Yesterday I went back to my hometown. The place that grew me, to bid farewell to a man who knew me my whole life.
Marvin R. Marquardt was a very real, very steadfast man in my life. And though these last handful of years we weren’t in so much of a daily touch, we were connected online. And like so many of us, we were good with that.
MRM…sound it out..mmmmrrrrrmmmm…was what we called him. He was our first computer teacher. For those of us that were super smart (onetwothreenotme) he taught scary things like physics and calculus and subjects that give me the runny poops just thinking about. He was formidable in those high school halls. He was funny, too. So dry. Good lord the man had some dry wit. So you know, when you got him to smile and God forbid giggle out loud at one of your ridiculous teenage quips? You felt like you were the smartest, most adult of students.
Yes, I’ll go have a smoke with you in the teacher’s lounge. I’m that grown.
I knew MRM before I ever stepped foot in his class at EHS. He and his family were the best friends with my parents and our families. I remember when their daughter Lisa Diane was born. She wasn’t too much younger than my own real life baby doll, my sister and I remember one night in particular, while the parents were playing cards in the other room, I was there with Taryn and Lisa Diane and thought..now I have TWO babies!~
Marvin and Dad were both on crutches at the same time, for some dumbass reason. I’m betting it was softball. They were ridiculous. They fished together, we had those awesome family fish fries with homemade hush puppies. All of the fathers who fished would bring in their catch, and the women folk would prepare and fry. My MeMe Mid would be the one to clean them, I don’t remember our mom’s doing that. MeMe was fierce that way. But we would all gather and that was the lovely part of it.
The summer sun would just be setting, the hot July air would be thick with the smell of grease and fried cornmeal and fish, the scent of fresh lemon for the tarter sauce would tingle your nose, the kids in their shorty shorts and dirty feet would be running around begging for “WE ARE HUNGRY WHEN WILL IT BE READY?!?!?!”
When my dad and mom divorced, MRM was this quiet, constant source of support. He and I didn’t do much talking about it at school, but he would see me upset in the hall and give me a pat on the shoulder and a nod of the head. “You’re going to be ok,” he didn’t say the words but they were there. He had a friendship with mom, they taught down the hall from each other, he was just there.
My senior prom (or was it my junior year–time is bullshit) as I slid down the wall drunk as hell on Boone’s Strawberry Hill, he didn’t judge. Just kind of helped me up. He knew the shitstorm I was navigating at home and while he never condoned underage drinking and acting a fool, I didn’t feel shamed from him that night either.
When dad remarried, there was a moment after the ceremony when the pews were filing out, and I didn’t know if it was my turn to go, and I froze. So it became an empty sanctuary and me, sitting there. My sister was off on a mission trip and while it was a beautiful ceremony, those were hard years for me. There I sat. I didn’t know, do I wait for pictures, am I supposed to go somewhere else? All of a sudden, a hand appeared in front of me and when I put mine in his, he helped me up and hugged me as I had a mini-meltdown. He just said, you’re fine. You’ve got this. Then he cracked wise and we both laughed and he handed me either a kleenex or a hanky (men carried hankies in those days) and I got myself together and rejoined the party.
There are a million stories about MRM in the ether this week. That’s what happens when we say goodbye to someone. We revert back to that role, to that culture of storytelling. Because the stories are, so was he, so were we all.
It’s those stories that were running through my head as I drove into El Reno yesterday afternoon. Mom and Burl were there. Dad and his girlfriend were there. My seat was saved and as I sat there, among the EHS core crew of friends I just lost it.
These people had no small part in making me who I am today.
Rosa sat behind me. She taught me to type. I still can average about 60 words per minute. LeAnn sat next to me. I remember when she became our PE teacher in elementary school and I felt so important because she was our friend, she came to our house and that was a pretty cool thing in grade school. Terry was behind me and I will never forget stomping into her office one afternoon and saying “get me out of this math class with *that woman. put me anywhere. I don’t care. I can’t take it.” Rather than march my ass right back to class, she listened. She nodded. She enrolled me into a different class with another woman more suited to my learning style. That woman, Joquita was walking in just as I was thinking of that story. Karen was there. Hers was the only math class I ever made higher than a C in. She was such a part of our life, Aunt Karen. My heart is broken for her. Bill was there, and while he and I have a current relationship, it did my heart good to see him among this group again. Sue was there, Sue who was my pseudo mom for so many years. I worked for her and her husband in their local restaurant downtown all through High School. Sue was my TAG teacher. Sue taught me how to count back change. She was the first person I ever saw with a real Coach purse and began my coveting for one. She taught me how to tie a scarf eleventy million ways that were all perfect. Krista was there. I was struck directly into my heart because the last time I was in that church for a funeral of one of this group…was her mom. So many years ago but I remember it, and I remember Pat, like it was yesterday. And now Marvin. He taught me 10-key. He taught me computer programming…the TRS-80s were quite the thing. We were just excited because his room was air-conditioned. But he taught us. He guided us. They all have. It struck me right then, just how much they have.
I saw Brooke and Tera and hugged and wept. After it was over, Mom, Burl, Dad, Jan and I went to eat an onion burger and Audra texted me. I started crying all over again telling her about it. My poor weepy burger.
I was knee deep in this pool of memory and emotion, no I was dog-paddling…just trying to keep my head above the water. I have been most of the weekend. Ya’ll…it is a wonder I made it out without the Beaches Ugly Cry. These people, and this man we were there for, they were truly witnesses to my life.
It’s so difficult to say goodbye. To wrap your heart around what it really means. But it’s part of this life, right? A stupid and shitty part, but nonetheless. . .
I am struggling this weekend with the passing of time, with the fleeting ridiculously fast pace of this life. But I take solace in the stories. I wrap myself in the memories and know that just by thinking about them, by telling them, by writing them…they are.
So are we all.
You’re a good man, Marvin R Marquardt.
Even when you were a shithead.
Thank you for standing at the ready for me.