March 13, 2018
“Have you ever been looked at by Tom?” This is the question I put to Jillian on Sunday when we were talking about the impending demise of my beloved teacher. She nodded in affirmation. Anyone who has been will likely not forget it.
Nearly ten years ago I’d written “You have the kindest eyes,” on a sheet of paper set out for all to comment while celebrating his retiring from book selling. I was flattered to have been invited to the celebration, intimidated by his position, intellect and education. This remark was the best I could muster; my usual kind of remark.
Now Tom is slowly being taken from us – much more slowly than he would prefer and his look is still as intense and searching as ever. As we are visiting him I lean into his whisper as he struggles to speak, casting about in the labyrinth of his mind – going into the mystery of who he is and where he is going, into perfect truth. That kind eye locks onto mine, a piercing, intelligent eye, a faithful eye that I encountered over twenty years before, when he was giving a presentation about his faith, soon after I’d come to the church, long before I was his Catechism student. I never forgot that look and never dreamed it would be cast on me with any kind of familiarity.
He asks me a question; I give him a thoughtful answer. He says he disagrees with me. I say “I’m not surprised.” As we leave I tell him “I love you.” He says “and I, you.”