When I talked to Rosalie yesterday I promised her I would write an upbeat happy blob today. So, I am going to try to turn what would ordinarily be a sad story into a happy, happy, contribution.
When I was in seventh grade (and yes I do remember back that far), I had a favorite teacher. He was young, incredibly energetic, and along with being a coach, he taught health. You can only imagine what it must have been like to teach health to a bunch of horny kids, who have no idea why they are horny, but he had a great sense of humor and he hardly ever hung Freddy Boringer on a hook in the front of the classroom. (Don't ask, I was just happy it wasn't my cousin Stevie who spent a great deal of time on the hook, as well.)
Anyway, Coach Mol made us all feel comfortable about bodily functions and cleanliness discussions-- not necessarily at the same time. He showed movies and gave us books and occasionally he would diagram a football or basketball play. It was not an easy time for me because my dad was losing his ability to be mobile and I spent a great deal of time in a rage -- although I didn't know why I was angry at the time. I just was. And for whatever reason, when I was in Coach Mol's class, he made me feel like someone (not in my family) who really cared about me, how I felt, what I thought.
One day we were doing some kind of project which required paper and glue. Someone dumped glue on the floor. The Coach thought it was me. It wasn't. But I thought if I didn't take the blame, Stevie or Freddie would take the blame. So, there I was wiping the floor with a dirty rag and the Coach, trying to be funny, said I wasn't doing a good job. And that's all it took for the rage to return. My pal had betrayed my good deed. "It isn't good enough!" I yelled. And then I threw the gluey rag at him and fled to the girls room. Eventually I came out and there he was waiting at the girls room door. "I didn't do it," I said.
And he said, "I know that now, and I am so sorry kid. Sometimes adults make terrible mistakes, and what's really important is for you to accept my apology -- and never give up your sense of injustice.”
It was a lesson that stuck with me my whole life. You can look for injustice wherever, but never be afraid to admit you are wrong, or to apologize for a mistake.
The coach remained my pal throughout high school. He always called me “kid” and continued to be totally supportive of whatever crazy decisions I made. He was a Marine, and a rare human being. Of late, having been sick for quite sometime, he was living with his daughter in Ohio. I spoke to him right before Christmas. “Kid”, he said, “never lose hope. I am so proud of you and I know that whatever you decide to do, you will always make a difference.”
In the sadness about his loss, I feel comforted that he was surrounded by people who loved him and that he was always spirited and upbeat about life and death.
So Ro, I am sorry I couldn’t be absolutely happy, happy, but having had the benefit of the coach’s wisdom for so many years, I can’t help but smile whenever I think about the person, how centered he was, how he influenced so many lives, and how he loved me despite my politics.