Within days after my father's death, I informed Sheila about it since she already knew about a lot of the dysfunctional family chaos that went on around my place while my father was alive. Sheila was quite surprised upon hearing the above bad news although she told me it was OK to cry if I needed to even though I wasn't having too much of a difficult time handling my father's death despite the guilt and self-blame I had put upon me as the cause of my father's death which I had never had mentioned about it to Sheila nor did I even tell her that I felt that the reason for my father's death was that he didn't love his own family nor he was unable to find my mother as if his death was my father's way of him punishing my mother and the rest of my family.
In September 1984 I went back to Gladstone where I had started grade 11. I was so happy to be back at Gladstone and be around Sheila every school day and for me to re-establish my friendship with my best friend Ellen who was about to graduate from Gladstone. Sheila made being in school bearable for me, especially by her allowing me to hang out at her office every day or her readjusting my course load so Ellen and I could have had some classes together. The 1984-1985 school year had come and gone without any serious issues, although my favorite memory of that year is that one momentous school day in 1985 my best friend Ellen and I were eating lunch together with Sheila inside Sheila's office. As the three of us were all talking, I recall noticing Sheila laughing and looking at me funny, which I could not comprehend why. Then Sheila good-naturedly giggling like a schoolchild had pointed out to me that the zipper on my pants had come undone. My face no doubt had turned RED like a tomato in embarrassment. My friend Ellen not only sympathized with my embarrassing situation, but she and I had hatched a plan to find a way to get back at Sheila for her embarrassing me. And the funny thing is that before Ellen and I had hatched a plan of prank revenge on Sheila. Sheila herself had admitted while chuckling how she had expected Ellen and me to plan some type of revenge. Anyhow the prank revenge was that Ellen had created this long message which was written inside some like a small handmade paper booklet where each page had said a word or two on it until it reached the final trick(prank) at the bookend. Inside the book it said as follows:
The above message, of course, was untrue since anybody including Sheila and those who knew me in high school already had known I was never with any boys, to begin with. So, when Sheila got wind of the so-called message written inside the small booklet, she ALMOST believed it. However, when Sheila finally realized Ellen and I had pranked her as a form of revenge she burst into hysterical laughter because she admitted once again that she had expected revenge from Ellen and me. Another memory of Sheila during 1985 is how she had ENCOURAGED ME to stand up to Ellen after her having treated me unfairly and Sheila mentioning to me, she was so proud of me after I had stood up to Ellen. I remember my having walked straight back to Sheila's office just before she had left for the day announcing to her how I had stood up for myself towards Ellen. As for the private heart-to-heart chats I had with Sheila during the 1984-1985 school year I vaguely recall sitting with Sheila inside her office whereas at one point I had ended up talking about my father's suicide. The only thing I now can recall about my above private conversation with Sheila, was of her saying to me "It still bothers you, doesn’t it?" Sheila's above question to me was about my father's suicide. I gather my father's suicide did bother me because I had felt embarrassed by it. If I had told people about the cause of my father's suicide, I had the fear that others would have thought I had come from a crazy family. And I also had felt that my father's suicide was a family secret. However, for some unknown reason I had did not end up mentioning to Sheila my conclusions behind my father's suicide nor did I even add the fact that I had put self-blame upon myself for the cause of my father's death which seemed to transpire soon after my father's suicide.
Sheila also cared about my health as well too. I recall there were two unique occasions she had given me money without my asking for me to get myself a doughnut from the school Cafeteria during our mid-morning break in between classes. Sheila did not like the fact that I was starving just two hours before lunch so as always, she urged me to go grab a doughnut. Another interesting twist of events that had occurred at my school (Gladstone) during the 1984-1985 school year. For starters, some of the students at my school had decided to participate in a school walkout as a protest to the cutbacks to public Education by our Provincial government. However, I did not participate in the school walkout because not only had Sheila strongly discouraged me from participating, but she was also afraid I would get arrested by the police if the school walkout had gone out of control. As it turned out my school, as the result of its student walkout, had made it to the evening’s 6 o clock news.
