(continued from yesterday)
John the counselor had never once struck me as a hard person to live with. That he could be telling me to temper my sense of mercy with an hard shot of justice seemed wholly uncharacteristic. “You kidding?” I said.
"Schaap," he said to me, "don't ever let him by like that again. You want to help the kid?—then don't let him pull that stuff. I don’t care what he's got at home, he can’t get by pulling that song-and-dance anymore. He’s using it, and he can’t.”
I felt green, perfectly green.
“You’re not the only one,” he told me, and then he put his hand on my shoulder, just as I had done two days before with a teary gymnast.
That night, I suppose the rookie felt he had some more evil to write home about.
Not long ago I pulled out some of the remnant memories of those high school teaching years, including a dozen stapled pages or so by a girl named Theresa, who wrote out some assignments on the topic of family. That same year, Bob's junior year, I red-penciled the spelling on those assignments during Christmas break, just a week before hearing on the television news how Theresa's father had murdered her mother, then shot himself, the whole bloody business carried out in front of the kids right there at home on the northern edge of the city.
“I don’t ever want my mother to die,” she wrote on that paper. "But sometimes life is just that way. Everybody’s got to go when their time comes. I will always remember my mother for what she is—my mother.” Less than a month later, her mother was murdered before her daughter's eyes.
There's nothing particularly elegant about the style of those sentences, nothing stunning or profound about the sentiment. But I'm not about to throw it away. I too, like Frost, have been acquainted with the night.
So I still have Theresa's assignment because those words were—and still are—of significant meaning to the rookie this old retired teacher was and is and probably forever will be.