Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Googling gopdebeek

You know what I like about the Facebook web site?

It’s not just that you can show off how staggeringly popular you are. Or how you can cram a phone-booth-full of good-looking friends into your profile pic and demonstrate what a cool crowd you hang with and how much gosh-darn fun you have. It’s not so much that you can align yourself with a myriad of fave movies and TV shows and let that serve as some kind of identity. It’s not the shallow whuzzupping splattered on everyone’s ‘wall’.

What I like is that we now have an environment where it’s acceptable – hip even – to reach out and contact old long-lost friends and associates.

It seems that as much as we love to run into old acquaintances, we fear to actually attempt to make it happen. As if those friends we’d vowed to stay in touch with might secretly despise us by now. As if we might appear to be some kind of desperate loser for phoning out of the blue.

Well, no more. I’ve made contact with estranged coworkers, lovers and even a Katimavic student I met only once, three years ago in a sports bar in a town where neither of us knew anyone. We’d traded email addresses for kicks.

But there are special people I’d love to reconnect with who aren’t likely to be on Facebook. I’ve searched for them and come up dry. There’s one fellow though, who’s absence there did not deter me. I left the Facebook site and went to Google and tried a few searches, hoping to find an email address. This didn’t prove easy. On the cusp of defeat I tried one last phrase – and found an address. I sent an email.

I hope the address is still valid. I hope he gets it. And I hope very much to get a reply.

From: Landriault, Rich
Sent: Tue 6/12/2007 11:15 PM

Subject: 25 years later...

Mr. Op de Beek,

I read this on a web site relating to a 'Lahr Senior High School':

OP de BEEK, Gys and Angela , 83-87. LSS Computer Science and Math; Angela taught Home EC. Now living in Kelowna BC. Love to hear from anyone. Contact us at gopdebeek

I'm hoping the gesture extends to St. Gabriel’s alumni!

You had me in your class in '82 (I'm guessing). It was your last year at St. Gabes before you went to Germany - I think it was - to teach at a Canadian military base. I was disappointed at that. I remember high-school kids dropping in to our class-room to visit you and I knew that would be me one day - dropping in like that. But of course life is not that predictable.

Perhaps you'll remember me. I chummed around with John Chalupka - the Quarterback, and the big Greek - Emil Fiorantis. You were generous to us, granting us privileges. Computer tutoring after school. Recess breaks indoors playing Dungeons and Dragons. Not having to do my homework! More than once you glanced right past my unfinished work without a word and carried right along with the inspection!

I have more memories of grade eight than any other school year. I can't even remember the names of most of my other teachers.

You selected me for the school volleyball team - for reasons not entirely to do with athletic merit, I suspect, but I loved being a part of it. Loved the uniform. For a shy sensitive kid it was a confidence-booster.

The week at Camp Tawingo. You took us on a night hike. An excellent experience. And the climactic night-orienteering competition on the final night. I was on 'your' team - the one you supervised. It was your last time participating in this contest and we read all kinds of significance into that. We were so proud to be on your team. We gathered out of earshot from you. "We're gonna win this for Mr Op de Beek. We HAVE to. Whatever it takes!" We all nodded solemnly. And then we went out and kicked ass. We flew by two other teams like they were standing still. A girl named Julie lost her shoe in the mud. "Leave it!" she cried, and finished in one shoe and one sock. Awesome memories.

You told me to exercise my choice. It was mine to make. So I did. I chose not to undergo Confirmation. You might say that that was the first big step in a very grand adventure. I've since escaped a great many trappings of society. It's extremely cumbersome to try to explain the journey I'm on. I'll say this much - I'm almost surely the happiest person I know and I'm more at peace with the world than most people could dream. I see my place in the universe with remarkable clarity. And I mean that in a very sincere tangible way. There's no mysticism whatsoever in my life. But forgive me, I didn't look you up for the purpose of bragging about my strange euphoric existence!

I googled 'gopdebeek' and a few similar phrases out of curiosity - because this 'facebook' social networking web site I recently got sucked into has awakened a bit of a nostalgic yearning as I've been re-introduced to old friends, and I started thinking of you. And because I just wanted to tell you that you're the best teacher I ever had. But I must be more honest than that. I really have no idea if you're the best teacher I had or not. To say so legitimately would require more examination into the essence of teaching and the education system than I'm prepared to undertake.

But I can say this. I count myself among the most fortunate of all people for having made friends of the highest character and quality - who are central to the joy in my life - and for having had access to the finest of mentors at the times I needed them and I count you among them. I will say that you're the finest human being that ever was my teacher!

So thank you - sincerely - good sir. I very much hope that you're well and happy and in good health.

I'd very much love to hear from you if you're inclined to write. It would be a thrill.

Rich Landriault

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Nice. I was at an event today at work's HQ and saw a girl with whom I was best friends my first two years of college. I didn't say anything to her because I knew that something had happened years later which had estranged us and that she would not have been happy to have me say Hi. How sad is that. Also, this year is the 25th year since I graduated from high school and I can't even imagine going to the reunion. The 20th wasn't as hideous as I had imagined but it wasn't good...and I'm a good 15 pounds heavier. Pathetic, eh?