a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Memories and Grief and Joy

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Memories and Grief and Joy

SUMMARY: Dad. And Mark Lynch.

Yesterday, Dad died 5 years before.  The day sits so clearly in my mind, lurking with the things about it that I would absolutely have done differently, but also with relief about a couple of crucial things that I had been afraid that I wouldn't have been able to do for him that I did. So--a wildly emotional day. Plus, he died. So, yes, laser burned into my mental memory book.

And that's all on that for now. But it brings up this:

My Archaelogy/Anthropology prof at Santa Clara University, Mark Lynch, was killed by a drunk driver after he graded my final but before I picked it up.  Yes, relevant--

holding this space hoping for ok to post painting of Mark lynch

I "dropped out" of college after my junior year, struggling with what I really wanted to major in. Then I got a dog, bought a house, got married--and a few years after I left college, I went back. Santa Clara accepted me, thank goodness. [that might be another story]. As a Senior, which was also Thank Goodness, because SCU has specific breadth requirements for each year (frosh, soph, jr, sr) to earn your degree, so that, as a Senior, I needed only one of each category and could concentrate on my major classes.

I don't recall which breadth category Anthropology fit into, but that's where I headed. The first class I picked sounded interesting but after one day of the prof's dull, dull, droning delivery, I knew that I couldn't handle it for a full quarter. That he had only maybe 10 students in his class said something, too.  

That left me stuck: My other classes were already set, so I had to find something in essentially the same time slot, and I believe that left only one choice, and of course now I had missed the first class session.

I went anyway, to ask whether he'd add me (the class was listed as full so I couldn't join without that).  And his classroom overflowed with more folks than there were places to sit, lining all the walls. Many more than what he was allowed, but he added everyone, even late me. AND he remembered everyone’s names right away. I don’t know how he did it--must’ve been 50 people in that class. An amazing man.

So, I know that he graded my final because grades were posted (yes, an A).  He put all graded papers and tests into a cube outside his door, but I never did get my final--everyone else’s were in the bin--and I’ve often wondered whether he had kept it on his desk or wherever he was working because I knew all the material well and it was essay(s), and so I had a lot of fun writing it while still delivering the goods. I felt that he'd be OK with that and maybe even enjoy it and maybe he had held onto it a bit for that or had thought that he might see me again to say something.

He was so young.

I had mostly not bothered my profs through all the years of college except occasionally for a specific class-related question, but I had gone in to talk to him a couple of times about some fiction I was trying to break through on (Anasazi-related). Because, in class, not only could he be funny, but could elicit deep emotions with his fabulous descriptions of life and death and the effects of European colonization here in the western states. So I was quite comfortable chatting with him about fiction and about Anasazi and related topics and whatever unrelated topics we went into. Not that we were likely to become real friends, but he wasn’t that much older than I was at that point --I don’t recall exactly--or the same age (I was 27ish). But, still. 

I learned about his death while listening to the car radio--and then I was driving on US-101 bawling my eyes out.

I cried over several days, couldn’t stop thinking about it at night when all those thoughts you don’t want come calling. Then, one night, I dreamed that i was sitting on the outside steps of the building where his class was, head down on my knees, crying again. Suddenly felt a hand on my shoulder, and I looked up, and there he was. He said, you’re crying? And I was stunned, just staring at him being there. And then he said, “About me? Oh, there’s no need for that” followed by words that I don’t remember exactly any more but something along the lines that he had had a happy life and he’d be honored if people would remember the fun that he had and the education that he gave and be happy about all of that for him. And I nodded and he smiled his familiar smile and trotted on down the steps and away.

It helped me so much when I woke, even though I know that it was my brain inventing things--I think it was inventing a story for myself that I could grasp to not wallow in grief and to, indeed, remember him cheerfully.

So, yay, brain.

(See end of post for links related to Mark Lynch.)

I haven't had dreams like that about either of my parents.  I try to remember the same things for them, though.  But these anniversaries are hard.

Photos from family Thanksgiving 6 and 7 years before they died --
because they were always a couple

And a final note: Links related to Mark Lynch


  1. Your parents were so cute. And that's awful about your college prof. He would have had such a positive influence on so many more students had a drunk driver stayed home that night. I'm really sorry about all the grief you've had to deal with.

    1. Thanks, Dawn. Of course I'm not the only one having dealt with grief--but in terms of people, I've considered myself lucky at not having lost close family or close friends until the last decade or so. Hmm, well, a couple of unrelated friends died unexpectedly about 20 years ago, but other than dogs--
      And my parents lived pretty long lives.

    2. I don't think it ever is long enough no matter how long their lives are. Family or dogs. Though I have to say Aunt Vi's 102.5 was pretty close to being long enough.

    3. Yes, she seemed like she had a good life that was also long.