The Adventures of Kidney Boy

A Journal About Living With End Stage Renal Disease. Dialysis. Transplants. Love. Family. Friends. The Unsung Donor. This is my life, from the end of a needle to the bottom of a pill bottle.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Reflections On A Man - and His Guidance

Several months ago, an old friend of mine passed away after a vicious battle with cancer.  He was my high school guidance councelor, but I had the privledge of knowing him for years after I left those hallways.  This was what I wrote about him at the time.

You know, when you're a teenager, you have this silly notion that teachers, guidance counselors and other administrators at your school aren't "real people". Not that they're some kind of robot that patrols the hall, but you never stop to consider that they have lives outside of the school - much like you do - and that they don't leave, breathe and die for you and whatever happens to you.
It's only when you finally graduate and leave those hallowed halls that you find out life is ever so much more vast than it was inside that little microcosm of school - and infinitely more vast that your own little petty concerns of living. You find yourself a small part of that big, bad world out there, and suddenly you're a growing, developing and changing part of society yourself.

So years pass, and you find your mind wandering at times, thinking of your life, the human condition, and the people you've met along the way. You know - those light little questions about existence. All kidding aside, I know I spent a lot of time thinking about the adults that I knew growing up - the administrators and teachers that guided and taught me. It dawned on me that working in a school - working with and FOR the students - was their Job! Working with little wild, selfish, snot-nosed punks like me was their career. Suddenly I thought of the loud, myopic, loutish brat I was, and felt like I owed a lot of people a few crates of whiskey and at least a few rounds of beer.

So, when I heard of Tom Yanno's passing, I can't deny that my heart became just a little bit heavier, and I could feel the tears well a little in my eyelids. When I was a young warthog, I was probably more than a little frustrating. Amiable enough, but as unfocused as an old 8mm home movie camera, and enough energy to run down even the most tenacious od adults who tried to corral me. But, when I got to High School, and I met the man who would be my guidance counselor, I had to admit - his smile, handshake and height made me take notice. I knew him, politely, as Mr. Yanno - and he took me into his office, and we just talked. About.... stuff. Talking about "stuff" is really, really super-important to a teenager! Anyone that wants to listen to what's important to you - what sings in your heart, well - wow. That's rare! Most of the time I had to be told to "Sit down!" and "Shut up!" (If these commands seem harsh, rest assured I deserved these!) Mr. Yanno really cared about what you were talking about - and damn it if he didn't remember all the stupid crap you were into, or some little detail about your life or your family. I liked that - and now, as an adult who is many years away from high school, I think about the sheer number of kids over the years that man talked to, got to know, guided, agonized over, pushed and directed... it's just simply a Herculean task that I think many people rarely recognize. Why? Kids are jerks most of the time! Having thoroughly been a teenager for more years than I should have been, I can attest to this fact!

And usually, when you finish high school and move on, you don't always see these people much at all, anymore, if ever. Tom was instrumental in pushing me to achieve the goals I needed to get me into College. I definitely resisted because I'm quite sure I'm a moron, but he did it - and he got me to not only take, but pass the dreaded math classes I needed, and the science classes I needed. I would be lying if I said I made it on both with flying colors - I've always been a seat of my pants guy - but I made it. And I went to college.

And so did Tom. Later on, I would see him while I was attending LeMoyne College - he began working as an admissions counselor there. So, there I was, still seeing that smile and hearing that laugh, and always getting a "Hey!" in the hallways, or the occasional stop and chat.
We're only on this planet for a short time, really. We never know what kind of time we have - what we'll have to do, or what we'll have to face. Sometimes it seems like such a rat-race to get ahead, as they say - grab your piece of the pie, take what you can get, when you can get it, how you can get it, and before someone else. With such a bleak mentality, it can be hard to exist in this world. But then I have to think about men like Tom Yanno. I think about the thousands of lives he touched. That's thousands of connections with other human beings. Some may have been great connections, others not so much - but he did that. And when you touch one life, maybe what you do touches two more - and it goes out exponentially from there. Now, as I said before, I struggled through those stupid math classes, but I can say right there - there's millions of connections out there that began with something that man was doing right simply by existing. Tom had a wonderful family of his own, who he loved to spend time with - and he was always so incredibly proud of his girls. He talked about them, boasted about them and I'm sure was teased by some of his students for "having daughters they want to date!"

I don't have the patience, nor the real experience to guide students. It's not my lot in life - but, dammit, I can't even express how much respect I have for this man and what he chose to pursue in his time on this Earth. I would love to just be able to touch as many lives as he did, and I can only hope that I will someday leave as much of a positive mark as he did.
I'm glad his suffering is no more, and though I am sad to think that he has left this world - he leaves it doing more than most people think could ever be possible in a life time. Godspeed, Thomas Yanno. Your essence, your spirit, your soul will continue to keep touching, keep affecting, and keep changing lives. Your restful peace is more than earned.


Losing people hurts - but the impact they can leave in your life never leaves.


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