Thursday, September 12, 2013

Novato: Edified in 6 Edifices of Essential Education

Two weeks ago I hurried home after holding our new grandson, Jamison, so that I could return to my hometown of Novato, CA to speak at my old high school. As an ambassador for the California Transplant Donor Network I have the opportunity to encourage students to choose life and become organ donors when they get their driver's license. I was extremely excited as I had not visited my high school since I graduated in 1976. The evening prior an article about my visit appeared in the local 'paper' The Novato Patch (see article here) Early Wednesday morning on the August 28 I mistakenly left at 4:00 am as my alarm clock was an hour early. As such, I arrived in Novato two hours early. I decided to tour the places representing my youth.
Calle Paseo House age 4-11

Loma Verde Elementary

Corte Alta house (moved in when sibling # 9 was born)
Age 12-19

San Jose Junior High

Novato High

Novato LDS Church

I spent 87% of my life from age four to 16 in these buildings and therein learned most of the precepts and values that shaped who I am and what I could become. I had some amazing teachers. Mr. McNern, my third grade teacher, not only taught me extraordinary new ideas in math, geography, world studies and linguistics, he supported my fragile ego just when I first learned that I was poorly coordinated in sports and therefore de facto unpopular. When I said that I wanted to be president of the United States he completely believed in me.
The man who taught me algebra in 8th grade was Mr. Orth and he was very cool for an old man. Recently, his neighbor came to see me for treatment of his prostate cancer and sent me Mr Orth's phone number with an invitation to call. Mr. Orth's octogenarian voice answered with youthful effervescence still intoned. "Kevin Anderson," he mused. "Weren't you that sandy haired Mormon boy from a large family?" "That's me." I chucked. What a simplistic description my young life.
I thanked him for teaching me algebra and teaching me how to teach. I was later a T.A. for him.
I stopped by my church where I spent so many hours a week for 15 years. Oh the lessons I learned there: on keeping God's commandments, on studying scripture, on the duties of a priest, on learning how to ask a girl to dance, on tying knots that could save your life; or somebody else's.
Soon, however, it was time to go to Novato High. I had to walk by my old chemistry and pre-calculus classes. Mr Hicks and Mr Schrick respectively prepared me for college and medical school as they enlarged my understanding more than almost any other teacher until I met Dr Bradshaw my last year of college.
Nostalgia overload then gave way to the task of convincing two classes of new freshmen to check the organ donor box at the DMV. I told them my story of how I am here because of Shane, my heart donor. I sensed understanding in their eyes as their numerous questions confirmed the seeds on conviction. It was my turn to teach in my old school.
The last two buildings were our homes. Dad taught us to work hard and how to treat others in society. He taught us to respect women. Mom answered my unending curiosity about everything. One day I asked, "Why do our memories begin around age three?" She thought for a minute and explained, "It is probably related to when we start speaking so that we can remember with words." That seemed so wise to me, it still does.
All of the buildings look mostly unchanged over 40 years. The trees were bigger. It was the people in them that had changed, just as the world outside did the same.
I am forever grateful for my teachers. What they taught me I taught to others; and so it goes on ad infinitum.
Novato was good to me.



Maureen said...

Good Morning, I am about halfway through your book, and I am absorbing as much as I can because I lost my husband to Primary Amyloidosis. I am from a little town in upstate NY, but I did a lot of research when he FINALLY got diagnosed and we ended up at the Mayo Clinic as well. It has been so interesting to me to read what you have written because of all the similarities.
I have just gotten to the part where you had the transplant, and I actually drove an hour yesterday to sit by a lake so that I could be by myself and read.
I too kept a blog from the day that we arrived at Mayo, and it is on the Caring Bridge website. Someday when you have some extra time (hahaha) maybe you could look at it.
Anyway, it's wonderful to know that you are feeling well, and I am really very interested in what you and your wife have to say. I'm off to continue reading to learn some more!!! Stay well,
Maureen Glow

Tracy said...

Dear Kevin,
I am reading your book and I love it. I took a 24 hour break upon reading about the revealing moments of your diagnosis. I rearranged patients and went with my dad the day he received the fateful news. We had lunch beforehand and I told him I wanted to go. With sarcasm and love, he looked at me and said, "Why on earth would you want to do that?" I told him I couldn't stand for him to be alone. At the end of the appointment, we walked out and smiled and laughed, he looked at me and said "Whew, I don't have to tell you at least!" My dad and I had an amazing bond and I loved his dry sense of humor. It carried us through the scariest times.
You are asleep in the book, your son is getting married, and I can't wait to hear what happens next. Your pictures at Mayo touch my heart. I have some hidden away.
Helping dad fight the illness was tough, but getting to walk around Mayo and spend all that time with him was absolutely priceless. Dad and I loved texting my husband all the nutty things I could buy for the house. There was a barkalounger chair on display for an art exhibit :)
I have a new theory about Amyloidosis...does this protein that goes haywire and attacks organs also inspire drive and compassion throughout life. My father was an amazing man and I celebrate what he has taught me every day. Thank you for your inspiration, your blog and book somehow help me to heal.

PS...I attended OT school At WASHU in St. Louis 1998-2000, we almost crossed paths in line for a pretzel dog in the children's cafeteria.

Keep up the good fight and enjoy a well lived life.