By Dermot Connolly
A new book by former Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann takes a humorous look at the predicament he and other parents found themselves in last spring — and still do — helping their children with remote learning while doing their own jobs.
“ Home School Hell With Saint Corona Up to Bat: A Widowed Father’s 70 Days in E-Learning Captivity” is the full title of the book now available on Amazon.
“ Like with every parent with school-age children, everything changed last March with the lockdown that closed schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was difficult but there were a lot of funny things that happened too,” said Heilmann.
“ I felt this was a time that everybody I knew was under an awful lot of stress. It is times like this when you have to see the humor. I think it is important and healthy to do that,” said Heilmann.
“ It raises the endorphins and helps with depression,” he noted, citing studies that show there is a lot of truth to the old adage that “laughter is the best medicine."
In a recent presentation on the Amazon Prime series SpeakUP called “Humor on Trial,” he discussed the value of humor when dealing with stress has been recognized by studies done at the Mayo Clinic, NASA, and Oxford and Stanford universities
Heilmann, a labor and employment attorney, already had the stress of juggling a law practice while raising four children alone. His wife, Erica, died in September 2018, following a long battle with cancer.
His children range from his eldest, Natalie, who was a high school senior when the pandemic hit; followed by Joey, a freshman; Mikey, in seventh grade; and Brooke, who was in third grade. So he had a variety of classroom work to manage.
“ You have to laugh when you can’t figure out a third-grade math problem using Common Core math,” said Heilmann.
The book also finds the funny side of having to deal with things like infected Monopoly dice and even the fact that there really is a St. Corona.
Heilmann pointed out that St. Corona, who died in 170 AD, was venerated as the patron saint of treasure hunters until 2020, when pandemics was added to her responsibilities, according to Wikipedia.
Writing wasn’t entirely foreign to him. He has a degree in journalism and he and Erica were very involved in community theater in Oak Lawn.
“ In the theater world, I was involved in writing a series of holiday plays called ‘Believe in Your Elf,’” said Heilmann, which were staged in Oak Lawn.
He also is a founding member of The Headliners Consultants, a corporate organization that provides entertaining communications training using humor, music and education. He is also a former on-camera and voiceover actor. As mayor, he used humor to get drivers to pay attention to stop signs by adding phrases like “in the name of love” to them.
But this endeavor was a bit different.
“ I knew this was going to be a historic experience, so I wanted to write it down for my children so they would remember what it was like,” said Heilmann.
“ I wrote it as a diary of what was happening every day, starting March 21 and ending May 30. It begins and ends with a letter to my wife, telling her what was going on here on Earth, in the time of COVID-19,” he said.
In those heartfelt letters, he laughs about having to do endless loads of laundry without help from her mother, because they decided it would be safer not to visit. He shares his worries also, and the importance of staying healthy for the sake of his children.
Heilmann said that despite all the stress of remote learning and keeping his family safe and healthy during the pandemic, he treasures the family time that it has given him.
“ Let’s face it, I don’t know how many more days I will have with all my children at home with me,” he said.