This morning I ran 15 miles through the frozen countryside. The farmlands were brilliant at dawn with a fresh wisp of new snow atop the glacial remains of all the storms before. All but the first and last 4 miles were treacherous ice and snow, and my mind was as exhausted as my body at the end from concentrating so hard on not falling.
But before my feet touched the floor today, I received news that one of my favorite teachers died. I still haven’t allowed myself to process it. I suppose I deal with death in an ambivalent way; I don’t want to feel the pain of it.
Mr. G., our well-loved wrestling coach and social sciences teacher believed in me and made me feel like I had something to contribute. Gentle and kind, but firm, he was my champion and encouraged my intellectual curiosity and praised my young talents. He smiled in amusement when I challenged ideas in the classroom instead of punishing me.
In the summer of 2012, some 34 years later, I ran a trail marathon in Indiana, and Mr. G. showed up. It was an awful drought, and the temperatures were well into the 90’s. He was there when I crossed the finish line after 6 grueling hours of hell. My own father said he would come and didn’t.
Yes, Coach G. made a mark on me. He was a teacher worthy of the title, so unlike the morons teaching my kids today who think it’s their job to grade papers and my job to do the rest. I loved him, and I’m grateful that our paths crossed in this lifetime.
R.I.P. Coach G. You’re a good soul.