August 6th, 2021


People are complicated. Al sure was. (204.5)

I learned Tuesday that my middle school and high school band director and music teacher died early this week due to complications from COVID-19. He had been in a medically induced coma and came out of it, and had perhaps seemed to be doing better.

Al and his wife, who's a longtime close friend of my mom, got divorced when we were all kids. I remember a lot of the talk and a lot of the rumor and, however much of it is true, I think it was long understood that Al wasn't a great husband. I've also known their kids forever, and what I always knew in the back of my head but hadn't thought that much about was that they hadn't really had a relationship with their dad for a very long time. I don't know to what extent that's because he was such a bad husband, or whether he was also genuinely a bad father.

All three -- both kids and the ex wife -- posted on Facebook about his death, and of course all received the predictable torrent of condolence comments. I contributed; however complicated the relationships, his passing has to have been a painful loss.

Al's daughter is a little younger than my brother, and they're longtime friends, so I know her better, but I got to know her little brother quite young because as a high school student I ended up teaching some very early computer classes to a small group of very-interested elementary school kids, him included.

I'm lucky! I got to interact with the fun version of Al without all the familial weight. I played trumpet, and if I recall correctly, Al was a brass player if not a trumpet player himself. Much more important, he was a Star Trek fan, and he and I bonded quickly over that shared interest. We even both went to at least one Trek convention in New York City.

I hadn't seen Al in many years, certainly not this century. I briefly tried poking around to see if there were any photos of him, but I haven't succeeded in finding any social media presence for him or about him. I know he has another daughter I never met, from another partner, and I didn't succeed in finding her, either.

So, Al goes on living in my head the way I remember him from my youth, which is probably just as well. And, on Tuesday night, I sat down and watched "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."

"How we face death is at least as important as how we face life."
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