Monday, September 24, 2007

Remembering Mr. Bloch

Mr. Bloch was my sixth grade teacher. I hadn't thought about him in quite awhile. Not until yesterday when the Miami Herald ran an obituary about Ruben Blumstein. Blumstein taught Spanish in the Miami-Dade County Schools. He was one of those rare kind of teachers who really enjoyed what he was teaching and made every effort to make sure you did too. He was 81 when he died.

Mr. Bloch was 83. I went to his funeral because he inspired me to greatness. Also because of guilt. I screwed up the class photo because I thought it would be funny to slip a Mad magazine into the picture at the last second. You can tell who knew what was going on. When Mr. Bloch saw the picture he blew a fuse. This really hurt me because we had set up this unique relationship. Every morning I would meet him in the school parking lot to get his keys to open the classroom. It was a great honor for me because I truly looked up to this man. He was so cool. And funny. He was also my first Jew. He was the closest thing in unincorporated Dade you could find at that time who was not only Jewish but also, thanks to the Ed Sullivan Show, my family's favorite comedian: Myron Cohen. One of Mr. Bloch's running gags was reminding the class that no matter how bad his car looked, it still had a few years to go before it officially became an antique and would appreciate it if they treated it with all the respect it deserved. He also introduced us to isometric exercises which was something entirely new back then. And Jewish humor and the art of self-deprecation. I loved that guy. So when he lost it over the official class picture, it really hurt. I stopped being his go-to-boy that opened the classroom and the windows and made sure everything was ready. In fact I stopped speaking to him and refused to buy the picture-- even after he tried to make amends.

Years later when I'm married with kids of my own, our paths crossed in a supermarket. I reintroduce myself and apologize for being such a dipshit a quarter-of-a-century before. He treats me like a long lost friend. Over time, my family becomes his family and one day he gives me the photo that started it all.

He left teaching to become a guidance counselor and when he retired, this former World War II soldier spent his summers in Israel volunteering on archaeological digs. His wife preceded him in death and his children buried him nearly ten years ago in the far reaches of Broward County. So, although he is gone, he, like Mr. Blumstein I'm sure, will never be forgotten.

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