A friend and colleague of mine died several years ago . He had a brain tumor when he was in his early twenties and doctors told him he had only a few months left to live , so he quit his job , put his race car on blocks , gave his guitar to his sister , and he journeyed around the world .
I met him several years later . He and I were both teaching . He taught English, played guitar , looked in on his old race car in the garage once in awhile , probably with some deep wistfulness , and liked to have a beer after work once in awhile .
And then , I guess , the tumor finally caught up with him all those many years later , and he passed away quietly one day after work .
His sister held a wake for him at the house that he and she had shared . It was a sun-shiny day and people told tales of the guy at the gathering in his backyard. The garage door was open so that the race car he once had driven could share in the festivities . It was a celebration of a life , as they say .
I wore a music-related T-shirt that had a band pictured on the front. My friend loved music and , although I don’t now remember what band it was pictured on my shirt , it was probably one of his favorites . He would have appreciated that .
The principal of my school showed up at the wake . She hadn’t really known my friend , but she took it upon herself to take me aside for a moment to admonish me about the propriety of wearing a T-shirt like that on such an occasion . ” That shirt is not appropriate , ” she said .
So I told her that my dead friend had loved music and that I’d known him well enough to know that he would have loved my shirt and that she hadn’t known him and so , therefore , she should keep her uninformed opinions to herself. To dish out such advice ” is inappropriate , ” I told her ” on such an occasion as this . “She huffed a little bit and puffed a little bit and walked away .
I was telling this story to a former school administrator friend of mine a few days ago . ” So that’s why you have a sour attitude toward administrators , ” he said . He’s heard several of my administrator stories . ” You’ve run into some bad ones , ” he said . Yeah.
I wonder what ever happened to that race car . I bet his sister kept it in the garage . It’s probably still there . People in the back yard that afternoon were amazed that he used to race cars . He didn’t seem like the type . Some people knew that he loved music ; some didn’t . I remember his stories about south sea islands that he had visited during a time when when he was sure that he was soon on his way out of this world .
Most people , I think , knew him as the reserved and slightly odd English teacher in room 301. We all have our stories .