by Kerstin Auer from Merritt, BC
Mar 15, 14
My son has always been a little on the shy and anxious side.
When we decided to move to Canada I was worried. Not just because we were leaving behind good jobs and a relatively comfortable life. Nor because we had no idea if my husband would actually like his new job or what our life here would be like.
My biggest worry was how the kids - who both didn’t speak English - would adjust. To be honest, I was mainly worried about my son. My daughter has always been pretty laid back; she has yet to find a situation that makes her anxious.
I was way more worried about Marius. Marius was in Grade 1 when we moved.
He landed in Vancouver five days before the first day of school.
I went with him, that day, and stayed a while, and watched him nearly collapse in anxiety - until Steve Carroll came along.
Steve was the school librarian. He was unlike anyone I had ever met before. He took Marius under his wing from Day One. Tall, gentle, and smiling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a smile.
Marius soon became Steve’s library helper. It wasn’t long before he knew all the tricks of the trade. Every morning he would be in the library 30 minutes before school to help Steve check in books, organize the shelves and turn on the computers. Every afternoon he would stay and close the blinds, put up the chairs and turn off the computers.
Steve became Marius’ mentor and friend. He managed to turn my shy little guy into a confident kid, a kid who could run the library all by himself. Before long Marius was looking forward to going to school every single day.
After three years, Steve got sick. Overnight, he disappeared from school. We were told he wouldn’t be coming back for a while. We live in a small town, so it didn’t take long to hear what was going on – Steve had brain cancer.
Marius decided that while Steve was gone he would run the library to the best of his ability – by himself . He would look after things until Steve returned. He wanted to make him proud.
Last year on Father’s Day, two months after Steve had gotten sick, we ran into him and his son when we were coming back from a camping trip. We were standing by our RV at the dump station. Steve made his son stop their car. He got out and went to Marius to hug him.
Big gentle smile. We all hugged. Steve actually looked pretty good. He was gaunt, and frail and his hair had gone completely white, but his skin had good colour. And that gentle smile.
I knew from Marius’ principal that Steve’s tumour had affected his speech and that he could not talk well. He tried. But in the end we just smiled and hugged.
When we got home I just could not hold it together anymore. Tears were running down my face. My heart was broken, for Steve and for my little guy, but Marius was happy to have seen him. Marius had a big smile on his face.
I asked him if he was doing OK. He said: “Yes mom, I’m fine. It was great to see him. And it doesn’t matter that he can’t talk. When you work with someone as closely as Mr. Carroll and I did for the last three years, you know them so well that you know exactly what they want to say anyway.”
That was the last time we saw Steve. He passed away six weeks later.
A few months after he died Steve’s wife came to see me at work. She told me that one day when they had been driving to Steve’s hospital appointment he had asked