Ken’s fatherly, friendly face greeted my daughter at the end of each school day for almost three years.
It was his face and comforting voice that her and her older sister saw after school, as they negotiated those first scary days in a new school. It wasn’t long before they discovered Ken the bus driver was someone who would bring them comfort, listen to their stories, and provide a welcome transition as they left the school day worries behind.
It was Ken who provided a safe haven to Ellie, our youngest, as she dealt with the nastiness of an unrelenting bully in Grade 1, of which we only learned the worst of after the year was over. I am so grateful she knew, that as she stepped on that bus for the 24-minute ride home, that there was a grown-up who really cared about her, with whom she felt safe, even if she didn’t have the words or thought process to express it.
So it came as shock last week when Ellie came home and told us Ken was “gone. I think he’s retired or something,” she said. When the new bus driver told her that Ken was assigned to a different route, we were all stunned. With my daughter looking to me for answers, it was time for me to contain my tears.
But once it was confirmed with his employer, and the reality sunk in, Ellie could not be consoled. Indeed, Ken was erased from her life, and the life of every child on that bus route, in the blink of an eye, and without so much as phone call to her school by the school bus company. I will simply miss having Ken in my child’s life much more than words can describe.
I would never, could never, go up to Ken and describe my own gratitude at his presence in my daughters’ lives. Nor can I verbally unload the grief that seeps through me, at having him so suddenly erased from our everyday.
I remember once day last year, when I picked her up at her stop, and as she climbed down the stairs, he looked at me, gave his usual wave and smile, and said “she’s one of the good ones.”
Right back atcha, Ken.