I want to begin this blog post by paying my respects to Troy DiFranco and that I am sorry to his family for the loss.
I would like to share a story.
Without going into a full high school story, which deserves its own documentary, I want to condense it for the purpose of remembering Mr. DiFranco, and perhaps lend a smile to people who knew him, because it’s unlikely they would know about this.
Before his passing when I caught word that he was at the hospital after suffering a heart attacking I posted this on Facebook “I have a few people that were “life hammers” in school. Troy Difranco did two major things for me that I will be forever grateful for. Hoping for a full recovery 🙌” It was shocking to me, and kept me up.
So this dates far back, these days seem like a lifetime ago, and also like earlier today, because I was lucky enough to have a few extremely influential, positive, and straight up great humans that happened to understand my drive in life. To be honest, and will go further in depth at another time, I didn’t really believe in the school system, it made no sense to me. I wanted to become a photographer and run my own business, but school was designed for workers, especially before social media (I graduated in 2004) I wasn’t the kind of student that would be a trouble maker or anything like that, I just didn’t have the interest in majority of what was being taught which led me to not taking the time to learn certain things which led me to being terrible at tests, which ultimately had me having bad grades, solid D’s if you catch my drift. Throughout most of high school through graduation I dated the valedictorian, star athlete and now in the hall of fame. I’ll just say the older adult folk did not like that. I was the skateboarder wearing skinny jeans when all of the other guys were still wearing baggy jeans. Teachers didn’t like this at all, probably thought I was a bad influence. One of my teachers took me into his office one day asking what my intentions were, like he was going to relay the information to her parents. Which I obviously was tipped off on the possibilities of relayed information. He later told me a year later I should break things off, which I didn’t. I was looked at as an outcast, adults around wanted a “Steve” not someone who was original, forward thinking.
I want to cut myself off, I can go deep into the back story and enhance the meaning Of the story even more that I’m going to tell, but you get the idea.
I had to pass his test, I had to or I’d fail his class. I don’t remember exactly but you had to pass a certain amount of tests back in those days (could be the same now) so it didn’t matter If I passed the semester, I had to pass this test. I knew, and without talking to Mr. DiFranco, he also knew, I was not going to pass this test, no way.
I was fashionably late to every class in high school, we “shared” lockers, I’d walk with her to her class even if my class was completely on the other side of the school so the bell would ring and I would full sprint, running so fast to each class, I can still get the feeling of flying by seeing the lockers rush by thinking about it. On test day, Mr. DiFranco knew I’d always do that, and I could see him from a distance outside the door barely into the hallway as I was now jogging, when I got to him he said “take the test, then meet me after school so you can take it again.” When I sat down I still can remember feeling like he was doing something special, but at the same time I didn’t know what that really meant. After school we would all walk out through the art class door to my car, a 1980 Chevy impala with a rad bench seat, I said my goodbye quick so I can get back to take the test. His classroom was just about completely on the other side, I remember walking it, thinking about it. When I got there I sat with him and he asked me how I’ve been doing, he would take me down to shoot some hoops because he knew I loved the game of basketball but didn’t have the grades to play. He took his own time out, pulled a chair next to me and he made sure I passed this test. When we both stood up and walked towards the door as he was leading me out, as I was about to leave he said “You’re a great kid, I’m proud of you and don’t let anyone bring you down.”
He was a person that genuinely cared about people, he didn’t have a one track mind when it came to teaching and students. When I think back to that moment I always tend to think of that scene from Donnie Darko with the teacher talking about time travel. Mr. DiFranco understood that people can, and should be different. I could be wrong but somehow he knew what I was going through with the “older folk” from the dating situation, home life, to my I’m going to be a photographer conversations... either way he was willing to reach out to me, and what he did wasn’t just helping me pass a test, he was teaching me a life lesson of gratitude, empathy, and self confidence.
Troy DiFranco. In my heart forever, thank you. Rest In Peace.