I love adjectives that take the random and make it mean something. “Bottle-red hair,” for example, I don’t think Crayola has a Crayon by that name, yet when that adjective is used in creative writing the reader knows exactly what it means–hair so red it can’t be natural. Dr. Pat Taylor had bottle-red hair–it was the first time that such an adjective has surfaced off the page for me. It wasn’t just her hair that was colorful–she was colorful, her language was colorful, her life was colorful.
I wasn’t particularly close to Dr. Taylor–probably why it’s taken me a few days since I heard of her fatal heart attack Saturday morning to pick the words I want to dedicate to her. Last semester I took her World Literature class, jammed pack with ancient Greek and Roman plays–the good stuff. And she loved the good stuff. In class, she’d lose herself in the poetry, acting out the death of Hector or the rage of Medea as if it wasn’t a classroom of over-charged and over-caffeinated college students in front of her, but the great theaters of the Mediterranean. She was an actress and she was passionate. Playing the mother in Death of a Salesman last winter, she screamed bloody murder. It echoed in the darkness of the theater, vibrated my ear drum with a carrying hiss. It was ugly, it was raw–I remember that.
When I read the English Department Head’s e-mail, telling of Dr. Taylor’s sudden death, I gasped. I had just seen her Wednesday. I was sitting in the hallway of Cherry reading Tennyson for my Brit Lit class. I was listening to music when I looked up and saw her round the corner towards me. For a second I thought to take the music out of my ears and say something, to close the text over my thumb and give her my concentration. But I hesitated to do so, and before I could make up for that hesitation, she had nodded in acknowledgement of my smile and passed me.
How come it’s always the last we remember first? She has so many other vibrant attributes in which to stake claim on my memory–but it’s the subtlety and brevity of my last encounter with her that I instantly remembered.
I’ve spent this afternoon reading articles and blogs dedicated to Dr. Taylor, and reading their memories incited me to remember mine.
Long-time professor ‘played so man roles’ by Linday Kriz (published in Western Kentucky’s College Heights Herald
In Memory of a Friend, Mentor, and Educator Corey Alderdice
Loss and Rememberance by Catherine Altmaier
One Last Round of Applause by Savannah Pennington