As the 1984-1985 school year had drawn to a close once more Sheila had signed my yearbook stating. " It has been a pleasure to have you back". S. Maurer.
As 1985-1986 school year had begun it also marked as a milestone year for me due to not only some of the major events that took place in the world or here in Vancouver, such as the World's Exposition A.K.A. Expo86 which I was also a participating performer at the World's Exposition opening day, but it was the year that I would finally graduate grade 12 from Gladstone Secondary. 1985-1986 was also the same year that I would have had my 19th birthday the following December which once again Sheila had given me a birthday card on the day of my birthday. I do not recall if the card was enclosed with a gift but no matter because the card itself was enough. I recall hearing my sister mention to my mother how she had felt that I would never graduate from High School due to my having continued academic difficulties in school. Little did my eldest sister Gordana know that I would eventually have proven her wrong. At the beginning of the school year, I had thought of seriously dropping out of high school, due to not only my continued struggles with academics but also not enjoying school very much. I must have told Sheila about my thoughts of dropping out of grade 12 because she discouraged me from dropping out of school and instead have wanted to see me walk across the stage at graduation. Sheila had made a promise that she would not leave Gladstone until after she had seen me walk across the stage at my graduation. It was a promise Sheila had never failed to keep. So, in turn, Sheila had made sure I had enough of the required course load for me to graduate, and the only reason I did not drop out of school was that I knew then I would be leaving Sheila back at Gladstone. Another thing, Sheila attempted to make my school social life more bearable by her pairing me up with a quiet sweet Asian girl named "Diane" who was two grades behind me. I guess the main reason for Sheila pairing me and Diane was for me to have someone to hang out with who was closer to my age, especially since my best friend Ellen had graduated from Gladstone just a few short months before I was about to begin my final year at Gladstone. Diane and I became friends quickly when we both have hanged out in Sheila's office every day, Sheila welcomed us both. Diane and I would be spending most of our time talking and joking around with Sheila in her office or we would be busily chasing after a cute guy Jose who was in my graduating class whom Diane had a crush whereas she and I would slip little secret notes through Jose's locker. However, I guess the secret notes did not seem to bother Jose because I think he had suspected I was the author of the notes in his locker. The reason I had felt that Jose had thought I had a crush on him was due to him having written an extremely sweet message in my yearbook leaving me his phone number. And he was the same guy I had a photo taken of us on the night of my high school graduation. I never pursued Jose due to my not having been interested in him in general. As for Diane, she was too shy to show any further interest towards Jose other than the slipping of the secret notes through his locker during the school year.
1986 was going to be the challenging months to complete my final year at Gladstone. What I remember about early 1986 is my walking into Sheila’s office during a mid-morning break in between classes and hearing Sheila mention that the Space Challenger had exploded moments after its launch into space which in no doubt was a major news tragic event that had shocked the world back in 1986. Another thing, 1986 was also the year I had gone through School work experience as I had worked in a Pre School setting. Although my work experience had almost caused me to not only lose my graduating year, I had also missed a lot of school due to my having developed my first extreme case of bronchitis. I was ill with bronchitis throughout my whole spring break of that year. Anyhow it took me almost 2 months to fully recover from bronchitis. The only way I had managed to stay barely afloat academically from failing my graduating year is due to my mother having gone to my school to not only pick up my assignments but to personally inform all my teachers that I was extremely sick at home. I also had informed Sheila that I was ill. By the time the opening day of Expo86 had begun, I was almost fully recovered from my bronchitis where I was able to participate with my friend Diane as us both being part of a performing Flag-Waving brigade on Expo 86 opening Day at Canada Place in Vancouver, a memorable day in history for me since I was to have been one of the many Exposition Performers to welcome Prince Charles and Princess Diana upon their arrival at Canada Place and along the grounds of our Worlds Exposition in Vancouver.
