- Kevin Arnold
The Wonder Years
When I was in high school there was a teacher I absolutely loved; her name was Mrs. Frizzell. She was the type of teacher that every student needs to have during the transitionary period of life when their self-worth is in a precarious place, and they find themselves searching – trying to discover who they really are.
This was me.
Mrs. Frizzell was my Drama and English instructor; she was probably the teacher in high school who made the biggest impact on my life – helping to shape me into the person I am today. In fact, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was thinking about Mrs. Frizzell, and I decided that I needed to contact her. I wanted to let her know the influence she’d had on my life, and tell her how she’d helped me to come out of my proverbial shell and spread my wings while I was a student in her classes…
And yet, I hadn’t talked to her in years.
I decided that I would look her up on Facebook, after all, everyone is on Facebook, right?
After a quick search I soon realized that Mrs. Frizzell wasn’t a member this social network, which surprised me…in fact, I thought that this was rather odd - after all, I’d found countless other people from the yesteryear of my life on this virtual social forum; why wasn’t Mrs. Frizzell there?
I started to do a few online searches, but nothing was returned in the line of hits. I tried various keywords using alternative forms of her name and finally scored paydirt on a yahoo forum posted by my old Driver’s ED teacher, who said that Mrs. Frizzell’s funeral had been held in November of last year.
My jaw dropped.
My heart constricted in my chest.
Mrs. Frizzell, my teacher…dead? It just wasn’t possible. Mrs. Frizzell couldn’t be dead. Dead were the flies left in sunny afternoon windowsills. Dead were the animals on long stretches of desert highway. Dead was the grass after a long, icy winter. Dead couldn’t be the teacher with the bubbly laugh and the spring in her step who’d walked the halls of my high school all the years I’d been there.
It just wasn’t possible.
I sat, staring at those cold, steely words on the computer screen before me, trying in some way to make sense of them. They weren’t real. They couldn’t be real.
I contacted an old friend from high school on Facebook – still living in my old hometown – who confirmed the short online message I’d read; my former teacher had gone in for knee surgery, and two weeks later had died from an undiscovered blood clot.
I can’t tell you for how long I sat there in bemused silence. I thought of Mrs. Frizzell. I thought of the difference she had made in my life. I retreated down into my storage room and rummaged through boxes until I found my yearbooks. I leafed through their archaic pages, finding past images of teachers I’d had back when I was still just a kid. As I gazed at one page of photos, I began to think about these educators I’d had.
I did a little research and discovered that two of the other teachers I’d had had also passed on: Mr. Pein whom I'd milked cows for on early Saturday mornings, bucked bales, and who'd also made me run in PE until I threw up. And my World History teacher, Mr. Lynch--who tried to convince us all year after year that the world was really flat.
I looked at the framed photo on my kitchen counter. Dead was the passing of one of my moms nearly two years ago.
I closed my yearbook and sat, thinking about the narrow slice mortality that ties me to this fail life; I thought about my own classes of students.
I guess you could say that I did a whole lot of thinking.
It was at this point that I realized that when it does come to be my time, like Mrs. Frizzell, though I might be gone, I will live onward. After all, “Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever…[and] for a while, you believe in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.”
Here’s to you, Mrs. Frizzell...thanks for believing in me.