This year is different, though. All seven first-grade classes have been working on Father's Day projects to be sent home and saved for June 17.
Katie's teacher, Shannon, has been very sensitive about the projects. She told Katie that she could design her work for her grandfather or a special uncle. Or she could make things for her Daddy, who is always with her and will know what she's working on.
Katie opted for Steve projects. Every now and then over the past week she's told me that it makes her sad. I tell her that it makes me sad, too, and that I'm proud of her for using words to describe how she feels.
Today, though, she reached her limit, even after being exempted from some of the work.
She complained of a stomachache at school and eventually went to the nurse. She had no fever. I talked to her on the phone and surmised that she sounded blue but not in pain. Our wonderful nurse, Crystal, convinced Katie to return to class.
Shannon and I communicated by email. Shannon expressed concern that the Katie's stomachache was rooted in worries and sadness and suggested that Katie work on another project, outside the classroom, while the rest of the class finished their Father's Day work.
Shannon visited with art teacher Jennifer. When Katie's class was finished with library time, Shannon told her that Mrs. Hand needed some help with kindergarteners in art. Katie instantly brightened and headed to art -- her favorite of all the specials classes -- and helped a kindergartener catch up on some work.
After school, Katie told me all about her worry and sadness. She cried off and on for 30 minutes. I hugged her and told her it was OK to cry and that it's not fair and that sometimes I say "stupid tumor" in my head or out loud to help myself feel better.
She laughed. Even with permission -- "stupid" is a bad word around here -- she wouldn't say it.
She hasn't laughed much since. "This is one of the saddest days of my life," she says.
We're hoping that tomorrow is a little happier.
A friend's third-grade son is on a baseball team. Every year the team plays in tournaments on Mother's Day weekend and again on Father's Day weekend.
New this year on the team is a boy whose father was killed in car accident last August. This June 17 will be his first without his dad.
My friend is struggling with how to handle the out-of-state Father's Day tournament. Do they go on with the dad hoopla as usual? Nothing at all? Somewhere in between?
I offered a little advice and told her I'd also ask Cooper. After all, his first Father's Day without Steve was just after he finished third grade. He knows better than I what that feels like.
I explained the situation to Cooper.
"First of all," he asked, "does he go to Bledsoe? Because he needs Mrs. Williams as his counselor."
I told him that I don't know where he goes but that I hope he has a counselor as kind and helpful as Mrs. Williams.
He asked if the boy could invite a grandfather or uncle to the tournament instead. And he suggested that the team not make a big deal out of Father's Day this year.
"Next year will be OK," he said, "but not this year."