I have been trying to write this post for 9 days.I have lost the whole thing, fallen asleep in front of the computer and run out of time to do anything.....so now, here is what I have squeezed out 9 days later...
Some time ago I wrote about this guy. I wrote about him more than once and in December 2010 I had the very great privilege of attending his graduation ball. Here we all are.
Gene has renamed himself on facebook so I will use that moniker now. That's him, 'Al', on the right. Can you see why I love him? I don't feel so bad about posting this photo now, given that all the lads are over 18 and a pretty regular presence on the internet anyway. The other two gentlemen are also amazing men, with their own stories, but today I want to talk about Al.
After his graduation I connected with him on facebook and found out that he was doing a course in mechanics and expected to have an apprenticeship soon.We messaged each other occasionally and left comments. Then he went quiet.
The week before last, out of the blue, he contacted me. In the past I had always reminded him that I would be happy to help him in any way I could: study, references, course applications etc.
To my complete surprise (and delight) he suddenly popped up and said:
"Hey Mrs A, I need you' help!"
I lost no time in replying:
"Hey Al! Wass up? What do you need help with?"
"Maths Mrs A. I want to learn everything. I'm ready now, I want to learn the basics and be able
to do calculations and use formulas and stuff...."
Now any of you who have tutored will know that there is a significant per hour price tag attached to the assistance I was willing to give but as I prepared my response I knew that wasn't even in the equation.
"No worries! What kind of things do you want to cover and where shall I meet you?"
We agreed to meet in the central library on Thursday night. I have got to admit I was anxious. I mean, it has been three years. What would he think when his sprightly, energetic maths teacher from 2010 turned out to be a middle aged pudding? Would it put him off study for ever? Seriously though, would he be committed? Would he even turn up?????
I was late as usual and then I found that the labyrinth of the library defeated me so I had to text him to come and rescue me from the foyer.
He came around the corner and I knew his shape from a distance. Gone was the backward facing cap, baggy pants around his crutch and sleeveless singlets. Even the dubious symbols previously carved into his tight dark curls had gone. In their place was an attractive, respectable looking young man in a plaid shirt and slim fitting jeans with a conservative haircut and an air of purpose.
We sat and talked for a while. He was off that evening to graduate from his TAFE Course in Business Management.
"So you don't really need my help after all?"
"No, Mrs A, I really DO need your help. I want to do this..."
and he flipped over a folder he was carrying.....
He wants to learn to fly.
"I can do it Mrs A. I believe in myself now. I don't care what I have to do. If I have to, I will go back to the beginning......"
"You may have to Al..."
He told me where he'd 'been' and what he'd been through. He told me of bad trips and seeing things he never wanted to see again. He told me of holing up in his mum's house and refusing to see his 'friends'; he told me about needing to separate himself from the culture and how his mother helped him keep the toxic friends away....
He told me about how he had found God.
I smiled broadly.
"Yeah Mrs A, I knew you would like that," he said.
"Cool," was all I could offer. :-)
He had to leave to get to his graduation ceremony but I was so pumped after seeing him I didn't know what to do with myself, so I went to the pub.
It was completely empty.
I sat with myself and thought about a lot of things. I thought about the last time I had been in that pub, maybe thirty years ago. I thought about how much it (and I) had changed. I thought about what I had wanted to do with my life 30 years ago and I thought about how that had changed and what I had contributed to Al's life.
Life is such a convoluted thing. My own weird journey, my regrets, my disappointments, I looked at them all through the lens of Al. I sat in that empty pub and downed pint with a quiet sense of euphoria. Maybe, for once, I had made a difference.
God bless you Al. I know our journey will not be predictable, after all you didn't turn up this week while I sat there and waited, but I know God put us together for reason. I don't even know if my level of maths will be sufficient for the road you have set ahead for you but if not I will find you an appropriate tutor. Don't you worry about that!
I can't tell you how excited I am to be on this journey with you.
Love ya Al. In a nice, 'not creepy' kind of way ;-)
Growin Up : Bruce Springsteen