As promised, published a little early, thank you for sharing and commenting too....
When we last left our Hero, he had been marred by an adolescent crush, and his inability to move the relationship forward. How does he extract himself from this predicament? Does he somehow gain insight into a deeper meaning because of it all? We need only to dial the years forward a little to find out (just like that rotary phone).....
Years passed, I married a local girl, but not the cheerleader. She married her high school sweetheart, not me. We ended up working together on one of the high school reunions and as luck would have it we both arrived early one night for a planning session and had a few minutes to talk. We both were happily married and exchanged stories and pictures of our kids and their exploits. At some point, I reminded her of my call to her, and she had no recollection of it, ouch. What she said next, however, was a total shocker. She said that she had been shy in high school, not very athletic which was why she cheered (the sport now barely resembles cheering like we knew in the 70's and 80's). She said that she suffered the same teenage angst as I did. If I got the story right, she dated 2 times, and married the second guy she dated. What an epiphany I had at that moment!! Wait, ALL kids have teenage angst? Popularity doesn't stop it? Good looks don't prevent it? Money doesn't solve it? This was huge information, too late for me to use in high school, but not too late for me to share it with my children and the world. And share it I did.
I told my daughter, Molly Prior to high school and during those years I reminded her of this. I think it helped her to get more comfortable in her skin. Ironically she became the smart, athletic, popular and beautiful cheerleader. She reached the upper echelons of popularity in her school, but was unaware of it. Her social circles and dates included kids from all over the social pyramid in the school. I used to accuse her of bringing home strays. All through her life, she picked up these kids, like some people collect cats. What a kind heart she had, and has. She did it all with a confidence that I did not know at her age. In 3rd grade she opened a chorus concert in front of a packed auditorium singing a few lines a cappella, and never missed a note. In her last couple of years of high school, prior to cheering for the basketball and football teams, she would go to center court/field and sing the National Anthem. She amazed her mother and I. She graduated near the top of her class, earned a great merit scholarship and is now pursuing a nursing career at the University at Buffalo. The nursing profession will benefit from her, of that I am sure. For the last year, she has dated a non-athletic guy who is kind of geeky, imagine that (we like him too). Anecdotal as it is, it seems that the advice worked.
I told my son Dan. Dan is finishing up his last year of high school now, and he is, quite simply, tearing it up. If I listed all the accolades he has received, you would swear I was making them up. The partial list includes N.H.S., Boys State, President of Leadership Class, and Eagle Scout. Last week he got voted Most Likely to Succeed (incidentally I got voted most talkative, I lived up to expectations, we'll see how Dan does).
He is not as humble as Molly, that is not his nature. He loves a good debate and is leaning towards law or political science. He hasn't dated as much but is currently dating a sweet girl, and I've never seen a high school student that handles relationships with the maturity and respect that he does. He also casts his net wide with his circle of friends. It seems, the advice has helped him too.
I told my son Nolan. Nolan is 10. To say Nolan makes friends easily is to vastly understate his ability. Nolan can interact with any person, of any age, in any setting. He makes a point to walk down and visit his Grandmother, unprompted, on a weekly basis. Last week we visited Molly at college and Nolan got along so well with some students that he got invited back to a college party (He was pretty upset when Mom wouldn't let him go). Two weeks ago he was elected to lead the Hall Boy Scout Troop, and he is the youngest member of the Troop. He is the most comfortable in his skin of all my kids, and it's a little scary to think where this will take him. He has been "dating" a girl for a little over a year now. Sufficed to say, it seems to have helped him too.
|Nolan in Richmond this spring|
So I suffered a little hurt long ago, but because my cheerleading friend shared her story with me, I have been able to help friends, family, and strangers alike. It's a bargain I would make again any day....but wait it gets even better. My wife and I found ourselves attending a wedding a little while ago, and my cheerleading friend and her husband attended also. At one point we were all on the dance floor and they started inviting couples that were married for certain lengths of time to remain on the floor. The 5 year mark passed, the 10, the 15, and even the 20 and the 4 of us were still dancing. It turns out that we all have been married for 23 years now and very happily. There weren't many other couples on the floor as we left, which I found a little sad. We count this couple among our friends now and we try to get together for dinner now and again, but it seems like it is never often enough. They are raising two beautiful girls, and it is clear to me, from the outside looking in, that they have found their soul mates. How cool is that?
I think I made out pretty well myself. I married a beautiful girl who was kind of shy. Over the years we challenged each other to stretch our comfort zones. I watched her take leadership roles on committees and in organizations like Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She's the humble one in our relationship. My second epiphany happened only a short time ago, when I reflected what it has been like to be married to me. I'm flirtatious, opinionated, egotistical, and a little divisive. This combination can cause conflicts with people, but every time it does, she has my back. I've even had a couple of periods of unemployment in my life and during each of them, she stood steadfastly behind me (even when I gave the card back to the Paychex guy, when I wasn't working).
|Friends celebrating in the Garaj-Mahal|
Last year, I won an award at work that was under-celebrated, and my wife, realizing my efforts and my love of attention, organized a surprise party for me. What an absolutely perfect life partner she has been for me. So in closing, you know, years ago I failed to get the date I wanted, but years later, there is no doubt in my mind that I ended up marrying my biggest cheerleader. Come to think of it, my hands were sweaty that day too.
|Char and I dancing this summer.|