Tyrone was a boy from a neighboring town in our school district. He went to elementary school in our town because that’s where the special education program was conducted. Dane was also in that program, I think primarily because he needed someone to write out his homework answers. This was long before computers were common in schools.
Tyrone was one of only a few black students. Dane was the only student in a wheelchair. That’s irrelevant to the story except I’ve sometimes wondered if being “different” brought them together or if it was just the way it was supposed to be. Whatever the case, from my vantage point, Tyrone was a helpful soul and I would often see him pushing Dane through the school. It was an old building with stairs and no elevator. Tyrone was usually the one helping get Dane up and down those stairs. Tyrone made Dane laugh. Dane made Tyrone laugh. They were buds.
I don’t know if they remained as close through junior high and high school but they continued to be friendly. Tyrone played sports. Dane went to most of the games and kept stats (unofficially, in his own head, he wasn’t a statistician). Their lives were different.
When I was a freshman in high school and Tyrone and Dane were juniors, I played basketball as did Tyrone. The practice schedule alternated such that one week the girls would practice early followed by the boys practice and the next week it would switch. This particular day, the girls had practiced early and as was usually the case when that happened, I was waiting in the cafeteria for Mom’s taxi service while the boys practiced.
I sat there doing my homework when all of a sudden one of the players burst out of the gym and asked, “Where’s Coach Mac?” Coach Mac was the JV girls basketball coach and was often called on to help with medical issues—perhaps taping an ankle or evaluating an injured knee. I knew from the look of panic on this boy’s face that this wasn’t an ankle or knee injury. I pointed toward the teacher’s lounge. He sped off in that direction.
I wanted to peek in the gym and see what was going on. But I didn’t want to. Coach Mac entered the scene. An ambulance was called. Word came from inside the gym that Tyrone had collapsed on the basketball court. He didn’t survive.
It goes without saying that his life was too short. I wish I had the foresight to have told him how great I thought he was for the kindnesses he extended to my brother. I guess at 14 you just don’t think about that. Even as adults, we don't do it often enough. None of us knows how much time we have to wander this planet, but we can only hope to touch at least one person’s life in a meaningful way. Tyrone did.