Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fortunately, Hugs Are Not Something Easy to Forget

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fortunately, Hugs Are Not Something Easy to Forget

Article excerpt

When someone walks into your life, a story begins. Pay attention. Who knows where it will go or how it will end?

I was a transplanted Southerner trying to take root in California, married only six months when my new husband got his first job teaching and coaching at Monterey High.

It would take almost 10 years for him to move from basic math courses and lower-division sports to teaching physics and coaching varsity basketball.

But he was never in a hurry, never in a rush to do anything, really, but his best. All that mattered, he said, was not the status of a job but how well and how diligently he performed it.

While he was busy doing his "best," I was busy having babies (three in five years) and going to basketball games. That's where I met David, at the games. He was 16. It's not as though you could miss him, really.

David was a special education student at Monterey High, a big lumbering bear who loved basketball with all his being but lacked the coordination to play.

Instead, starting in high school and continuing some 40 years, he showed up at every game as "team manager," taking care of the balls and towels, slapping players on the backs if they did well, and giving grief, like it or not, if they missed shots or made the team look bad.

He took special umbrage at lazy defense. ("You gotta box out! Even I can do that! Want me to teach you?") They'd pretend to ignore him, but win or lose, they'd at least try a little harder to box out.

More than anything - maybe even more than basketball - David loved hugs. Not from the players, but the cheerleaders, the female fans on either team and even the coaches' wives.

When my husband became head coach, he inherited David with the job, he said - a fixture like the gym or the uniforms or the Toreador mascot.

I'm not sure David ever knew my name. He called me "Mrs. Coach." At every game, home or away, he'd spot me in the stands and come clomping up the bleachers, parting the crowd like the Red Sea, to get a hug. …

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