Saturday, April 17, 2010

Where in the World?

Where in the world is Tim Shannon????

Whenever I would go down to the high school to visit Tim and his drama students, after my own techie son had died during his senior year, as I poked my head into Tim's office, which was always filled with theatre students, sitting everywhere, my question inevitably was, "Where's Tim?" Even if he knew precisely when I was coming down to see him, he was rarely in his office when I got there, usually popping in the door a few minutes later.

Initially, it bugged me. If I made an appointment to see him, I expected him to be there, waiting for me. But, eventually I just got used to it. Tim was inevitably a few minutes late. And when he did arrive, with this big, charming grin on his face, you just couldn't stay mad at him. It was just who he was.

It still does not seem real to me that he is no longer part of our earthly world. I pass by his house, a few blocks away from my own, and it seems the same, his old blue van and new green sedan parked behind one another in his driveway. I expect any minute for Tim to emerge from the house. His neighbors all talk about seeing Tim mowing his lawn, without his shirt on. It seems like he is just inside the house for a few minutes, perhaps getting a drink of water before finishing the lawn job.

But I know, when I go down to the high school next week to help out with the next drama production in any non-technical way that I can, that I will feel his absence. At first, it will be like it always was, because Tim could be in half a dozen places - his office, the classroom with the small stage which was attached to his office by an inner door, the auditorium, the mailroom, talking to the Assistant to the Principal a few doors down the hall, backstage, in the theatre department storage room, running out to Orchard Supply for a few minutes with his blue van to pick up supplies. Tim was usually in motion, someone who didn't sit still for long, although he loved sitting at his large, old oak desk, which he insisted on having moved into his new office after they renovated the building and gave him a bright, shiny, new space in which to sit and work.

Next week, as I sit in the auditorium watching the goings-on of the actors and crew, I think I might finally feel that his bodily presence is gone, the bodily presence that always greeted me with a big bear hug. I can pretend for a little while that he is just in another room of the school, gone for a lumber run, or out back in the theatre storage area. But eventually, even though I know that the auditorium is the place where I will most strongly feel his presence, alongside the presence of my son, eventually, I will feel the loss of his not being there. Not being there to greet me, and tease me about something. Not there to direct his students, who were constantly peppering him with questions. Just not there, not striding quickly down the auditorium aisle, or standing at the bottom of the stage, writing something on his ever-present "To Do" list.

When the students get back from Spring Break on Monday, they will feel his absence acutely as well. Some other drama teacher will be there to teach them, to run them through their paces, to make sure the musical comes together. But it won't Tim, our precious Tim, and that will finally make what has happened change from the surreal to the real. And we won't like it one bit.

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