Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I surely did love Jack Baker*. I never knew how he ended up at an adult education center. I never checked his file because I didn’t want to know.
Jack was a smart, good looking boy with perfect southern manners. He loved to fish and he loved motorcycles.
I had a bad feeling every time Jack talked about his bike. “That motorcycle is going to be the death of you.” Those were my last words to him before his accident.
He was coming home from a date when it happened. Our director met us with the news the next morning. He was alive, but barely. He lost an arm and a leg. I remember thinking he was better off dead. That was wrong thinking.
Months passed. We continued to hear updates about Jack and his progress. One day I looked up and there was Jack Baker standing in my doorway – a little pale, but still good looking. No crutches, no cane, no walker. Jeans covered the prosthetic leg. Long sleeves hid most of the new arm.
He drew a crowd. His teachers, fellow students, even the janitor – everybody wanted to see Jack.
I looked at that beautiful young man with one arm and one leg. His body had been banged up and broken, but he seemed whole – whole enough. He was smiling his same sweet smile. He talked about the months in rehab. Said he was doing a lot of fishing. According to him, as long as he could still catch a fish, life was worth living. Watching Jack work the crowd reminded me of one of my favorite quotes. Robert Frost said he could sum up everything he learned about life in three words: “It goes on.” Indeed.
A while back a friend set me up on a blind date. The man’s accomplishments were many. His character seemed solid. Online stalking confirmed that he was handsome – blonde hair, blue eyes, great smile. A professor and a musician, he seemed like a perfect match for me. But there was one catch. There’s always a catch. The man is an amputee. He lost his leg in a car/pedestrian accident a year before. At first I said “no” to the set up, but then I thought about Jack Baker and changed my mind. We had a great time. There was no love connection, but it had nothing to do with the leg. Like Jack, Kent had suffered unimaginable loss, but there he was, putting himself out there. Life goes on.
On my way home from the date, I thought about how so many of us are broken in some way or another. Bad relationships can crush our hearts. The wrong job can wipe out our spark or ambition. After any loss, it can be hard to go on. But as Jack and Kent remind us, getting broken, whether it’s your leg or your heart, doesn’t have to mean the end. Jack found a way to fish with one arm and decided life was pretty good. My blind date didn’t let his accident end him, either. He’s doing another kind of fishing and something tells me he will end up with a great catch.
Everyone can see that Jack and Kent have suffered tremendous lost. But most of us have lost something. Our broken bits might not be as extreme, and they are hardly ever visible to others, but it doesn’t mean they are not there. But like Jack and Kent, it’s up to us to acknowledge the loss and make a plan B. We can mourn for a time, but then we have to move on. Robert Frost put it best, life goes on.