In a previous post about brining chicken with oranges, I mentioned a friend who’s now dead. James Slusser helped me when I needed help — and I never thanked him.
James Slusser: Stop Swearing!
James H. Slusser, 83, Bloomsburg, was a well-known man in our small university town. He was a hair designer. He was a lay minister. He directed plays. He taught English and theater at high schools. When his students grew up, he often taught their children, too.
Slusser was always on my case for saying “ain’t” and “me and my friend were …” He would yell at me, You’re college educated, and you work as a newspaper reporter! Speak proper English!
He yelled at me for cursing. He said it was low class, and I’m not low-class. He yelled at me for saying “goddamn” and “Jesus Christ” too.
Trapped in Small Town
For years, I was working at a small paper and living in a small town.
I felt frustrated. I felt trapped. I wanted more from life.
Slusser sympathized with me. He was among the few who understood my frustration. I could talk to him and feel better. He gave me hope.
He was born and raised here, but he had lived in Boston and New York City, my hometown. He told me to move back to a big city. Go explore the world. Go experience life while you’re young. Don’t settle …
‘Never Stop Learning’
Then, Slusser disappeared for months. It turned out he had cancer.
After Slusser survived his first bout of treatment, I asked him what he considered a meaningful life. He thought for a moment, then said:
“Never stop learning. Because once you stop learning, you might as well be dead.”
Never Sent Card
When Slusser went for another round of treatment, I thought about sending him a “get well” card. To show him that I care. To thank him for believing in me.
But I kept putting it off. I never sent a card. James Slusser died in 2013.