September 22, 2010


I never read my local newspaper as I have no wish to spend my life being misinformed. As I may have mentioned before, I don’t feel deprived. My home town is a major city but has a grapevine for gossip that gives it the feel of a small town. If anything of consequence is going on, I’m likely to hear about it and often before it breaks into print. One news item did escape me this week. I wasn’t aware of it until I had lunch with a former student who is now a dear friend (Blog 7/2/2010).   He told me a classmate of his had died, one of my former students, and I was shocked. I know it’s said of parents they don’t expect to live long enough to bury their children, but the same sentiment holds true for teachers.

I remember this boy well. He was tall, even in high school, and had to duck his head under the upper beam to enter my class room. He chose to sit at the back of the class, never talked during discussions unless he was called upon but offered insightful remarks when he was. I didn’t have to be told he was liked by his schoolmates as he was ragged by the boys and smiled at by the girls. I knew he was a talented athlete, but only because his baseball coach bragged about him in the teachers’ lounge. The boy, himself, never walked with a swagger or offered flip remarks to suggest he thought well of himself. I remember, too, he was prone to blush. A sweet boy, a good student and a self-effacing athlete. That’s how I remember him.  

Over the years, I heard snatches about his progress. His baseball teacher had been right about him. He had star quality and worked his way up to the major leagues where he stayed for 10 years until he suffered an injury. He returned to his home town, raised his family and spent a number of years serving as volunteer baseball coach at the high school from which he had graduated. Apparently he’d remained the same, self-effacing person I’d known as a boy. The world could use more of his kind. 

The newspaper article I found later didn’t state the reason for his death, but my sources say he died of cancer — a hard way to go for a gentle man. I can only say I enjoyed the chapter of his young life that was mine to read. I close the book of his life with a lump in my throat as I say goodbye to Wayne Twitchell.