Monday, May 16, 2011

The Passing of a Legend

Pin It “Teachers never die. They live in your memory forever. They were there when you arrived, they were there when you left. Like fixtures. Once in a while they taught you something, but not that often. And, you never really knew them, any more than they knew you. Still, for a while, you believed in them. And, if you were lucky, maybe there was one who believed in you.”


- 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.

20 comments:

Karen Peterson said...

My 6th grade teacher was like that.

He recently friended me on Facebook. I accepted his friend request, but this post is a good reminder that I should give him a call and say a proper hello and thank you.

Mamma has spoken said...

Nice tribute to your teachers. I'm sure you have made them proud!

Linn said...

That was beautiful and makes me proud to be a teacher. And grateful for the teachers that touched my life, and especially those that touch the lives of my children.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

You would post a Wonder Years video, omg, I had almost forgotten that show.. Was Mrs. Frizzell at an age where she still should have been alive? Maybe u can find a link to a relative? It is hard to imagine someone that was from our past gone... For a moment your post reminded me of a little boy finding out a piece of news...kinda like Joey :-)
btw, I still remember my kindergarten and lst and 3rd grade teacher... also a few h.s. ones...Now you got me thinking.....

Connie said...

What a shock for you! This is a beautiful tribute.
You will be immortal to your students. Your influence will live on forever.

Caution said...

It does seem that when we hear about a loss like this it takes just a little piece of our hearts, doesn't it?

Oilfield Trash said...

I once had a teacher like that.

Danielle said...

I think you read my blog post about finding my 6th grade teacher that I LOVED. Soon after we had been in contact, she died of cancer. She didn't want Rob or his mom to tell me, she had told them about it and had them keep it secret, since I found her right before my wedding, she didn't want to drop a "downer" on me. I was crushed when I found out a few months later that she had passed away. I feel your pain. I'm sure your teacher knew she had a good impact on you.

Cheeseboy said...

I can honestly say that I did not have a life-changing teacher until college. Sad, yes. I think that is partially why I wanted to teach, so I could try and be that for people.

I feel bad for you though. To not have the chance to tell her...

Rachel said...

I know of some Native's who's lives you will live on in forever......

Kari Lyn said...

After reading this I decided to look for my favorite teacher on Facebook and found her! She must have just joined because she didn't have much on her page yet. I wrote her a note of appreciation and told her why she meant so much to me. I've wanted to do that for years. Thanks for the push!

James said...

What a beautiful post. My show choir and journalism teacher died the day before Easter. He was a father to many and never had children of his own. He was my Mrs. Frizzell. I'm sure Mrs. Frizzell would be proud of the teacher you have become and you are passing on her legacy.

M-Cat said...

What a grat post! I started thinking about any teachers that I felt had an impact on me. I remember several, but not in the kind of way that I would want to look them up and tell them thank you. And then, I remembered two in high school. They were friends. They knew I had moved out of the house and they were worried I would drop out. They must have talked and made a plan because one or the other would find me every day and check in on me. They would find me in the halls or stop in at my work.

I think I'll go see if I can find either of them in the great big socal network now.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Teachinfourth said...

K - I don't think we can ever say 'thank you' to others quite enough...

B - I hope I can be the kind of teacher to others that she was to me.

L - They truly make a difference, don't they?

K - Mrs. Frizzell should still be alive today. I wonder what would have happened had she not gone in for surgery on her knee, or if they'd discovered the clot after the surgery...I would so much liked to have talked to her one last time.

C - I hope they remember the good parts - and maybe just a bit of the rough stuff too. You know, just to keep it real.

C - It does tend to rip a bit of our souls out and leave an empty space in the void.

OT - It seems that those types of teachers are far and few inbetween sometimes.

D - I did read over that blog and I remember you telling me about the story, too. It's always a hard thing to hear. It's strange to know that one day that person will be me.

A - I know that you are that type of teacher, my friend...

R - Those natives..how can I not like them?

KL - I'm glad you made the contact and said what you wanted to say while you still had that chance. You never know when it just might be too late.

J - "A father to many and never had children of his own."

That was a beautiful statement, sir. Thanks for stopping by and making your presence known.

Truly.

M - There are a few of them out there who seem to touch our lives for good. Those are the people who make us who we are...

Marnie said...

I had a teacher like that. She warmed my heart. She was also a colleague of my late father who was also a teacher. When he passed away, she showed up. It was so comforting to see her friendly face and hear her kind words. Miss O'Brien was the best teacher ever :0)

Richard & Natalie said...

Her influence on you definitely comes through in your teaching and the way you touch the lives of the students at school. I'm sure she would say that is the best thanks you could give her.

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

My dad is a retired P.E. teacher much like the one you had. Former students do contact him from time to time and it always makes his day to know that they still think of him.

I'm sure you have your share of gawky teenagers and earnest college students stopping by your classroom just to say "hey" as well. :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I only wish you'd been here in person when I was taking those photos to tell me how to do it right!

Sand Castles and Snow Forts said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. It helps to shine the light in our hearts to remember those who grace our lives, and perhaps encourage us to say thank you while we have the chance.

McDowell Family said...

Great Post - While reading it, I kept thinking how it illustrates the fact that we are all connected, and if you make a difference in someone's life, you will live on.

Danielle said...

Just so you know, from what I know of you, you WILL be the amazing teacher that impacts so many students. Look at you, leaving such an amazing fingerprint on this world!!

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