On the evening of June 6, 1986, was the night of my High School graduation at Gladstone, I was feeling overly excited but nervous at the same time. On the morning of my graduation, I only had gone to school to attend the graduation rehearsal before having gone home for the rest of the day to prepare for the evening graduation festivities. However, Sheila had informed me beforehand to stop by her office after I was done with the graduation rehearsals. As I had later stopped by Sheila's office before, I had gone home for the rest of the day I noticed that Sheila had given me a graduation card enclosed with a small gift box. I had opened the box to find a bracelet that had come with a small charm that had an engraving of a graduation cap on it. I, of course, had thanked Sheila for such a generous gift because she did not have to have bought me a gift. Before I had left the school for the rest of the day Sheila also had given me a small pep talk to remind me to "SMILE" after my name was called for me to come up on stage during the graduation ceremony. After Sheila's little pep talk, I went home to get myself prepared for my graduation that night. The complete day was spent being primped and made over with the help of my two older sisters. I recall I even received a little wrist corsage from my mother to wear. Before I was driven to the school an hour early before the graduation ceremony graduation photos of me with the family were taken outside around our house. I had even invited some of my friends, including Diane, to attend the graduation ceremony. During the graduation ceremony, my name was finally called, and I had managed to have walked up across the stage without a hitch while displaying a radiant confident smile as I had shaken the school Principal's hand. At the very moment, a professional photographer had taken a photo of me as I had shaken the principal’s hand which to this present day, I still have the photo. After the graduation ceremony had ended, I managed to meet up with my family and friends at the School Cafeteria which was where a little mini graduation prom was held for its graduates and their family members as well as friends. It was there I had managed to bump into Sheila who greeted me very warmly and who mentioned to me how proud she was of me as to how well I had not only had composed myself as I had walked up on stage during the graduation ceremony but that I had kept my promise to her that I would smile. As it turned out Sheila also did manage to keep her promise she had made to me at the beginning of the year about her watching me walk up the stage at graduation without fail. A week after graduation I managed to obtain my final yearbook. In the yearbook, Sheila had stated. " The absolute best wishes to my friend. Thanks for all the help in the office, we have had a lot of fun. Smile and get a life". S. Maurer.
Two weeks after my graduation Sheila had taken me out for a farewell lunch, she also included my friend Diane to tag along with us. The week after my lunch with Sheila after I had completed my English 12 Provincial Exam, I had finally walked out through the school doors at Gladstone for the final time but as a Gladstone high school student graduate. During the late summer of 1986, I had received my official British, Columbia, Dogwood High School Diploma in the mail. The above diploma was started officially in writing that I had graduated from Gladstone Secondary School, in June 1986. An impossible challenging feat I thought would never be remotely possible.
In September 1986 I had attended Vancouver Community College, King Edward Campus here in Vancouver. I did not have a specific course major or career in mind due to my having been unsure what I had wanted to do after I had left Gladstone, so I spent most of the year just taking general English and office-related courses. During my first term in college, I not only had my 20th birthday on the following December, but College for me was a major adjustment academically and socially, it was also an adjustment from my not being around Sheila every day as I had grown accustomed to although sometimes when I was on my way to school or after my classes I would drop by Gladstone to visit Sheila. There were times during that year I had wanted to have several private heart-to-heart chats with Sheila as well. It was also during the early first term of my attending college when Sheila had informed me that my friend Diane was diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia. At the present day, I was not surprised by Diane's Schizophrenia diagnosis because she displayed symptoms of the illness such as paranoid delusions that the entire school was talking about her which appeared months before having been officially diagnosed. Although back in late 1986, I was not aware of the existence of Schizophrenia and its symptoms. Anyhow, both Sheila, myself, and some of the members of my family had visited Diane after she was admitted to the Psychiatric Ward at Vancouver, Health Sciences Centre (formerly Vancouver, General Hospital). So, while Diane was battling Schizophrenia during the above period little did, I know a few short months later I would have a battle to deal with that would have changed my life and future forever.
