Friday, January 23, 2015

A Well-Earned Rest

While it is never a good thing when someone you know experiences a death in his/her family, Evan Peterson's journey to New Jersey this week for the wake and funeral of his mom permitted me an opportunity to pay my respects to - and to catch up with - an old friend.  

I was pleased to hear him say that he is retiring at school year's end.  I was pleased not because I believe for one moment that he has lost even a hair of velocity off of his fastball.  Rather, it pleases me because he feels good, Gayle feels good and they shall now have more time to do whatever non-work things it is they enjoy doing - such as visiting their two adult sons and their respective families.

He told me the other evening that upon his retirement he shall have completed forty-one years in education.  I remember a lifetime ago when he started his career at W-H as a physical education teacher and as the coach of the Varsity Swim Team.  He left W-H for Texas not too terribly long after I graduated in 1985 although my graduation has little effect upon his decision, I assure you.  By the time he saw Inman Avenue in the rear-view mirror he was the #2 man at W-H.  While I do not recall if his official title was "Associate Headmaster" or something else altogether, the job he was doing at the Upper School was the job that Dad did at the Lower School right up until the day he died. 

My father loved Evan Peterson like a son. Truth be told, there were times he loved him better than one of his own.  My old man was not short on ego.  Nor, however, was he a pie-eyed dreamer.  He had a very firm idea as to who - thirty-plus years ago - represented W-H's future.  He knew damn well it was not the fifty-seven-year-old curmudgeon who stared back at him in the bathroom mirror every morning.  Had he lived to see it, Evan's departure to Texas all those years ago would have come damn close to breaking my old man's heart but the path that Evan carved for himself once there would have brought an ear-to-ear grin to Dad's face.  It probably still does. 

Dad died in the wee small hours of Sunday, May 31, 1981.  To this day, I have no idea how Evan Peterson knew what had happened but by not later than 8:00 or 8:30 that morning, his Chevrolet Caprice station wagon - with the "GATOR" plates - was in the driveway of our home in Neshanic Station and he was making sure that anything and everything Mom needed was done.  In the immediate aftermath of Dad's death, he looked after Mom as if she was his own mother.  If I live to be 100, it is a morning that I shall never forget.  

He was also instrumental in ensuring that my 9th grade year at W-H was not, in fact, my last.  I had some difficulty adjusting to life in the year following Dad's death and not being one who suffers in silence I quickly earned less-favored person status with the school's first-year Headmaster, Mr. Ayres.  So much so that a decision was made - at year's end - to inform my mother IN WRITING that I was not being invited back to W-H for 10th grade.  My attitude apparently was deemed to be insufficiently "Wardlavian".  Evan Peterson - and Doc Rud - spoke up in my defense.  Mom used to have the letter at home among her papers but since this June shall mark thirty Junes since I walked across the front field at W-H at Graduation, it long ago was moved to the circular file. 

It was nice to be reminded on Wednesday night that not only can nice guys finish first, when the stars align just so they can finish on their own terms.  

And where better to do it than in a place where the stars at night are big and bright...    


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