Sunday, June 12, 2016


There was a famous French criminologist named Emile Locard, and seventy years ago he came up with something called Locard’s Exchange Principle.  It says something to the effect that any person passing through a room will unknowingly deposit something there and take something away.  Modern technology proves it.  Dandruff, a hair, a fingerprint—- things like that—- remain.  Fulghum’s Exchange Principle extends Locard’s thinking:  every person passing through this life will unknowingly leave something and take something away.  Most of this “something” cannot be seen or heard or numbered or scientifically detected or counted.  It’s what we leave in the minds of other people and what they lave in ours.  Memory.  The census doesn’t count it.  nothing counts without it.

---Robert Fulghum
All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Two years.  

My friends n' neighbours, my brothers and sisters, today marks th' second anniversary of Doc's crossing in 2014.  I stand before you, spread my hands, wrinkle my brow, and ask you where has the time gone??  I surely don't know.

Last year 'pon this date, I had said

Almost a year ago, I had said “there was a time when I thought I had it more-or-less altogether, and thought I knew what to say in moments like these.”  More than 300 days later, while I still feel moved to again stand up and raise a glass to his memory, no words seem to be quite right, like struggling to put together a jigsaw puzzle with pieces won’t fit, that you study and pour over, turning them this way and that, attempting to mash them down into place because, by golly, they LOOK like they should fit, only to find that when you look at th’ box lid, what you’re holding is part of some OTHER puzzle that got mysteriously mixed in.  Doc, were he here, would be able to make those pieces fit, I’m sure.

And, of course, he IS here; as Dickens said in his Ghostly Little Book, “I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.”  I close my eyes and I can see him, those blue-grey eyes of his carefully studying me, that oh-so slight grin on his face as he sizes me up in these passing seconds, taking in this moment of silence, th’ gears in th’ well-oiled machinery of his mind contemplating what to say.  In a moment, he’ll speak something short and pithy in that soft, mid-Ohio accent of his, and like dropping pebbles into still water, my own laughter will be the ripples that slowly fan out and off to th’ shores, th’ stillness of sadness broken.

I went on to say that I find th' word "last" is perhaps one of th' most lonely, saddest words in all of th' English language, especially when it was paired with th' word "first"-- as in th' first after th' last.  June '14 thru '15 was choc-full of first-lasts:  th' first outdoor fire and weenie roast without Doc; th' first Thanksgiving, Xmas, Groundhog Day without him, and a million other little passing moments that stung when I realized that we were all somehow carrying on in his absence.

For me, June '15 thru '16 has been an absolute whirlwind as we packed up and then moved 500 miles south from OH to NC so I could take a job teaching 5th grade-- a move that I likened to moving to a civilized, green Mars:  there are humans here, and tall buildings, and coffee and Wal-Marts and children who deeply need reading instruction, but it's not been Home, and th' insects, th' food, th' trees, especially th' traffic patterns and even th' very soil (which is a bright-to-deep red) makes me realize my distance from kith and kin.  

Dozens, if not hundreds of times, I've found myself having an experience or thinking a story, something my students did or something I saw, and wished I could tell it to Doc, because I knew he would not only get a kick out of it, but would've probably used it on a story of his; he had that kind of mind.  In a past life, I used to live in Florida, and many-and-many-a time I would call him up and bend his ear with stories of isolation and loneliness and general ennui and despair at being so far away, and he would listen to my nonesuch and be able to turn my sorrows around enough for me to pull it back together.  My Gal has been here for me in that capacity, and for that I'm wholly grateful and humbled, but how many times would I have liked to be able to tell Doc a story or share an experience from my first year back in th' trenches of public school in one of th' country's largest school districts??  More times than I can count.

A poet is someone who stands outside in the rain hoping to be struck by lightning. 

---James Dickey

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