Day-care worker finds niche in second career
Thu, Jul. 03, 2003
Mary Beth Breckenridge
Elaina Schimer was spurning the attentions of the guy sitting next to her until he leaned over and made a delicious suggestion.
``I'll tell you what. How 'bout if I cut the little boys' ears off?'' he asked conspiratorially.
The 3-year-old's eyes widened, and a grin spread across her face.
She knew it was just all sweet talk, Flip Isaac style. But she loved it.
Isaac (his real name is Philip, but he joked that he's Flip to just about everyone except telemarketers and his aunt) is the financial manager and designated teaser at Children's Place, the child-care center at Stow United Methodist Church.
He calls the children ``varmints'' and ``critters'' because he never can remember the animal names assigned to each class. He takes joy in chasing them across a room and making mock threats to lop off ponytails and hang them on his wall. And all his taunts are met with howls and squeals of delight.
The children revel in his attention. They hang on to the sides of his wheelchair to discuss snakes and dogs and other matters of grave preschooler importance. They try to climb onto his footrests. They cluster behind his wheelchair to push him across the classroom, bumping him into walls and furniture along the way.
``You guys are dangerous!'' he exclaimed as four of them steered him into a child-size chair on a recent morning.
Isaac, 52, came to work at his church's child-care center after multiple sclerosis forced his retirement from Kent State University in 1980. His wife, Patti, was running the center's prekindergarten program at the time, and the center needed someone to handle the finances.
Isaac figured he had a choice: ``I could collect Social Security and sit at home,'' he said, ``or I could do this, come in and see people and talk to people.''
And maybe needle them a bit.
The way he looks at it, he may experience pain if he stays active, but he's going to hurt anyway if he stays home and does nothing. So he chooses the former.
It's a choice that has come with rewards.
``It's fun.... I treat them like my nieces and nephews. I tease them; they tease me,'' he said, adding wryly, ``Then I get to leave.''
Isaac usually spends six or eight hours a week at the center, and the rest of the time he works at home. One of the beauties of the job is that he can work around his and his wife's busy travel schedule. The two travel whenever they can, especially in the summer, when she has time off from her teaching job in Hudson.
He ticks off a litany of destinations: Venezuela, the Isle de Margarita, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel and so on. They like to see how the natives live, eat where the natives eat, he said. They've snorkeled and ridden horses on the beach.
``The wheelchair's never a concern,'' he said. ``There's always a way. But don't ask me how ahead of time.''
Indeed, Isaac rarely lets his illness get in his way. In the winter, he clears the snow at his home in Stow by holding the handle of a snow blower with one hand, operating an electric wheelchair with the other and steering with his feet. In the summer he likes to garden by crawling among the plants. He's usually up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. so he can put in some weight work at a health club before heading to his job.
He needs to keep up his strength so he can keep up with the little ones.
And keep up the teasing.
Copyright © 2003, Beacon Journal