I wasn't a good student in his class. I was grateful for the C he gave me. I didn't really deserve it.
He wasn't a very good teacher. He didn't care much about teaching at that point and thankfully he retired a few years later. For whatever reason, we connected. I can remember visiting him after I went to high school and talking to him about my frustrations with my home situation. He always supported my mother but he also let me talk.
I graduated. He came to my graduation party.
Somewhere in there, he got engaged. I went to his engagement party and wedding.
I continued to visit him. He continued to challenge and push me, though I didn't listen to him. He still loved me.
He wasn't my dad but he was the closest thing I had to one. I thought he'd walk me down the aisle but my brother wanted the job and we were getting along by then.
When he retired he moved to Arizona. He drove across the county to come to my wedding. He stood in the middle of the aisle as I walked up to get married and down after the ceremony - just to get pictures of me.
He was a difficult man in the best of circumstances. But I loved him.
Today, I saw a post on facebook by someone whose name is familiar to me. It was his estranged son. I sent him a message only to find out that the man who wasn't my dad died a few years ago. I haven't seen him in about 6 years, which I regret. I thought he forgot about me. It never occurred to me he might have died.
It's been many, many years since 8th grade. I can still remember sitting in his class, sitting talking with him after class, him being in my home. I never thought there would be a day when he wouldn't be here.
Today is a sad day, indeed.
Now no one will call me Judi Ann. That was reserved for him.
Goodbye, Mr. Aiken. You were very much loved.