WWHS with Greg

Dear Benjamin,

I met your dad during our freshman year of high school and after that, virtually every one of my high school memories includes your father. He was really special – witty, brilliant, interesting, engaging, knowledgeable, funny, kind, and generous – and being around him made me feel special too.

My first memory of your father is from our freshman year in high school. Your dad was the new guy from Iowa in our class, and we were both in Ms. Heyman’s English class. He sat in another section of the classroom from me and I don’t think I had ever spoken to him until Ms. Heyman assigned the class to read Romeo and Juliet out loud and in class. As I remember, most of the students were fairly self conscious about the assignment, reading their lines self consciously and without passion. But your dad, as Romeo, took a different approach. He threw himself into the role, reading every line with such enthusiasm and seriousness that the entire class forgot he was reading a part. In turn, the rest of the class changed its approach to follow his lead. Suddenly, thanks to your dad, Shakespeare was exciting and fun. I think the first time I said anything to your dad was when I mustered up the courage to tell him how much I had enjoyed hearing him read Romeo.

After that, your dad and I became close friends. He loved to talk politics, and we discovered a mutual interest in Gary Hart’s campaign for President in 1984. He and I went to Hart campaign headquarters to volunteer, which at that point seemed like the most grown-up thing I had ever done in my life! I can’t remember if your dad actually subscribed to The New Republic, or just read every issue, but he had read more books about a broader range of topics than anyone I knew in high school. At one point you father worked at Second Story Books in Bethesda, which he loved, and I can remember visiting him at work and being inspired by his enthusiasm for the store and for everything involving books. He had great taste in music and could Bob Dylan effortlessly. Bringing us even closely together, your aunt Jessica became close friends with my younger brother, Andrew.

He was also a feminist. I remember the time I saw him sign his name “Greg H.B. Kahn,” and explaining that he had decided to add an extra middle initial to his name because his mother’s maiden name started with a “B” and he wanted his signature to reflect her influence too. I was fascinated – and impressed.

He was also a great sports lover. I played field hockey for Whitman, along with Anita Bose, Catherine McGraw, and many of your dad’s other friends and admirers, and he covered our team for the Black and White. Thanks to him, our team probably got more coverage than any other Whitman girls’ field hockey team before and since. Your father came to our home games and our away games, and because he was there, many of our other friends came out to cheer us on. I also remember many summer nights playing tennis with him at the courts behind Western Junior High and, once we got our licenses, the thrill of driving around Bethesda with your dad in your grandparents’ maroon Volkwagen Rabbit.

He was also a devoted friend and correspondent. Catherine McGraw and I went away to West Virginia for camp every summer, and I remember his many elegantly written and thoughtful letters. One summer he and our other friends saw Bruce Springsteen while we were at camp; getting Greg’s letter about that experience made me feel as though I had been there too!

After we went off to college, our paths continued to cross, although less frequently. He was one of those rare friends for whom the passage of time or distances never mattered – we just picked up easily where we had left off the last time. At every major life transition, your dad was always a steady and supportive presence. To give just one example, when our first daughter was born, Greg sent her The Little Engine that Could, which is one of the great children’s books. I read it countless times to both of my children, thinking of your father and his friendship each time.

I feel so lucky to have called your father my friend.

One comment on “WWHS with Greg
  1. Anita Bose says:

    Love this, Liz! And thanks for hanging with us yesterday in Bethesda. It was amazing to share all of our crazy Kahn stories.

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