Kids learn compassion from 'the grandma in the window'

A school bus can be a rough ride for kids sometimes.

A warmth radiates from school bus No. 7 on Carol Mitzelfeld's chilly morning route in Arlington. She knows all 90 of her students by name. There is a comfort and familiarity here that radiates well beyond the steamy windows of her bus -- all the way to a woman known as "the grandma in the window."

She is a 93-year-old lady who has been waving to the kids on the bus from her dining room window every school day for five years. The kids feel like she's a part of the family and always wave back.

"Carol was telling us that a lot of times she doesn't remember her daughter's name, but she always remembers to wave to the kids on the bus," said 7th grader Axtin Bandewerfhorst. "That made me feel really special."

But one day a few weeks ago, the window was empty. And the next day. And the next, as well.

Mitzelfeld found out grandma had suffered a stroke.

"It was kind of heartbreaking because she was always there," said Bandewerfhorst.

It turns out, grandma's name is Louise Edlen. She has 30 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren, and she's been married to her husband Dave for 53 years. Dave Edlen has spent the past three weeks holding his wife's hand at a rehabilitation center while she recovers.

"She's a very special lady," he said.

When Mitzelfeld found out about Lousie Edlen's stroke, she brought Edlen a bouquet of flowers.

The next day, a sign appeared in the dining room window that simply read, "Thank You."

"That made me really smile," said 10th grader Cheyanne Holt. "It shows how much we mean to her."

To show how much grandma means to them, the kids made their own sign for Louise. It's a large photograph showing all of the students waving from inside the bus.

"This is from the kids," Mitzelfeld told her. "They miss you and want you to get better."

The stroke has partially paralyzed Louise Edlen's throat, making it very difficult for her to speak, but the children inspire her.

"I miss them, too," she strained. "I'm trying to get better."

"It means everything in the world to her," said her husband Dave Edlen. "It gives her something to look forward to every day."

If all goes as planned, Louise Edlen will return home on Tuesday and promises to be back in her window, waving, by the time the children head home from school.


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