WHAT I REALLY KNOW
From My Kids
By Judy Irvin Kuns, Sandusky, Ohio
Don’t you have a better shirt than that to wear?” I would
ask my son Andrew, eyeing his tattered and faded T-shirt.
“I like this shirt,” he’d say quietly.
Variations of this dialogue went on sporadically for a couple
of years, the shirt becoming more faded, more tattered and,
since he had owned it since fifth grade, more ill-fitting.
He had been given the T-shirt for a basketball tournament.
When new, it had his name on the back and the number 50 in big
black letters. But after innumerable washings, the number came
unglued, the memory of it represented by a bright white shadow.
One day Andrew was preparing to go to the mall, and since he
was now a sophomore in high school, he was going with his girlfriend. He pulled on the tattered T-shirt and headed for the door.
“Andrew,” I said, this time a little more emphatically, “you
have a million T-shirts.
Certainly you can find
something nicer than
that to go out in.”
He looked down at
his shirt as if noticing
for the first time that
it wasn’t brand-new.
“I got this shirt the
day Ben Brunner died,”
was all he said.
In the silence that
followed his simple
response, I realized for the first time how much that shirt
meant to him. Ben Brunner had been an honor student, a star
athlete, and only 18 years old the day he was killed in a car ac-
cident just weeks before graduation. For five years my son had
been wearing that T-shirt, paying tribute in his own quiet and
personal way to a student he had respected, both academi-
cally and athletically.
Suddenly that faded T-shirt took on a brightness I hadn’t
noticed before; of course it was totally appropriate for a trip to
the mall or anywhere else. “You’re right,” I said, smoothing an
invisible wrinkle over his shoulder, “it’s a fine T-shirt. I just hope
you don’t outgrow it too fast.”
And I knew that somehow he never would.
; The author with her son, now 28
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aarp.org/bulletin MAY 2012