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Posts Tagged ‘drivers’ training’

The Hug

[This may have appeared here before but it has been re-worked.  I hope you enjoy it.]

I remember a lot from when I was growing up but usually it is the negative things that haunt my mind.  It is a rare treat to think of …to remember… the happy times…the happy thoughts.

High school was probably the happiest time of my life. I was someone.  I mattered.  People looked up to me.   I had no obligations.  My only duties at school were to keep my grades up and follow through on my extra curricular activities.  I loved school and I loved writing for the school newspaper.  At school I could be me.  At school I could be happy and honest.

I had a crush on Mr. M.  None one of my friends understood it. He had a crew cut.  He was regimental, but he liked me and he was nice to me. He also had a dry sense of humor.  When he was near me, there was an energy, an excitement that I didn’t understand at that point in my life.  He acted detached yet I got the feeling that he cared deeply about his students.  Mr. M was my Drivers’ Training teacher.  I remember driving out of the parking lot at school and having Mr. M ask what I’d watched on TV the night before. He was trying to demonstrate that while driving, we could concentrate on safety but we could also do other things, like carry on a conversation.  I remember talking about commercials with him…like Excedrin headache #1093 and “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing’ (an ad campaign for Alka Seltzer in case you’re a lot younger than I am and don’t know that!).   I remember the first day of class.  I was at the wheel and had just stopped at a traffic light.  Mr. M asked me if I knew the meaning of the word “limit”.  I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly so I asked, “the meaning of what?”  He answered, “Limit.  As in limit line, the line you just went over.”  Point taken.  On another day, the first day I drove on the freeway, he said I should “watch for the idiot bumps” and I asked what they were.  He said idiot bumps were the bumps dividing the lanes, like the ones I had just gone over.  Again, point taken.  He said it all in a very non-threatening, sarcastic, yet friendly way.  He made us laugh.  It made it okay to make those little mistakes because we were just learning and that’s how we learned.

I maintained the ties with. Mr. M for many years.  In 2000 I made the drive from Los Angeles to San Jose to attend his retirement luncheon.  It was bittersweet in many ways.  I had decided four months before, when I had seen him last, that when I saw him next I would tell him about that crush I had on him.  I knew there was chemistry between us.  I knew he had felt it too.  I wanted him to know that he had made a difference in my life and that I thought about him in a very special way.  I wanted him to know that my kids had been taught how to drive by me pointing out the idiot bumps they had gone over and the limit lines they had just crossed.  I wanted to make some kind of difference in his life.

It was not to be.  One month before his retirement, his son died after a short illness.  His family was devastated.  He and his wife were left to raise their three grandchildren.  I knew it was no longer the right thing to do.  I said nothing about that crush when I saw him but he said a lot to me when he hugged me.  It was an intensely meaningful hug.  We were in a room filled with about three hundred people and he just hung on to me.  For a long time.  He would not let go and I felt that he just needed to hug me and so I accepted that hug and hugged him back.  And again I felt that chemistry.  Maybe his hug was acknowledging that he felt that chemistry too.  Maybe it was him letting me know that we would probably never see each other again.  A hug like that would normally raise eyebrows but I think that most people there understood it.  the majority of those in the room had known me since I was a teenager and they all knew him well, too.  They knew I had known Mr. M for 30 years.   They understood that long, tight hug.

Or at least a part of it.

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