In January 1987 I was about to start my second term at Vancouver Community College, King Edward Campus here in Vancouver, Canada. A month later after my 20th birthday was the start of my being sexually assaulted by my mother's then common in law partner Ivan whom I at one point not only had trusted and viewed as a father I never had but whom my mother and I had been living with for over a year. The assault perpetrated on me by my mother's now ex-common law (Ivan) had lasted for several months only because I was sexually naive for my age, too frightened to say anything to anyone including Sheila. My being sexually assaulted no doubt had beyond traumatized me beyond the point it had changed my life and future forever. For example, since my having been sexually assaulted I have had issues with severe bouts of several anxiety disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder which affected my ability to make any career, employment, or educational goals. And as the result of my above traumatic sexual experience, I had and still have issues with trusting men or people in general which continues to this day despite my having sought therapy. During the aftermath of my having been sexually assaulted by Ivan, I wanted to confide to Sheila about it what I had gone through during the first several months of 1987 regarding Ivan's sexually disgusting, criminal actions towards me. However, I was at first afraid to have mentioned anything to Sheila due to my having felt embarrassed along with a lot of guilt about it as if it were my fault. Before I had told Sheila what has happened to me I at first mentioned it to my friend Diane about it although I had given her permission to mention it to Sheila. Two weeks before I had left for Europe with my mother to get away from the emotionally charged traumatizing aftermath of my having been assaulted by Ivan, I had dropped by Sheila's office at Gladstone and have briefly told her what I had already told Diane. After telling Sheila about the above traumatic experience her response surprised me. Instead, all Sheila could muster is asking me as to "why didn't I say no?" I could not recall what I have said back to Sheila in return but was surprised by her response because she knew how I was extremely passive by nature plus I always had issues being assertive when I needed to do so. On the other hand, I do not feel that Sheila's above response towards my traumatic experience was a form of her being insensitive to my situation, but I guess the shock of my news had thrown her for a loop. Although today, when I think about how Sheila had responded to my traumatic sexual experience by Ivan back in 1987, I think Sheila had felt uncomfortable because I recall sometime beforehand, where Sheila had mentioned to me how she could never specialize in counseling because of sexual abuse victims or survivors. Why? Because she would not be able to manage it. Furthermore, hearing such an admission from Sheila about her thoughts about sexual abuse or how she had reacted towards my traumatic sexual experience, I would never have held anything against her, she is human. After I had returned from Europe during the summer of 1987 I stayed connected with Sheila and my friend Diane who had graduated from Gladstone in June of 1988 it was also the final year Sheila had not only worked at Gladstone but in the fall of 1988, Sheila had transferred to another High School which was closer to her home. June of 1988 was to have been the last time I would have seen Sheila, which happened to be at Diane's High School graduation until 20 years later.
As the 1980s had ended and the 1990s had come about I stayed connected with Sheila by phone letting her know of all the news that was going on in my family and myself such as letting her know that I had finally moved out on my own at age 28 to an apartment my mother had purchased for me to live in. Sheila continued to send me Christmas cards and postcards from places such as Holland. in the early 2000s Sheila had sent me a photo of her enclosed inside a Christmas card, she had sent me. In the early 2000s, Sheila also had retired after having worked in the public High School system for 3 decades.
On August 31, 2008, I had moved out of my old apartment in Vancouver, recall as I woke up on my final morning in my old bedroom at my old apartment on moving day I briefly had burst into tears, it hit me that it was goodbye apartment thanks to my mother. I quickly phoned Sheila before my mother had arrived to help clear my things out of the apartment. I mentioned to Sheila how I had burst into tears upon waking up, Sheila understood and assured me it was OK for me to cry. I think my having spoken to Sheila that morning somehow had given me the strength to have gone through the rest of the moving day without me emotionally breaking down.
