Sunday, October 23, 2016
The thank you email that I will write
Graduation night is memorable for two things. One, that I was allowed to go to an all night event. Without rehashing overly dramatic history please just trust me when I tell you that my mother allowing me to be out of the house past midnight, much less all night, was unprecedented. I probably told her it was required. Having immigrant parents who were unfamiliar with the American school system had its pros and cons. It’s curious that I don’t remember how I made this possible but I did. And that led to the second memorable thing.
“I have a present for you,” my history teacher said. I was surprised and happily took the present. He watched me unwrap the book and said he thought I would enjoy Barbara Kingsolver. Having never read her I wasn’t sure but it was my only graduation present so he could have given me a pack of gum and I would have been just as pleased.
“You’ll get the second present in the mail,” he continued.
“I don’t understand,” I said, confused and trying to remember if I’d ever given him my address. “What is it?”
I’m not known to be a patient person, this has always been the case so I couldn’t let it be. I think he finally understood because he told me he’d given me an A for the year.
“But I don’t deserve an A,” I said, thinking about my less than stellar third quarter grades.
“It was clear something was going on. And you’re capable of A work so I didn’t let one quarter affect that.”
I thanked him and the rest of the night is a blur. I didn’t have many friends so I think I wandered around watching people enjoying themselves, listening as they made plans for the summer or talking about going off to college.
I would be living at home while driving the short miles to attend classes at George Mason but that was a couple of months away. I had no idea then that it would take me fifteen years to complete my four year degree.
All I knew that night was that someone had noticed I had been floundering. That this teacher who valued my opinion, who listened when I participated in class, who patiently tried to answer my questions even on subjects and classes he didn’t teach, believed I was capable of better even when I myself didn’t.
I think and talk of him more than most people talk about their senior year civics teacher I’m sure. But he was a beacon during a time in my life when I needed those rays of light. I was fortunate to have had several good and a few great teachers in my life. He was the only one who ever acknowledged my pain, however. When you grow up being told you have no pain, that you are not allowed those feelings, when every other person believes you when you cheerfully say, “I’m fine!” - the one person who says, “I see you” is memorable.
This is why, some months back, I turned to Google to help me find him. I’d idly searched in the past with little luck. But when I found myself once again recounting the grad night story to a friend I decided it was finally time find him and share just how much that moment - well, the whole year - meant.
Using my much lauded (by me but that doesn’t make them any less good) search skills I finally found a quick bio on an old website. From there I discovered a Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It looks like he stopped teaching a few years after I graduated which seems like a shame.
And here we are. I’ve drafted the email a dozen times over but haven’t gotten anywhere close to sending it. Conventional wisdom would have me believe he would enjoy hearing how much of a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I sorely needed positive interactions. But I can’t quite figure out how much of the story to share. Yes he noticed I was in pain but I didn’t volunteer the cause of it. So how to properly convey how much his kindness meant? If someone doesn’t know you’re in the middle of the ocean, tired, desperate, devoid of hope, will he understand the value of the lifesaver?
I don’t know. And so I write and edit and delete. I’ll send it one of these days. Until then, even if he doesn’t know it, I’ll continue to tell the story of the civics teacher who gave me more than a less than deserved A.
Filed under: Dailies