Friday, June 17, 2016

Remembering Mr. N.

Do you ever find yourself idly Googling people from your past, to find out what's happened to them?  I do -- and sometimes I'm not prepared for what I find.

(Like learning that my party-hearty idiot sort-of boyfriend from first-year university is now not only married (!!) but to a woman who is active in Christian women's ministry!!!  -- AND, to boot, is the father of not just one, not just two, but FOUR teenaged daughters!!  Karma lives!! bahahaha!!) 

I'm not sure what prompted me to Google my Grade 8 English teacher the other night -- but (perhaps because of his slightly uncommon last name) I found him in about two seconds flat. There was a photo. He was much greyer than I remembered, with a goatee (!), but it was definitely him. 

And he was dead. The photo was attached to an obituary. He's been dead for 10 years now.

I was taken aback. My first thought was that he was way too young to be dead. And he was. He was just 57 when he died. (I gather it was a sudden thing, as the obituary mentioned the family's "shock.")  Which means he was just (holy cow...) 25 years old when he was my teacher in 1974-75, more than (gulp) 40 years ago now.

This was just a few years after the heyday of the hippies -- and he WAS a bit of a hippie -- certainly in comparison to the other, older teachers we had. A classic early baby boomer, I guess. He wore his hair longish (as a lot of young guys did then). There's a photo in one of my yearbooks of him playing his guitar in class, although I don't remember him doing it myself. We used to sometimes make fun of him for trying to act young & hip -- of course, at 13-14 ourselves, he certainly seemed old enough to us. 

But he was a good teacher, and his class was probably my favourite that year. I don't remember much of what we read, but I do remember "Cue for Treason" early that fall. We wrote a lot of short stories, for which he gave out "Silver Pen Awards" (I got several of them). We did a newspaper project, which whetted my appetite for a career in journalism. We had to make an appointment to come talk to him after regular class hours about the books we were reading, several times during the year (no problem for me, of course...!).  At one such session, he told me his mother had read the same book I had just read, & had given his sister the same unusual name as the heroine.

I was new to town/the school that year, a shy, gawky 13-year-old (what a horrible age), and he was always very kind & encouraging, particularly when it came to my writing. Yes, I probably had a bit of a crush on him ;) even though he wasn't classically handsome, and my 13-year-old self would have been horrified at the thought. ;) 

He co-coached our drama club the following year, when I was in Grade 9 and my sister was in Grade 8 -- we did a one-act play that won first prize at the local arts festival that year -- and then I went on to high school and didn't see much of him after that. He seemed like a perpetual bachelor, but he I heard he did eventually get married, & his obituary listed two children.

I remember writing a note of thanks several years ago to my high school English teacher. (Once I got to university, I realized just how much better prepared I was than the vast majority of my class and dorm mates, who didn't have a clue about how to research or structure a proper term paper, let alone citations -- thank you, Mr. P!) It was something I had meant to do for a long time, and I am so glad I finally did it, before he retired.

I wish I had done the same for Mr. N., while he was still here.

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