Dorian was a student of mine. He loved practicing his English and we loved having him around. After a few years, we just adopted him as a nephew. He is now in Germany in a PhD program. This is shared with his permission.
Dear Uncle Ryan,
First of all, I am sorry for your loss. I have just read your blog post and seen the pictures you posted on Facebook.
I know I can’t offer much consolation to you in this time of grief, but your blog post touched me so much that I decided to write to you more than just to say I’m sorry for your loss.
I know that we get along well again, that I don’t live in Budapest, and that’s always a good excuse not to keep in touch better, but I have to say when I read your blog post I had this heart-wrenching feeling that’s been with me ever since. I realized that so often we don’t say the things we should to the people that are important to us. When you wrote “dad, I wish I’d loved you better” it made me think of a million things – how often I do not tell people how much I appreciate them only to regret it when it was too late. Well, I hope that you are going to be around for a very long time, but I thought I would take this opportunity to tell you just that: how important you have been in my life. It is crazy when I count the years that I have known you – how I went from a student, to assistant, to nephew. I have always wanted to tell you, but I never knew how that for years you were and still are the father figure and role model that I never really had in my life. You know how my dad and I never used to get along and we had next to no contact for years. Yearning for any kind of example or role model, I joined that Christian organization where I found people who got very close to me – not realizing their hidden agenda.
You helped me a lot in realizing that I wanted to accept who I really was… and I wanted to surround myself not with people who made me feel different and guilty about myself every day, but rather with like-minded people, people who have experienced a lot of things that I was/am going through, who accepted me and didn’t judge me unfairly.
Some of my fondest memories of Hungary are the times when I would sit in your office, work as your TA, hang out with you and Ron, go on missions with you to translate/find some furniture stores, etc. Our conversations about the university, life, people; when we went shopping for my Kellner interview together, or when you gave me your tie to wear for the interview. I will never forget when you guys gave me my bon voyage gift before I shipped off to college.
I appreciate and remember very fondly those times we spent together in your kitchen talking about anything and everything – those times you invited me over to introduce me to your friends – when you helped me with the invoices so I could teach… thank you!
In retrospect I also deeply appreciate your insights into my failed relationship with Z, and even more so your advice in the summer not to break up with Martin. Each time I did the opposite – call it rebelling against “parental” authority if you will – only to discover later that I should have listened to my Uncle Ryan’s good advice. I guess what I am trying to say is this: I appreciate you a lot more than I have been able to express it.
I am really sorry for when you felt hurt that one time I visited Budapest and Zsolt and I left early to go to the movies, and I regret having that dumb fight with you over my grade etc. in the critical thinking seminar the year before I left Hungary.
I have learned so much from you: when I was teaching that Language Practice class at ELTE I modeled my class entirely on the ones I’d had with you, and it was only then that I realized that your teaching style affected me so profoundly that I wanted to emulate that in my own classes. Maybe I succeeded to some extent – only my students could tell. You inspired me to do a PhD (I never received any encouragement from my family to pursue advanced studies, and they never really appreciated my efforts to find my footing in another country where I didn’t speak the language, that I found a job here, managed to eke out a living, got into a PhD program and can finally say that I have accomplished something although the cards seemed stacked against me the whole time) – you actually told me in an email that you guys were proud of me to have accomplished this (something I have never heard from my parents), and of course you helped me along the process with advice, and letters of recommendation.
And last but not least, you didn’t treat me like an alien when I was going to change my name. It was comforting to know that I’m not the only person on the face of the earth who’s ever done that!
I am really sorry for your loss! And I am so happy that you I know you, that you’ve been in my life, that you’ve been a father figure and a role model to me, and that I can tell you this!
Condolences to you and your family!
PS: hugs to Ron whom I miss dearly as well! I will write more about what’s going on in my life soon.