So, one day he had me come to his class - was it last year, or the year before. I think the year before. He wanted me to talk to the kids about writing books. As I was fairly sure I knew more about that than the kids did, I accepted the invitation. And in doing that, got an insiders view of what went on in the classroom-crowned-with-a-
He handled the room the way a magician handles an audience—slight of hand, phrase—I know a pro when I see one. He treated his kids pretty much the way he treated us grownups, with that wry, limit-setting tongue of his—sometimes a little sharp, but only because he respects us enough to give us a straight-up answer. I teased him about his hair. I teased him about marriage. He gave me back as good as I got. Which is why we became friends.
But the thing that gave me the most insight into him was what I saw in the halls of that school as we came back in from recess. It was like the man was a magnet, walking through a hallway full of iron filings. Kids would leap out of the student flow and attach themselves to him - throw their arms around him and bury their faces in his shirt. That, or throw words at him, like they had five seconds to get in a round of speed tennis. And I knew him then - the favorite teacher. The guy piloting the fifth grade class. I almost remembered him, because my own fifth grade teacher had won my own love, back in the day. But I never would have thrown my arms around him the way those kids were doing.
I don't know much more than that about Jason. Well, a few things—we did have a chance to talk a couple of times. Funny - the last time we got together, it was him giving me courage and hope, strength to go on. The irony stings. All I know is, I hardly knew him, but he loomed large in my life nonetheless. And he will be missed.