I Want to Honor My Grandfather

The fire control officer bursts onto the bridge, “Sir, I can’t get to the engine room.  It’s fire everywhere below.” 

“Go back and try again,” McVay said. 

Janney then appeared on the bridge, and McVay told him to take another message down to radio, “Say we’ve been hit be two torpedoes.  Give our latitude and longitude. Say we need immediate assistance.”

The instant Janney left for Radio 1, Commander Joe Flynn arrived on the bridge., ‘Sir, the damage is serious,” he told McVAy. “i recommend that we abandon ship.” 

McVay, who had utter regard for his executive officer’s ability, assessed the situation.  As the list angle increased, the clinometer needle had swung slowly toward twenty degree.s.  With an unknown number of compartments flooding below, the ship’s stability would be seriously compromised.  McVay made the mental calculations and determined that his ship was doomed.  Now he had to allow enough time for his men to escape with their live.

He turned to Orr:  “Pass the word to abandon ship.”  

With all communications out, the abandon ship order would have to be passes man to man.   — Page 164.  INDIANAPOLIS. Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic 

Today, I just completed my first five-day week of my thirty-first year teaching high school music.  I should be thrilled.  I should feel exhilaration for being able to be in a career that I have wanted to do since I was sixteen years-old.  

Well, I ain’t feelin’ it. 


Do not misunderstand me.  

I am very blessed to be in a career that I have wanted to do since I was sixteen.  A friend said to me, “Not too many people, Paul, get to do what they have wanted to do, let alone as long as you have enjoyed your career!” 

My friend is correct. 

Yet, Zoom?  Zoom?  Nah… my thirty-first year has started with a lot of confusion.  A lot of frustration.  A lot of feeling that my passion has turned into a job.  A feeling that is foreign to me.  A feeling … that is empty.  A feeling of:

  • are the students there? 
  • Are they paying attention? 
  • Can they hear me? 
  • Are they learning? 
  • Can I still teach?  

Had a student quit jazz band today because he did feel like he was contributing to the group because he could be with the group.  I get it.  I am surprised and really HONORED to have had any of the students choose to be in band or jazz band or guitar class.  

I want to get back on campus. 

There, I said it.  I did not know saying “I want to be on campus with my students with all the safety measures / pre-cautions in place” would take courage and risk losing friends.  

A local school district in the same county will be going to hybrid.  They are planning to go to a hybrid schedule mid-September / maybe early October.  This neighboring district seems to be the tail that wags the county’s dog.  

On Wednesday, I asked one of my student leaders, “Did you hear about the other school district?” 

“Yeah.  It’s all over the place.” 

I asked the student, “Well, since that district is going on campus, I would think we are going to be on campus.  What do you think about that?”

Her answer made me sad.  “I am scared.  Don’t get me wrong.  I do want to go back to school.  I miss being around my friends, but I am scared.” 

We have scared our children.  

I needed to bite my lip.  I did tell her that if we did go back on campus, we would do all we could to make it as safe as possible.

I wanted to say more.  Yet, I told the Performing Arts department (which I chair) that we need to not lobby for on or off campus.  We should tell the students how happy we are that the numbers are looking better for our county.  

I wanted to say more.  

“So, what are you scared of?  Did you go to the grocery store?  Since March 16, have you been outside at all?  Please tell what you are scared of?  Getting sick?”  

I didn’t.  I was silent.  Sort of felt ashamed for not saying more.  

At the beginning of this article, I shared the story about my grandfather.  My hero.  Commander Joseph Ambrose Flynn is the Executive Officer of the USS INDIANAPOLIS.  Yes.  He gave the abandon ship call.  Yes.  He went to the bottom of the hull of the ship.  Helped close the hull of the ship where he would remain since July 30, 1945.  He was forty-one years-old.

Knowing that story may give you an idea of my thinking. 

If I were to die while doing my work, I would like to die doing what I love:  being in the classroom making incredible music with amazing teenagers!  I would want to be with that energy.  Just kicking butt!

Now?  From 7:20am – 11:30am – with fifteen-minute breaks – I sit at my desk in front of a computer.  In an empty band room.  In my office, a light goes off every 15 minutes because they won’t change the light switch.  Something about government regulations?  Another reason to hate big government.  There are rooms that must of timers as switches.   

As long as we are off-campus, we will never be able to play together.  Instead, we will be part of a virtual ensemble.  Students will record their parts.  Send them to a company.  The company edits their records and TAH-DAH … a FIELD SHOW!!  One I am sure the seniors in the band will cherish forever (sarcasm).  

My grandfather’s actions remind me there will be times when we will be in a life or death situation.  We will have to make a decision.  Fight or flight.  His decision to go to the hull of the ship and help close the hull may / could have given a minute or two of time to allow more men to jump off the ship!  

When the district makes that tough decision to return to campus, I will be ready:  ask the students questions and check their temperature.  Wear that mask.  Sit six feet apart and let’s go!  Trust God to give me time to enjoy the return and allow fate take its course. 

I realize my decision to stay with this job, go back on campus, may lead me to the same fate as my grandfather.  And do you know what?  That is how I am wired.  I am also wired to be an alcoholic.  I am also wired to be an abusive husband.  It’s about choice. 

I choose to honor my grandfather.  I am ready.  

My Grandfather