To my friend and mentor John Helion
A long overdue thank you and congrats,

Dr. Sanford Lopater, someone from my undergrad, one said,
“You’ll be lucky if you have one or two professors
You relate to in college.”
He was right and wrong
He was one,
You were one of the others,
The unmentioned being a spunky Health teacher.

Tonight I drove past your house thinking of old times,
Like Hindu tag and Jack being nimble or late,
Like hanging at the ropes course having deep conversations about PE,
And watching you fall asleep in Denver with a book perfectly perched
On your chest.
Each of those images brought a smile to my face
Because you are the man
Who made whatever I have become happen.
There is something about the way you think,
It’s in its custard of possibility
That has stuck with me all these years.
Whether it was the conversations about teaching up North,
Old ladies doing laps at Columbia, or just your cackle,
All stuck with me with a genius that personifies authenticity
And the true nature of what it means to be a teacher.

Forget all of the professional mumbo jumbo,
ALT-PE, time on task, cross-curricular integration,
Each of those pales in the shadow of who you have been to me,

My teacher.

You taught me how to understand the importance of preparation.
You taught me how to understand there is more to life than the profession.
You taught me what it means to have perspective,
That debate is more than just disagreement, that it’s necessary,
That laughter does not have to be personal,
And that a strength of character is all we really have.

Thank you, my teacher.

So on this night
When I spent too much time at the Side Bar
And made the trip on New and 926 for the who knows what thousandth time,
Thank you, John, for being the teacher than you have been,
I owe you my career.
No go listen to some Clapton,
Start with “Hello, My Old Friend.”

Eight hundred dollars a month
For insurance to pay for decent health care
Seems like too much
Way beyond what is fair

I mean, I’m thinking about American Pickers
Where they try to double their money
So it makes me think the insurance companies
Charging twice as much isn’t so funny.

I’ve been thinking about retirement
At least from my current career
And the idea of how expensive it will be
Has me hanging on for a few more years.

The eight hundred is what scared me most
Because it’s hard to imagine the benefit
Of not working and then paying so much
For less of a benefit.

Unless, of course, I was like the guy with the story
Of the eight hundred dollar monthly bills
Who took a maintenance job at sixty
So he could afford to pay for his ills.

He worked his life
Toiling with hammers and nails
Making good money, but never
Filling those financial sails

Now at sixty-one
He’s starting over with less of a check
For some security and benefits
That private employment never put on the deck.

His story of starting over scares me
I’m not thinking so hard about giving in
Retirement can wait for at least twelve more years
Maybe more if I get scared again.

A strange night with the Sandman
After watching ghost hunters in Saint Louis
The tossing and turning of my slumber infiltrated by thoughts
Of outpourings to demons to appear
And the evil residing in my chest
As blocks of mucous waiting for my lungs to exorcise
Stole peaceful resting, leaving a struggle between
Side or back sleeping
At one point I awoke
To an eerie feeling
Suggesting I was not alone
The cats were sound asleep
And the lights from the Wii charger bathed the room in an emerald green
Alas I was by myself just
Caught up in one of those October machinations
Where dreams play out the pumpkin spiced theater of cable’s televised ghost hunters

Something, though, had been present within me

I awoke this morning
With the same cough that has lingered for a few days,
My hands peeling from too much bar work,
And early thoughts of retirement strangely present
The fear of what’s on the other side of a working life
Something less sinister than scaring up evil spirits
In Saint Louis
Yet still a venture into the unknown
I can hear the spirits calling
Those offering to free me from the demands of servitude
Those encouraging me to make my decisions
While the monstrous voices of the present
Are barking as loudly as ever
But I believe in them less
I’m looking way ahead wondering what retirement will look like
The trappings of data driven instruction gone
The missing of kids’ successes
The extra hours on Monday never to happen again
Filling time with more exercise
Writing or photography
Who knows
Maybe even some
Ghost hunting