It began with the day back in 2000 when Deke Moreno was credited with saving my life.  I was in the classroom, in the middle of a vocabulary lesson.  I hadn’t felt particularly well that morning. In fact, I felt like I must be coming down with another virus.  It reached a point where my temples were pounding, my chest hurt, and I couldn’t move.  I sat in my chair in the front, completely motionless, something I rarely did before that day.  Eighteen seventh graders were suddenly looking at me with large, round eyes.  I was the favorite teacher of a few, hated by many, and the object of some indifference to the rest.  Still, they were suddenly silent and unified in their concern.
    “Is something wrong?” asked Deke.
    “Come here…” I waggled my hand at him.
    Deke came up to me.  “Push the intercom button… call for help.”  That was, of course, his moment of heroism, his life-saving act.
    The assistant principal, whose son was in my GT Class, came in and checked me out.  The head principal and the secretary who really ran the school were close behind him.  The AP didn’t waste a moment.  They got the wheel chair from the nurse’s office and wheeled me to his car.  He drove me himself to the local clinic.  My blood pressure was through the roof.  I would’ve died easily had my heart not received some medicine to reduce the strain.  It was a mystery ailment then.  Before the year was out, I found out that I had diabetes.  My diet would change.  My lifestyle would change.  I missed work more often.  I began to get in trouble with the administration for not being able to find the perfect balance between order and chaos (where good lessons lie) any longer.  The work got harder and harder.  I developed a disorder that led to frequently passing out.  I began to collect things like stamps and action figures as a way to put the universe back into some kind of sensible order.  I had a young family.  My two youngest children both came along during the time I was first learning to cope with the disease.  When we moved to the Dallas Metroplex to be nearer to my wife’s family, I managed to get stressed out at my new job, and the one-year probationary period I got with the Lewisville School District undid all the years of building skills and community confidence.  I lost my teaching position.  It took two long years of substitute teaching to get it back.  Sometime in the future I will have to write the ultimate horror story of being a “good sub”.  
    Now, I know you are going to find me a total fool for saying this, but Type Two Diabetes is the best thing that could’ve happened to me.  Yes, I know how crazy that sounds in view of what the disease did to my life, but I have gained benefits that I would not have otherwise gained.  Dealing with the disease and having to make a comeback has made me an infinitely better teacher.  I see students with fresh eyes and a renewed sense of urgency.
    The most important thing is that now I have to live each day for the value it has, rather than for what the future may bring.  When Wordsworth spoke of those “spots of time” where the eyes are suddenly opened and everything is seen in a new way, he was talking about what was destined to happen to me on a daily basis.  There are things that you put off for the sake of a career like teaching.  All of us are a Mr. Holland in some way.  We all have our Opus that we must somehow get around to completing.  I have been working on mine steadily for thirty years, but I never really put it into words before as I have done since I lost my teaching job.  My Opus comes from some of those two thousand children whose lives I touched, whose lives touched, grabbed, jerked, mangled, caressed, or twitched mine.  The story I have to tell is a story about the loves and longings of teens like poor Deke, who played football, fought with his mother over grades, got into trouble with the law, had many high school sweethearts, and saved my life one fateful day.  Some of my former students are now dead.  Some are in prison.  But some are successful business men and successful parents.  Some thanked me for being their teacher.  And, though most of them rarely actually listened and heard me say it, or read my comments in their class journals, I constantly thanked them for being my students, too.   Each and every one of them.
    I have a good chance to live for many years yet.  With more attention from doctors and more careful planning and good conduct I have a good chance to finish my teaching career on a strong note.  I have thirty-one years of service in the books.  But I must write now, too, because the dark wind of mortality is blowing out of the near future and signaling approaching storms.


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