I looked at my calendar today and I thought about Ted. Of all the people with whom I shared my high school experience, I probably think of Ted more often than most. I doubt Ted thinks much about me.
He may not remember my name.
In the past month, I have been very “helpful” within my community. I organized a group to help with Habitat for Humanity. I made a pillow and wrote a poem for a friend fighting cancer. I am co-chairing a giving tree program. I helped to organize and execute a group of 15 or so women to make Christmas tree ornaments for a charity. I hosted a cub scout meeting. I hosted another family for Thanksgiving. My family shopped and cooked a meal for 50 folks we otherwise would have never met (one man even took our picture). I presided over a homeowners’ meeting. I attended a PTA Council meeting and spoke on behalf of my son’s school. I even attended a Board of Education meeting.
That was just November.
For every event or opportunity that I have the pleasure of promoting, I feel there are at least ten that fall to the sidelines. We all say ‘no.’ I try to say ‘no’ with no guilt, no apology, and very little explanation.
I remind myself of Ted.
When Ted and I were 15 years old, we worked together at a church camp. I cannot say we were good friends, but we had known each other since early elementary school. He passed every test he felt like passing. Naturally smart, he ran with a streak of menace about him. I knew him for too long to buy into the ‘tough guy’ routine, but we simply were not in the same circles, really. I saw him in a few ‘gifted’ classes and at church.
His mother was the original “church lady.” If something happened in our church, her name was on it.
Ted liked medieval weapons. You know, throwing stars, brass knuckles, num chucks and the like. He had taken num chucks to his father’s car a few days earlier. I heard his parents had him arrested, although I never confirmed that rumor. He was always frighteningly clever. That day, he was angry.
We were in charge of small children. This was a church day camp. The oldest person present was 21 years old (a week or so later that responsible 21 year old would be purposely dousing me with lighter fluid, but that is another story). Ted stormed off into the parking lot.
I walked after him. It went something like this.
“What do you want?!”
“Ted, what’s going on?”
“I’m p$%ssed. Go away!”
Silence, save for his fist hitting his car.
“That D*mn B!T**ch!”
“My @#$ mother.”
“She seems alright. I mean, she does a lot of stuff for the church . . . ”
“OH, YEAH, that’s right. She does a LOT of stuff for the stupid church. Yeah, she doesn’t give a CR#*P. She does a lot for the church to make HERSELF feel good and important, f*%g high and mighty, she doesn’t care about ANYONE else. F&%* B%&*%ch.”
“So, fine, Ted. You are SO SMART. You can run circles around anyone in our school and you’re going to throw all that away, just because she’s stupid?!! That makes sense. You are WAY smarter than that, Ted. You can do anything you want if you don’t screw it up.”
He stopped hitting the car.
We walked back in silence, and never said another word about it.
I heard your message, Ted. I wonder if your mother ever knew how much her 'tough guy' missed her.