It’s always sad when people pass. It’s not just a reminder of life and its fleeting abilities, but a reminder that people can make such an impact in your life no matter how little you know them or how short you’re time spent with them is.
I remember Coach Heinecken, he wasn’t just a coach or just a teacher at KP. He was someone that students could bond with, someone who was easy to talk too and someone that didn’t make it feel like they were judging you.
When I think about High School I remember it as blurs of different clubs, social events and hard work. I spent a lot of time in that building working on things I loved doing. I would get there at six in the morning for meetings and not leave until six o’clock at night because a yearbook page just needed extra attention. I loved it, being submerged in all these different activities newspaper, yearbook, Roar Magazine, poetry, National Honor Society and the Academic Decathlon. All these things gave me that first taste of what I wanted to do with my life.
Of course just because I loved it, didn’t mean that I got to enjoy it the way I would have wanted to. I constantly fought with my parents about my school activities. I wanted to do more; they wanted me to do less. I wanted to learn more about self publishing, making zines, page designs and formatting. They wanted me to clean house, watch my little sister, and listen to them bicker about their marriage.
I remember fighting with my mother because I was at school late working on the yearbook with my peers and she wanted me home. She said that school wasn’t everything and that I didn’t need to be there all the time. She said I needed to have a life, that I needed to be at home, that she’d had a hard day at work and the house needed to be cleaned.
Sure at the time, I could have came home sooner, I could have tried to make it easier on all of us and just dialed it back and done what I was suppose too. But at the time it felt like nothing I ever did mattered. It felt like the straight A’s and all my commitments and responsibilities didn’t matter as much as how well I could clean a plate or how thoroughly I could cook chicken wings.
I didn’t understand how I could be pushed so hard by everyone around me to be at my best and at the same time essentially feel like I was in housewife training.
It was around five thirty and I was looking out into the rain through the double doors of the school. My mother insisted that I come home at once or she’d make me quit yearbook. No one was coming to get me because they weren’t talking to me. I had upset them and as punishment I had to figure out my own way to get home.
I remember coach coming down the stairs getting ready to leave, he asked me what I was looking at and I really didn’t answer because I knew I was too overwhelmed with disappointment and anger to make any sound that wouldn’t give it away. So I shrugged.
He asked me if I was going home, stood with me by the door looking out as if my mom was going to roll up at anytime.
Finally I said, “I have to walk home.”
“I’ll give you a ride.”
I didn’t argue I just followed him to the car got in and was happy to just be dry. We talked about what I’d been working on, what I was up to, what I liked about all my activities. He made me feel better, he was interested in all my accomplishments and he encouraged them. I don’t know how to explain it but for 10 minutes everything I had done up until this point mattered. He said I was a good kid, told me that it was awesome everything I was doing, he was impressed.
When I got home I wasn’t so angry, I wasn’t hurt or feeling so overwhelmed. I just came in and did my chores sat through my mother description of her long day at work and when it was okay disappeared to do my homework.
My mother never asked me how I managed to get home during a rain storm completely dry. Didn’t ask who was in the car that drove off or even really cared why I didn’t come in upset about leaving school when there was still so much more to work on.
Coach was a great guy a good teacher, decent and kind. I’ll never forget that day because I didn’t know him and he really didn’t know me but he was there when it mattered. For ten minutes he made an impact.
R.I.P Coach Heinecken,
It's not the goodbye that hurts, but the flashbacks that follow.
Gone but not forgotten.