This May I’ve been out of High School ten years… unbelievable. Even though I am now living in my hometown, I rarely run into people from school… and when I do, I struggle to remember how the faces fit with the names…its been that long.
I arrived at training early Saturday morning… I drank some tea and got my brain set for the day. At 8:00a the will-be foster parents started rolling in. The first couple came in and admitted to being coffee drinkers, so I got up to start a fresh pot. I heard the next two couples mosy on in, but didn’t look up until I had finished my beverage related tasks.
I recognized the one man.
My mind started racing… how did I know him? I tried to study his face in brief incriments so that he nor his wife would notice I was spending extra time on his face, attempting to catalogue it.
Everyone went around the room, stating the usual information: name/location/number of natural children/age of children looking for/why decided to be foster parents/etc…
…and by the time I’d gotten to Mr. N I had figured out how I knew him. It was as if his name on the placard in front of him was the final, crucial last peice of a complex puzzle.
“Did you go to Ben Logan at some point?” I asked. He said ‘yes’ a little gingerly and said he recognized me too.
Then I wished maybe I hadn’t asked.
I could see in his face he knew why I might remember him. It explained why his earlier smiles had faded into a downcast look and he was pretending to study is wedding ring.
I hoped my face didn’t give away much.
Mr. N on went to my school for the few horrible years that made up middle school. Middle school… that time when girls are the cattiest and people are developing at all different rates (some girls look 18; some look 8)…and everyone is jockeying for position… ugh, no, UGH.
One single solitary humiliating event had defined Mr. N in those years… he peed his pants in math class. The teacher yelled at him and he peed his pants.
The only other thing I can remember is that he seemed sad. And now, looking back, I’m not sure if that’s because he was the butt of a lot of jokes or because maybe his life outside of school was sad. I don’t think I ever knew.
I spent the whole day talking to and with him. Things loosened up. He has a nice smile (I don’t remember him smiling in school) and his hair is thinning on top, but other than that he looks the same. He has a boyish face and his wife has dark hair and rosy cheeks and a bright smile. Their eyes light up when they talk about their kids. The laugh easily.
The whole day I kept thinking, Did I laugh? and then Oh God I hope I didn’t laugh. In more serious moments, I would think about how sad I remember him looking. I knew he was sad and if I remember it now, I must’ve cared then, but did I do anything about it? Did I stand up for him? Or did I just keep quiet?
I honestly don’t remember.
I pray to God he didn’t walk into the room and start dreading the next 6 weeks of classes when he saw me standing there.
Kindness is so underrated.