On the first week of September 2008, I was busily settling into my new apartment. And it was also during that first week I had happened to notice a second-hand computer desk at a consignment store which I, of course, put on hold for it to be picked up. The problem was that I did not own a van or a car for me to be able to take it home nor did I have friends that drove or owned cars. So, in turn, I had thought for sure my mother, or my two older siblings would not have had an issue helping deliver the desk to my place. Boy, I was in shock my family REFUSED to help me with the delivery of my desk, ESPECIALLY MY MOTHER. Why? Because I stood up to my mother and family and told them how unfairly I felt they had treated me with the loss of my old apartment in Vancouver. Since my whole family is extremely dysfunctional, they do not or refuse to see me standing up for myself to them by expressing my feelings, etc. In my family's eyes my having stood up to them or my vocalizing my feelings about them treating me is a sign of me being NASTY. And so, because I have stood up for myself and had said what I had felt to each member of my family via a letter I was going to be PUNISHED for it. So, therefore, my getting help for anything from any family member would not have been permitted. I was of course pissed off and wondered what was I going to do about the desk? I later phoned Sheila about the issue with the desk whereas she was extremely appalled as to how my own family refused to help me, which she understood why I was upset about it. Instead, without even thinking of asking Sheila to help me with my desk dilemma, Sheila had then decided with me to meet her at the store where my desk was put on hold. I was like FLABERGASTED! especially since I did not even dream of asking Sheila to even do such a thing. Sheila told me not to ever mention to my family that she was going to come to help me in picking up and the delivery of my desk. I, of course, complied with Sheila's request about keeping everything secret.
Several days later I had met Sheila waiting out in front of the consignment store, it would have been exactly 20 years since I have last seen her in person. As Sheila had greeted me into a very warm welcoming hug, she surprised me by mentioning to me as to knowing and figuring out which desk it was that I had put on hold, I asked Sheila how did she know? But Sheila mentioned to me she just “knew.” Sheila's husband Frank was with her. I just could not believe someone like Sheila and her husband who would have driven down from near the University of British Columbia over an hour's drive to Burnaby just to help me. Sheila and her husband Frank made the effort to help me without asking nor expecting me to pay for the gas and mileage. Unbelievable! Sheila, Frank, and I all placed my desk inside their chocolate brown Volvo station wagon and headed out through the 15-minute drive towards my place. As we all got to my place Sheila, Frank and I managed to bring my desk into my apartment suite where we all helped put my desktop computer together onto the desk. Before Sheila had left my place, she glanced around my apartment suite and inquired to me if I needed a spare carpet for my bedroom she had or some other household items I may have needed that she had to spare. I graciously had thanked Sheila for her extreme kindness and offer and told her I was doing fine for the time being home furnishing-wise. Sheila then not only had complimented how nice my cat Scampie was whom she and her husband had met for the first time but had surprised me with an unopened package of spare flowery patterned pillowcases she had. I gather it was a housewarming gift. To this day I still own the same flowery pillowcases Sheila had presented to me back in 2008. September 2008 was the last time I would see Sheila in person and to this day my mother and family do not know anything about Sheila's visit back in 2008 either. During the remaining months of 2008, I continued to talk to Sheila via phone letting her know how I was doing emotionally wise, adjusting to my new apartment, or how I was dealing with my family's continued lack of emotional support towards me. In December 2008 after my 42nd birthday, I was in the process of planning to see Sheila and give her a special Christmas gift to thank her for being the tremendous “rock” that she was for me during the horrendous year I have had, as well as for having helped me, save my sanity, being there for me when I truly needed her. So, in turn, I not only had bought Sheila a Christmas gift and card, but I also have written her an extremely touching letter expressing my extreme gratitude among other things. The letter dated December 2008 had gone as follows:
I thought I would type up a letter here which I will later enclose inside the Christmas card I was about to send you since I am unable to see very well as I write on paper due to my eyes(cataracts). Words cannot express thanks for all your love and support for you being there for me during this extremely difficult year, if it were not for you, I do not know how I would have made it without my ending up in the psych ward. I especially want to thank you for trying to be there for me whenever I needed to talk to you and for putting up with all my phone calls to you. It is very much appreciated for you having to put up with me in the way that you have. You were a tremendous help in helping me to understand myself, and my family and your enormous support for you being there for me during mediation day, which was one of the most difficult days I had ever had to go through in my life. You are there for me on that day had given me the strength and courage to fight for what was mine and for me to stand up to my mother I do not think I would have been able to do it all alone