Yesterday started out like any other Friday. Up at about 4a.m. to let the dog out and get ready for Friday morning spin class. I usually try to get to the club between 4:30 and 5 to get an early start. It always feels good to end the week with a hard class on Friday. I knew however, that today I needed to get going early so I could be at school to help present an award to my friend Blair. Randy, our principal asked me to do this about a week ago, and I said it would be a privilege to do so. I left the club earlier than usual with not a clue of what was in store.
We have a large room in our school called the Multi-Purpose room. The name says it all. When I arrived it was all set up and on the large screen was a slide that said, "Congratulations Blair!"
Humanitarian Award. Blair had gone to Haiti earlier this year with a group from his church. They worked at an orphanage there helping to feed and care for some of the children. In my eyes he was very deserving. When he walked in he appeared quite surprised and somewhat embarrassed by all the fuss. A large table of food was there with everything from quiche to fresh fruit and yogurt. Once all the staff was assembled and settled in Randy went to the podium and Blair had to sit in the chair of honor up in front. Randy talked a bit and then handed the microphone to me.
Now I had planned very carefully what I wanted to say because Blair and I have taught together at EB for the past eighteen years. We've shared a lot of amazing experiences together including climbing The Grand Teton, hiking the Superior Trail, canoeing, snowshoeing, mtn. biking, and even a few beers, some cigars, and many bottles of wine. I grabbed the microphone like a man on a mission and proceeded with my little speech. Unknown to me, shortly after taking the microphone the screen behind me changed..."Happy 50th Bill!" I didn't have a clue and went on with my speech and story telling. At one point I looked over at Blair to see that he was laughing and pointing to the screen. I turned and saw it and I swear that I damn near died. I was so befuddled and overwhelmed it is hard to describe. At first I didn't believe it. "Serioulsy" I said. Then, "You're just kidding right? Because I have certificate and check here for Blair." Blair walked over gave me a hug and told me this was all set up for me. Suddenly I was in the chair of honor and people began sharing stories about my past 18 years of teaching. It started with a phone call from my dear friend Joe who was on vacation in San Diego. He offered me some good words of wisdom along with an Italian blessing for my birthday. The theme for the morning was "Voices From My Past."
I would hear a voice over the sound system and would have to guess who they were and they would enter the room. Many were former colleagues who are no longer at EB. (lucky to be retired) Then many younger voices with familiar stories. They turned out to be former students and athletes from my CC and track coaching days. Many laughs and many many tears. I was shaking, in shock, and totally speechless. I tried thanking everyone, but had a very hard time getting the words out.
Randy then announced that he was giving me part of the morning to visit and that he had found someone to take care of my class. I spent the next hour or so visiting with old colleagues and former students. By far the most amazing day of my life at Earle Brown. I now know that I truly am blessed and fortunate for the life I have and friends I've made along the way. It also helped to reaffirm why I do what I do. It's a day I'll never forget.
The guys from CC want to get together for beers. Dan has his Old Chicago World Beer Tour card that he needs to get some mileage on. So many stories came out that I would like to share. The guys are all in good careers from scientists, to engineers, and writers. David bikes so he and I are planning to do some rides. Matt and Andy are training to run their sixth and seventh marathons this summer and they told me it's all my fault that they are now marathoners. That was pretty special.
I don't even know how to thank my friends Kevin, Randy, and all the others who planned this whole thing. It was truly amazing. My friend Andy who also teaches there video taped the whole affair so I'm looking forward to seeing that. All of us guys who have been there for awhile got together in the afternoon and watched some videos we had made before the old building was torn down. Most of our memories were from then and the afternoon was filled with laughter. That was a hoot!
Thanks again to all my dear friends. I do have a beautiful life.