is the best prayer
that anyone could say.
~Alice WalkerThis is the not-so open-letter to one of the people who saved my life. He has no idea. If I told him, he’s the kind of person who would laugh it off and say it was no big deal. I most likely cannot get through this post without crying. Many may not understand this because they’ve never had a teacher like him; hell, many may not have ever met anyone in their lives like him.
This post isn’t about seeing The Cure with him yesterday, nor is it about seeing The Cure with him twenty-four years ago. We both attended The Prayer tour in 1989; I had nosebleed seats and his were amazing. Neither of us could recall the name or the year of the tour that we intentionally attended together. Or rather, I decided I was attending the show with him because he gets the best seats. I looked it up. It turns out that it was The Wish tour in 1992- May 26, 1992. Weird. All these memories flood back thanks to the interwebs and those sticklers for details. I also know that my first concert was August 22, 1989 and I can even see a playlist. The world is so very strange in 2016.
Last night, our seats were amazing thanks to him. My fella reminded me to be *present* so I did not take many pictures. This was a helpful reminder. It was also something that was puzzling: watching three 20-something goth girls *sitting* and scrolling through Facebook while the band was playing. I still cannot process that. Our tickets were pricey; why would one waste one's time on social media when there was a live band right there?!?
But then, I'm not sure if I was exactly present per se last night. I went back to August 1989 when I met my first love of my life; it was four months before Shawn would shoot himself and this man would gently tell my friends and me to move away from my friend's coffin before we knocked it over.
He did not behave the way that most teachers behaved. He wasn’t a mother who told you how to pray for your dead friends when she had never buried a best friend. Burying your best friends before they turned 18 is different than burying relatives. Once an ex told my fella that she understood how she felt burying his father because she had lost a grandmother. F*** you; you cannot understand that in the way that I cannot imagine burying a parent! But, I know where to go for support when that happens. Being 15 and then 16 and then 17 and then 18 and then 29…burying friend after friend, I had nowhere I believed I could go. People aren’t going to be able to relate to that experience. I'm always puzzled when someone has not attended a friend's funeral; how did they get so lucky?
Before any of that, I met Mr. M. when I was in sixth grade. He was friends with my best friend’s parents. We all went skiing. My friend would die at 29 in a boating accident just shy of our shared birthdays. He was at her wedding and he was at her funeral... just as I was.
Mr. M. was the teacher who, on a school night, flew across country to meet friends and see a Depeche Mode concert and brought me back a tshirt. Last night we stayed in a hotel in Colombia, MD before driving the 126 miles home this morning. Mr. M. left last night around midnight so that he could be at work by 6:30 am this morning. He is now the man who will fly out to Belgium for the Tomorrowland festival alone as a 60th birthday gift to himself. I doubt I’ll ever be as cool as that.
I’ve seen him here and there over the years but last night felt as though time had not passed.
If I could write a letter to my 15-year-old self, she would not be able to fathom that I was 42 seeing The Cure with my husband and Mr. M. in 2016.
What the letter would reveal would confirm all the words that Mr. M. had assured my 15 yr old self’s friends and little me: life will be hard but it will continue.
Adults don’t say that shit to kids. They tell them to stop crying; they say shit like, “God needed another angel” and “If you cry, your loved one’s flame will be snuffed”… y’all, I cannot make up this stuff.
How can one say thank you to someone for giving her hope? How can one say thank you for being so human?
I do not think I’ve ever met another adult like him but I’ve always hoped that something about his character rubbed off on me so that I am at least a fraction of that awesome.