In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years. ~Jacques Barzun, French-American historian and writer
I just learned that one of my former teachers died last year … from COVID-19.
And if you don’t personally know anybody who has contracted or died from that dreaded virus, count yourself lucky.
The news of Mr. D.’s death took me way back to high school.
It was the first day of my senior year, and I was sitting in English class. In walked this tiny, wee man with high-pitched voice, thinning hair, and glasses.
He immediately took charge.
It must’ve been hard for him. Most of the boys and nearly all the girls were taller than he, it was his first year teaching, and we weren’t known for our obedience.
As the old saying goes, We’d pick a fight at the drop of a hat, and we’d drop it ourselves.
But Mr. D. made class FUN. We listened to popular music and dissected the lyrics; we had fascinating discussions of world events and philosophy. We learned to be open to new ideas and to appreciate the English language.
I imagine none of us properly thanked him.
Fast-forward a few years.
I’d moved back to Illinois and was outside walking when our paths crossed again.
He was an avid walker, too, and we spent lots of time walking and chatting — catching up on former classmates, discussing my career, bending Dallas’s ear with small talk. Even someone who wasn’t particularly enamored of dogs liked Dallas.
When my son was in high school, he, too, met Mr. D., only this time, the latter had retired from active teaching and was working as a teachers’ mentor. Mr. D. took an avid interest in Domer’s education and career path, never failing to inquire how he was doing.
Sadly, by the time I needed Beta readers for my first novel, Mr. D. had developed eye issues and wasn’t able to help; however, he did recommend another wonderful educator, who provided much-needed real-world advice for me.
More time passed, and Mr. D. was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. His family placed him in a nursing facility a half-hour away from here.
Nobody counted on COVID rearing its ugly head. Mr. D. caught it and succumbed.
There was no announcement in the newspaper. No public visitation or services were held, to my knowledge.
And it makes me genuinely sad to think a man can live, positively impact entire generations, then die with nobody to take notice.
Perhaps now, when the Delta variant is circulating, we should remember the basics:
- Wash your hands … often
- Stay 6 feet from others not living under your roof
- Avid crowds and spaces that aren’t well ventilated
- Wear a mask to protect yourself and others
- And get vaccinated as soon as you can