“… but I know that you know / all the things that I’m a sayin’ and a many times more.”
Bob Dylan, “Song to Woody”
My friends who played soccer still say it. I still say it.
Southington tennis coach Robin Thompson still says it and I’m sure her players wonder what the heck it’s all about.
“Hep, KEY-MON now.”
That was Dan Murawski’s phrase.
He had a whole book of self-styled “Polish Proverbs” — Volume 1 going on to Volume 2, no doubt, because he kept teaching long after I passed through his American History class at Southington High — but “Hep, KEY-MON now” was the signature phrase, his “Ask not what your country can do for you.”
It was his very own “fuhgeddaboudit,” too, because it could mean just about anything.
Hep, KEY-MON now! (Get with the program.)
Hep, KEY-MON now? (That answer was woefully insufficient.)
Hep, KEY-MON now. (Keep up the good work.)
Hep, KEY-MON now ... (That joke was pretty funny, almost as good as my Polish proverbs, like the one about the size of the fight in the guy.)
That last one would be accompanied not so much by a laugh, but a look of mock surprise and then a sidelong glance, with a twinkle in the eye.
Listen, I can’t tell you how good a soccer or tennis coach Dan Murawski was at Southington High School because I never played for him. I’ll leave that to the athletes who did and who paid tribute to him after learning he’d passed away the night before Thanksgiving. (Please read Sean Krofssik’s story atop page B1.)
Being a history guy, I can just tell you Dan Murawski established the Southington boys soccer program and won 298 games over 30 years before stepping down in 1999.
I look at those numbers and it dawns on me just how much they reflect what Mr. Murawski was all about as a teacher and as a coach. 298: two wins shy of the 300 milestone.
But, Hep, KEY-MON now! Win totals are like dates in history, just markers in time, the little details in the big picture — that great wash of every day: work and passion and hopes and deeds that fail and succeed and circle back to fall and rise again.
That’s history. That’s a lifetime.
And faces. So many faces. How many looked up at Dan Murawski over 30 years of sideline huddles and 38 years of classrooms?
I looked up at Mr. Murawski in the academic year of 1982-83. AP American History.
Advanced Placement classes were brand-new back then. AP American History is the only one I took. I should have taken more. Mr. Murawski, without ever actually saying it, let me know I could hang.
I had a number of favorite teachers at old SHS — Audrey Zack, Carol Cope, Ann Sciota, Aurora Pedrolini. The best one I had was Dan Murawski.
When I got to college, nothing surprised me. I’d already seen it in Mr. Murawski’s class — the reading, the rapid pace, the blue exam books, the all-essay answers with time ticking on the clock.
Every once in a while I’d hear “Hep, KEY-MON now?” and bear down harder on the test. When I heard “Hep, KEY-MON now,” I figured I was good.
I never stopped hearing it. Nor did any of my soccer buddies. I can’t tell you — and, Dan, you may or may not want to know — how many a toast at how many a social gathering, from age 18 going on nigh 57, was punctuated with a “Hep, KEY-MON now ...”
I play for the laugh, but the fact is sadness is playing me. So many pillars of my Southington High have recently passed — John Fontana, Ray Walsh, Dan Murawski.
Sure, they were just coaches, guidance counselors, teachers. But far more than presidents and generals and the giants of history, these are the people who make a palpable and immediate difference in young lives — young lives that grow old and shape younger lives and who knows what lives beyond.
Tribute must be paid.
“Pillars fall and we lose the ties to yesterday,” I write, but that’s not very good and not really very true.
Faulkner, in a pithy moment, was spot on: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Or Dylan, singing to Woody Guthrie about a funny old world that’s coming along: “It looks like it’s a-dyin’ and it’s hardly been born.”
The song fades. I hear the clock and cannot avert my eye if I tried. It’s time to pick my children up at school.
And so: “The hours of yesterday forever tick in the minutes of today.”
That’s going down in my book, Mr. Murawski. It will stand for now. Hold off on the grade til next class.