The first job of my career began just a couple of weeks after I graduated with my M.S. in audiology. As the only audiologist in a very large county, I spent a lot of time driving between schools. I actually enjoyed that travel time when the weather was nice but my snow driving skills and my Ford Pinto were no match for Preston county winters. I dreaded the days I had to drive up the mountain to Aurora Elementary. That all changed when Donnie, and his family, entered my life.

I think all school employees who teach, or provide direct support services to students, end up having one unforgettable student who made their career. Donnie was that student for me. He was spunky and smart, funny and charming, and he didn’t let his hearing loss slow him down. Juvenile otosclerosis is rare but Donnie not only had exceptional speech reading skills, he also had great people reading skills. If I was having a bad day before working with Donnie, I’d end up smiling the rest of the day because of his antics.

Fast forward a lot of years, and I was having a bad life. I had a stupid boss, a boring job, a difficult marriage, and a rebellious teenaged daughter. The parent of one of my current students was the mother from hell and I was struggling to survive. Believe it or not, it was Donnie who came to my rescue. I received a Facebook message from him and I immediately started laughing. He wasn’t little Donnie anymore! With long hair, a beard and a mustache, I doubt I would have recognized him but for the eyes. Even in the picture, you could see the twinkle, the pure orneriness that was his trademark. The first thing he said was I don’t know if you remember me. Donnie, you are unforgettable. I want to thank you for helping me learn to compensate for my hearing loss. The pleasure was all mine. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have achieved so much in my life. If it wasn’t for you, Donnie, there would have been a lot less joy in the world.

Fast forward again, to last March, when I attended the funeral for Donnie’s father. Even through all the tears, Donnie made me smile when he wrapped me in a big old bear hug. My friends know that I am not a hugger but I find myself being grateful that I didn’t back away from it. I will never have a chance to see him again because, on February 19th, the unthinkable happened. Donnie, at the age of 48, passed away. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that he’s gone. My heart is broken but I know his Mom’s heart is shattered. I don’t know how to help her pick up the pieces. I do know one thing, however. There are two new stars in the heavens now that Donnie is looking down. I may be just a few steps beyond normal, but I don’t think that even death can extinguish the twinkle in his eyes.

3 thoughts on “Donnie

  1. Mabel Calhoun

    How wonderful that you made a mutual difference in your lives that was a blessing to each of you. I am sorry that he left us at such a young age. I do believe his eyes are still twinkling from the other side.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kathy Harp

    What a nice story ,it brought tears to my eyes .We too have been saddened from a real good friends death, I think it was a week ago ,that I got a phone call from our friends in Orlando ,where I’m heading tomorrow, that was one of our choir directors that we have known for years & years .He was getting dressed to attend their meeting on Monday night,& he dropped dead of a sudden heart attaick & he was only 63 years old.

    Liked by 1 person

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