My parents couldn’t go anywhere in the Detroit area without running into an old student. My dad was particularly memorable to his former students.
At Target looking for batteries: “Mr. Morukiiian! It’s me! Class of ’85!”
At our favorite diner: “Mr. Moruuuukian! It’s me! Class of ’75! You dressed like a woman at our talent show.”
At JCPenney at Macomb Mall, buying socks: “Mr. Morukian! Do you remember me? I was the one you hit with the eraser and called a dumb shit!” (different times, my friends, different times…)
Dad always twinkled with pleasure when he ran across a former student. He would quietly and humbly nod, maybe shake hands or hug, and ask them how they were doing. With the girls, he would say, “Hiiii, ho-ney!” and the boys, “Hey, son.” They were all his children.
The last weekend I spent with my dad before he ended up in the hospital for the last time, he and I were in the back porch. He was on the couch, watching ESPN at a decibel that would blow out the eardrums of most humans. I was perusing a shoebox I’d found in a cabinet filled with black and white wallet-sized photos of his students, with ’60s style hairdos and shy smiles. I turned them over to read the messages.
“Mr. Morukian, you were a good teacher and I’ll never forget you.”
“Mr. Morukian, you were tough on me but I needed it and I am glad to know you.”
“Mr. Morukian, you were a father to me when nobody else cared. I’ll always be grateful to you.”
On and on they went, expressing love, admiration and respect for my father. I read each message to him aloud and asked him about each student. He remembered each name, and gave detailed descriptions of those students and their stories.
“Dad, you changed the lives of these kids. They are out there somewhere, better people because of you.”
I’ve only seen my father cry a handful of times in my life. With tears in his eyes, he looked at me and said, “Ho-ney, I was changed by them. I am a very lucky man. What a gift to be a teacher.”