if it were not for you. You and my therapist had both saved my sanity and are the only two people I truly trust and adore, as well as am comfortable with, and are both there for me when you both can. As I had said before I truly do not know how I would have had been able to have gone through this whole bad year without you. It’s funny how I have known you since 1980 and to this day you continue to look out for me and would do all you can to help me, especially when you had taken the time to help me with my computer desk by you and Frank coming over to help me with my computer desk by setting it up and such, especially since you had come a long way to make the effort to see me after 20 years. It was nice to see you again in person after 20 years, you still have not changed and are always the same Sheila who I had continued to like/love just as I always have. So, in my eyes, you are my guardian angel, especially this year, and I am glad you continue to be a part of my life and I am thankful we both have an incredibly special relationship that we have always had ever since my days back at Gladstone. I just wanted to give continued thanks for allowing me to talk to you when needed and for keeping you informed what’s going on with my life and such it means a lot and for the sake of my not sounding dependent on you, but I honestly do not know what I would have done without you being a part of my life, for all these years you helped me a lot this year and its too bad you weren’t my therapist(laughs) because like I had said you have done a lot and have kept me sane, you have encouraged me to stay strong no matter how things got bad for me this year. I wanted to give you something special for Christmas, but I did not know what you would enjoy but in either case, I hope I can see you during the holidays or sometime during the New Year. I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and let us hope that 2009 will be a better year for both of us. I just wanted to thank you for everything you have done for me this year and for continuing to be a part of my life which makes me feel so extremely fortunate. Thanks so much,
I later had found out from Sheila that she did indeed not only have something to give to me for Christmas in 2008 but she also had wanted to see me. However, the meeting back in December 2008 did not go as planned because Vancouver and the whole lower mainland area(suburbs) was plagued by a severely unusual snowstorm that caused everyone throughout the greater Vancouver area to be snowed into their homes for the entire 2008 Christmas season, And parts of the new year of early 2009.
In 2009 I had continued to stay connected with Sheila despite still having issues with my family. Throughout 2010 I had lost touch with Sheila due to my not having been able to reach her, especially since to this day she never had used Email or other social media applications. I had learned much later as to the reasons Sheila and me both had lost touch is due to her frequently being overseas in Holland for part of the year and then visiting her son and grandchildren in Chicago. Although since 2011, I have managed to reach Sheila off and on and I would still receive birthday or Christmas cards from her.
As of the present day, Sheila is now in her seventies, she is a grandmother to two granddaughters as well as has several nieces who are also a godmother as well. The last time I had heard from Sheila was through a Christmas card she had sent me back in 2017, and unfortunately, I have not heard from her since due to the extreme difficulties of my getting a hold of her by phone. Sheila will always be an extremely special person to me and in my heart, I love her very much as if she were a favorite extremely dear relative of mine. Words cannot describe just how special or important Sheila was and will always be to me. I have been so fortunate and blessed to have continued to have Sheila to be an important part of my life. Sheila was and will forever be like my guardian angel. Since social media had come about, I have spoken to past Gladstone graduates about Sheila on Facebook and every single person I had spoken to had nothing but extremely positive things to say about her. Past Gladstone students on social media also best described Sheila as "FANTASTIC WOMAN!” I even recall a former Gladstone graduate who graduated with my sister Danica, who mentioned to me how Sheila was the only adult authority figure at Gladstone who made a lot of sense about many things, compared to the other teachers at Gladstone. It was as if Sheila was coordinated with the students at Gladstone and was able to relate and have a tremendous understanding of the psyche of the young person’s mind. Many Gladstone graduates on Facebook also have even asked me whether I would give them Sheila's phone number so they can talk to her, but I did not want to divulge Sheila's phone number to anyone without Sheila's permission. All I know for certain is that there will never be another Sheila nor will there ever be anyone who will be completely identical to Sheila’s overall persona to be found in today's public or private school setting. I have met many nice people in the past such as professionals as nice my current therapist Barbara but as I said earlier not even, she or anyone else will ever even remotely match Sheila to a T! In any shape. In other words, the best way for me to describe Sheila to anyone is that she was and who will ALWAYS be an extremely rare valuable GEM of a person. If Sheila knew. about my having written and shared such a story about her to anyone as well as her reading it. I know she would be no doubt be deeply touched and proud. Sheila had always been my redeeming quality. God bless Sheila! I love her.
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