Yes, you wanted us to learn the importance of “The House on Mango Street” and the themes of Richard Wright but it mattered even more that we included a few sentences of appreciation to anyone who’d helped us complete our papers. Saying thank you to my friend in Lamson Hall Room 234 for letting me use her printer didn’t seem necessary. But neither did wearing a pin that said you loved your wife. I had a lot to learn.
You taught me commitment. You taught me that people should know when you’re spoken for. You taught me that people need to know you love them. I’ll never forget you telling our English class that you weren’t going to lose weight. If you did, other women would be attracted to you and you didn’t want that. I can hear your deep chuckle and see your head tilt back as you tugged on your trouser waist band and watched our confusion. Does he really mean that? We definitely took part in a moment of awkward laughter. After such declarative statements (and there were several), you either did the chuckle-tilt-tug combo or gave the look that said, “You think I’m crazy, and maybe I am, but listen up.”
And I listened.
The twinkle in your eyes let me know you were real. You were crazy but you were real. Like the other times when you’d begin class with a song, your index fingers pointed out as you conducted the cadence. Sometimes I wanted to sing with you but was too shy, much too shy to do what my peers weren’t doing. (I wish I could be your student now, confidently frequent your office hours and ask you all the questions running through my head.) In those crazy moments I was sort of embarrassed as if you were my dad–perhaps being in jr. high and high school with your children gave me that feeling of pseudo ownership. Dad, please stop singing. Puhleeaase. Yet I also felt comfortable, realizing that these moments were you and you were wonderful.
You’d pray. You’d pray for your family, you’d pray for us. You were most interested in our walk with Jesus–that was clear. Wherever I saw you, wherever I heard you speak, whenever I heard someone else talk about you, I knew you were a man who loved Jesus. It was so strong that I sometimes wondered why you had a PhD in English. I soon learned that you had something more. You had the assurance of life eternal and couldn’t help but share it.
This reflective paper was made possible because my undergrad English Lit professor showed me
Jesus in black stretched out loafers, dark trousers, suspenders, and an “I Love Cyndy” pin placed
close to his heart.