Someone who really saw you or understood something about you? A person who turned on the light you didn’t know was dark. Encouraged you to be more than you thought was possible. Kicked your butt or pushed you harder. Gave you discipline, advice or direction.
If you didn’t have someone like that, then I’m sorry. Because I did and his name was Mr. Zaido. Well, his name was David, but I didn’t call him that. Like most people who had him as a teacher in at Sutton Junior High School, I called him Z.
He died recently. And I’m terribly sad I never got around to telling him how he helped shape my life. Since I live halfway across the country now, its not like I thought I’d run into him at the grocery store. I guess I thought someday I’d send him a letter. I didn’t, and now I can’t, but these are some of the things I wish I’d said.
For many years, at least the length of my professional career, I’ve been meaning to thank you. You:
- Were the best teacher I ever had and the reason I am a writer today
- Gave me the tools and permission to express myself
- Taught me how to think critically, look for subtext and read beyond the words on the page
- Treated me like an adult, with real views of the world and a right to be heard
Adolescence, and junior high school by extension, felt like a dark and terrible storm with branches lashing out and huge gusts of wind threatening to push me down. Typical Reviving Ophelia stuff. But, Mr. Zaido’s class was like a peaceful swim on a warm summer’s night. It taught me how to center myself long before I took up pilates or yoga.
I wish I’d taken the time to thank him. I hope he’s happy wherever he is. I know I am.