New York, NY
Ivan was one young man among many that I taught at St. Anne H.S. in Illinois–40 years ago. But he left the biggest impression. He lived with his grandmother in a trailer. I don’t know where his parents were (I did meet his grandmother, sister and brother). He shuttled between Chicago and St. Anne. In Chicago he was a member of the Black P-Stone Nation. In St. Anne he was quiet, but I was told to stay away from him. My mistake. Though he barely graduated H.S. that year, Ivan was brilliant. He asked penetrating questions and took no crap for answers. I stayed with him at his grandmother’s trailer after he graduated. He stayed at my parents house in Skokie. One day that summer, out of the blue, Ivan asked me how long it took to be a doctor. A lawyer. A dentist. I gave him my best guess and we moved on. The following fall, when I was teaching at another school, I was told Ivan had enrolled in junior college in Kankakee and was doing well. Then in the spring of 1971, when I was in basic training at Ft. Jackson, SC, I learned from my parents that Ivan had been killed in a one-car accident. He’d had a heart attack at the wheel. 19-year-old young men don’t die of heart attacks. Ivan had started doing speed when he was a teenager, in Chicago. I think he’d stopped. I’ll never know. What I do know is, this was a brilliant, sensitive, deep young man whose past caught up and killed him–just when he’d discovered his future. How many Ivans are out there–still? We’ll never know–will we–unless we do something to help. Thanks for the chance to vent.