The People Who Touch You

Spring 1989. Georgia State University.  The previous semester, I had decided to go back to school to get another degree–this time in computer science.  However, not having had a math class in 14 years, I was a little wary about jumping in with both feet. I’d barely tested the waters the the previous semester, with a sort of “remedial” class that I got an A in, so this time I decided to go whole-hog and take a class in trigonometry, a subject I never had, even though I was kind of a math “whiz” in high school.

The various members of the class were wandering in. I was nervous. At 31, I was older than most of the kids, but GA state was a college that catered to working students, so that was okay. I picked a desk close to the front and we all waited for the teacher. Then a tall, lanky guy with shaggy, brown hair and John Lennon-type glasses came ambling into the room carrying a motorcycle helmet.  He looked around the class and I expected him to take a seat near me. Imagine my (and the rest of the class’) surprise when he drifted to the desk at the front, set his helmet down and announced himself as the professor!  His name was Kevin Blount and he was 27 years old.

Thus began a journey into learning that I have not experienced before or since. I am good at math. I like math.  It’s like playing the piano, in that you have to practice it to get good at it, but it exercises a part of my brain that I don’t use a lot and it always feels good when I do. So, trig was a big challenge because I was a total novice.

When Kevin opened his mouth to talk about the subject, suddenly everything became crystal clear.  He was not only a math genius but he could TEACH. Everything he said made sense. I understood it, not just sort of but totally and completely. I amazed myself on tests, but I also got the concepts and the theory behind it.  That class was probably one of the most amazing learning experiences of my entire life.  He was the best math teacher and the best teacher, period, that I ever had. He was brilliant.

One of the reasons I liked him so much was that on every test he had a final question that had nothing to do with math and one that you could never really get “wrong”…trivia type stuff, what was your favorite music, those kinds of things. They made the tests actually fun.  I began to have a serious crush.

One week we had a test, but I was going to miss the Friday class for a social event, so I asked him if I could call the office to get the grade. He said yes, and gave me a time to call.  I had a plan.

I called and got the grade as promised.  We chatted a bit and then he asked if I had any more questions.  I said yes, I wanted to know if he would consider allowing one of his students take him out to dinner.

Dead.

Silence.

And then, he said very softly, “Wow, nothing like this has ever happened to me before.” I immediately said I didn’t want to do anything that would make him uncomfortable, and it really, really was only dinner, I wasn’t coming on to him, just wanted to know him better, I liked him but I understood that being in his class, it might be awkward.  He said he was flattered but we should probably leave it like that. It was all good.

As finals rolled around, he gave the option of taking it or not if your GPA was at a certain level. Mine was, but I decided to take it anyway, just for the practice. Plus I wanted to write a glowing recommendation on the class assessment sheet.  When I turned my paper in at his desk, he took it and slipped me a tiny, folded note.  I waited till I was in the elevator to read it.

“I have a girlfriend in FL,” it said, “But I’m new here and don’t know a lot of people.  I’d really like to get together if you still want to.”  And his number.  I really didn’t care about the GF, I seriously just wanted to get to know this guy who had such an remarkable gift.

We went out a few times, saw movies, chatted, got to know each other a little. He told me that when he had to do his first practice teaching assignment that he was so scared walking down the hall to the classroom, he nearly turned around and quit the whole program all together.  I told him I was so glad he didn’t because the world would have lost an teaching talent that could really change lives. He was always so shy, but funny and very, very sweet.  He loved music and his motorcycle and his bicycle.

We never got super close, but he sent me a post card from Arizona once when he and his GF in Florida took a trip.

Then, one night before I moved to CO, when I was still living at my moms and my dad was still alive, he called. I remember everyone was home and there was all kinds of chaos when 6 grown ups and a kid are all in the same room with each other.  He sounded awful, so I ran to take the call in my room.

He was in tears.  He had found out the GF had cheated on him. What had he done, he asked me? Was he such a horrible person? I told him he absolutely was NOT a horrible person, that he was a fine man and it most likely wasn’t much to do with him, but more with her.  I tried to do my best to comfort him and I do think he felt a little bit better after that even though he was still completely devastated and I had never seen a man that upset over a break up before.  I have to say I was pretty angry at the GF.

That was the last time I talked to him.  I always hoped he worked things out however he needed to.  I thought about him on and off during the years, especially when I met another friend out here who taught math in a local middle school.

So, ever curious, the other day I decided to G00gle.  One day, I’ll learn.

Kevin died in 2006 of complications of a stroke. A stroke! He was 4 years younger than me!

He left a wife. They married in 2000. She was NOT the GF, thank goodness.

I can’t even begin to describe my sadness.  He touched my life in a lot of ways for the short time I knew him. The world lost an dazzling mind and an incredible talent when he passed.

Here is a short In Memoriam from the place he was teaching when he died. There’s a picture. I hope you’ll read it.  He deserves to be remembered.

Peace,

GG

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