Monday, February 11, 2013

Our Man & A Good Man: Thoughts about a high school English teacher

I was going to write about love today what with Valentine's Day around the corner and everything.

Then I checked Facebook and learned that a high school English teacher who had as much of an influence on my reading and writing as any teacher in my life ever has passed away over the weekend. You can read more about his amazing-by-pretty-much-anyone’s-standards life here.

It shouldn’t have come as such a shock. Cap Lavin was in his eighties, and I hadn’t seen him in many, many years. I was just thinking of him yesterday, actually--wondering if I should make contact to let him know I thanked him in the acknowledgements of my soon-to-be-released novel. I wondered if he’d remember me among the thousands of students he taught over his decades-long career. I liked to think he would.

I remember styling my hair in a short, curled-under bob back then, and how Cap told me the hair was very Hamlet-like (probably during a study of Shakespeare). He introduced the class to Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, and he was a big fan of Flannery O’Connor. I remember reading A Good Man is Hard to Find as a class, how we all laughed at the line, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” (gallows humor if there ever was).

Cap wrote this note in my senior yearbook:

Nicole, I hope you enjoyed Jane Austen and that your fashionably late arrivals were no commentary on the class agenda.

Keep your wit. Rise earlier?

Enjoy wonderful university days while there are still such places!

Love, C.L.

Well, Cap, frankly, Jane Austen rocked, and I totally forgot about always arriving late to AP English. Hopefully, you knew I was late to pretty much every one of my classes senior year, and not just yours, which I actually adored (most of the time). I like to think I've kept my wit, if not my wits. Also, I enjoyed my university days tremendously and learned to (finally) rise earlier when I had kids. Sure wish now I’d made contact over the years to tell you all of this in person. You will be missed.

You know? I think maybe I still did write about love today.


  1. Nicole, my husband and I are quoting that "we've had an accident!" all the time. What a lovely tribute. I know just how you feel.

  2. What a heartfelt memorial to an amazing-sounding teacher, Nicole! My condolences. There are so many of these people in the world, aren't there, who have influenced our lives along the way and have had a part in us arriving precisely where we are today. Thanks for this warm reminder.

  3. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is one of my favorites. I'm sure he would have remembered you.