This afternoon Keith and I walked over to the post office together -- a habit we've started when he gets off work so we can chat a bit and I have someone with me while walking in case I start to get dizzy while walking. The mailbox held a scant two items, our homeschool ISP's monthly newsletter and a card addressed to me. The return address was "Millard Stanforth," the name of my beloved eighth grade English and History teacher whom I've kept up with over the years. About a year ago we met for lunch along with the kids at Souplantation. During that lunch, Mr. Stan informed us that he had been diagnosed with ALS, "Lou Gehrig's Disease."
Since then we've e-mailed back and forth and exchanged Christmas cards as usual. He sent me an update on his condition in September, and as I e-mailed him after that, I did not receive a response, although he did write me before that to say he was reading this blog regularly.
The handwriting today was not the familiar slanting hand I've known for almost thirty years, the handwriting I knew so well after a year of being in his classes for two hours a day and then aiding in his classes for the three years I daily walked across the park from the Granite Hills High School to Montgomery Middle School and back. For three years, I kept his gradebooks, gave spelling tests, graded worksheets and tests, and demonstrated to each class that it is indeed possible to memorize the 40 prepositions that he required all the eighth graders to repeat in thirty seconds (although I could do it in about five seconds). As I worked at his desk, head bent over the stacks of papers, I heard again the wonderful stories of American History that Mr. Stan made come alive. I heard again the explanations of sentence patterns, prepositional phrases, and all things grammatical which I have never forgotten. After all, who could forget after hearing them once in eighth grade and then again in ninth, tenth, and eleventh?
In the post office today, I slit the envelope and opened the card to read the words I have been dreading: Mr. Stan passed away last Friday, May 30. His wife couldn't find my e-mail address so sent the note as my mailing address was all she could locate. After walking home, I called and left a message for Mrs. Stan to call me back and then cried on Keith's shoulder. When Mrs. Stan returned my call an hour later, she told me when and where a gathering celebrating his life will be held, and I will certainly be there.
Mr. Stan taught me, my brother, and my sister each in eighth grade, and he became a family friend. And of all of the strangest coincidences, his best childhood friend grew up in the 1914 Craftsman home we restored in the Golden Hill area of San Diego where Mr. Stan spent a great deal of time as a young man. Before we moved out of the house in 2001 after a decade of painstaking work (and the birth of four children), Mr. Stan came by with his friend to tell us about how the house had looked in the 1930's and 1940's.
What I remember most about this most beloved of my teachers: Mr. Stan attending my wedding and my Master's graduation from USD. His encouraging, "Way to be, Sue!" My forging his signature on report cards (with his permission, of course). And receiving a 100% on my research paper on the Battle of Gettysburg, then finding it in his file drawer years later, kept with only a few other student papers.
And then there was Mr. Stan's "pet peeve": "a lot" is ALWAYS two words! That's one I will never forget.