I knew my next blog post was not going to be training related. This weekend John and I hosted a tiki party as a house warming/open house/summer kick-off. I was planning on posting pictures and regaling tales of beer, sun, music, food, and of course, friends. All of those things happened, but this posted is dedicated to something else.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I had a slight headache from a concert the previous evening but still excited about the party. It was about 8 am and John said he heard my phone beep a few hours earlier. When I checked my phone, a text message read "Andy Polk died last night. No details. Thought you should know."
I hoped and prayed it was a mistake, but a few phone calls home confirmed Andy died in a farming accident. He was 36. He left behind a wife and 1 year old daughter. I sat on my front step and cried.
Saturday was a hard day for me. I momentarily thought about cancelling the party but decided I wanted to be around friends that evening. I was so thankful our friend James was helping with the food and was at our house most of the day. I think I did well at the party. I was so busy with prep, greeting guests, talking with friends, and giving tours of the house I didn't have much time to be sad. Only later in the evening did I need to leave for a few minutes to gain my composure.
Andy was my teacher, coach, mentor, and friend. I was in his first classes teaching physics and calculus when I was in high school, 12 years ago. He was my throwing coach in track. My senior year of HS, he met me three days a week at 6 am and helped me prepare for club volleyball tryouts in Madison. I made the team. He encouraged me to pursue a degree in math and science. He wrote a letter of recommendation to every college I applied to and was a personal reference through grad school.
After HS, we played sand volleyball for years and kept in touch. After high school, he became a friend. Whenever I was home, I would stop by or we'd get together for a beer. John met him and we spent time at Andy's house on at least a half-dozen occasions. He was more excited than my parents when I told him I received a fellowship for grad school. I was at his house the night after my very first triathlon in 2006. I remember he thought it was awesome but he told me if I started to look like the high school Phys. Ed. teacher, he'd have to kick my ass.
Looking back, it is sad to say, but since I graduated high school, I have spent more time talking with Andy than with my older brother. We invited Andy and his wife to our wedding and we only invited 100 people. We were invited to Andy's wedding and only two of his former students were invited. He was... I don't even have the words. I can't convey the impact he had on me.
As a teacher, he has touched hundreds of lives directly. His memorial page on Facebook had over 900 members as of today. After reading all of the tributes and seeing how much other people are also hurting, I started to wonder. Was I just another student? Did I mean anything to him? I have to believe I did. I have to. I have to believe that I meant something to him, especially since he was so important to me.
The last time I talked to him was Thanksgiving, over the phone. He was with family, we only had a few days in Westfield. "We'll catch up another time." When I hit the 'contacts' button on my phone, his name is the second on the list. What am I supposed to do? Delete it? I just can't.
I have old pictures in boxes that I'm not ready to look at yet. A friend told me I should get out my yearbooks and read what he wrote. I have to save that for when I have time just to sit. I've never lost someone that I have known for that long or been that close to. I can't imagine what his wife is going through.
Tomorrow night I'm heading back to WI and will be with family and old friends for the weekend. Hug your friends today. Because I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the last time I hugged mine.
21 hours ago