Thursday, June 4, 2009

Raymo, the gentle giant

High school classmate Ed e'd us all today to tell us that Raymo had a massive stroke and is on life support. It's strange to be with someone daily for twelve years, then never see them again. Ray and Eddie and I were classmates for twelve years, which then, seemed like forever; which it was. Ray was 6'3" and a bear of a guy, but he wasn't called Bear, he was called Raymo, who knows why.
His mom died when we were perhaps in our early 20s; she sat in the bleachers through every basketball game he ever played in. It was a tossup whether our team was as good as its record, or maybe Raymo's mom scared the opponents into losing! She put body English and every other kind of English into her fandom. Despite her ferocity, Ray was far from ferocious, he was a good sport and a good sportsman. He followed in his dad's footsteps as an ob/gyn, practicing in North Carolina after med school at Case Western Reserve and a residency at Mayo.

I had a real affection for Ray after a bad sixth-grade day. It was right before the end of the grade period and we had a substitute teacher. One of her tasks was to check our reading lists. On a separate notebook page, we had to keep a list of each book we read, one book per line. Most kids had at least a couple of books, some had ten or twelve -- I had six pages filled with books. One by one, we went to the teacher's desk to show her our lists. She looked at mine, pushed her chair back and stood up, her face grew crimson, and she yelled, "What is this? What are you trying to do?" Clearly she thought I was trying something on. The rest of the class fell silent. Then Raymo raised his hand and volunteered, "Oh, she read those books -- Diggitt always has book lists like that!" and then the rest of the class started to agree with him and spoke up too. Sometimes I have wondered what the sub would have done to me if Raymo hadn't spoken out. Unlike certain other alpha males in our class, Raymo was almost protective of me, even though we didn't know each other in anything other than a distant, across-the-classroom way. That's just who he was.

Follow-up: Raymo died Friday, June 5. The 6th was our graduation anniversary.

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