Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Gentle Nerd Jock


Everyone’s talking about Valentine’s Day.  Cupid’s arrow strikes when you least expect it, and sometimes cupid’s arrow just stabs you in the back and leaves you bleeding. Like most of you I have had a few bleeds in my day.
I remember an August day in 2007 when I was bleeding heavily. It was the day I was scheduled to go to court to finalize my divorce and the ending of an 18 year marriage. I was feeling weak in the knees. It was one of the few moments in my life when I didn’t know if I would have the strength to get through the day.
But then something wonderful happened. My brother Eric flew 1000 miles to be with me. Eric is five years older than me. He is a rock and his quiet strong presence can calm any storm. This wasn’t the first time Eric had shown up to save the day.
When I was 8 years old, our family was on a cross country trip from Massachusetts to California visiting state and national parks along the way. If you recall from an earlier story (Dad’s Polar Bear), I was a wanderer. My curiosity sometimes got the better of me.

We were in Yosemite National Park hiking among the waterfalls. It was a truly spectacular place. The sound of the water crashing over the rocks and cascading down into the river just kept drawing me closer and closer, until I was way too close. My mother looked up just in time to catch a glimpse of me and screamed at my father to get me. My father, ever the photographer, looked up and saw me teetering on the edge of the rocks reaching for the water. He called back to mom, “I’ve got it”. He then reached for his camera and captured the moment just before Eric grabbed my ankle and kept me from cascading over the rocks with the water. Eric saved me. There may have been moments later during that eight week journey across the country that he wished he hadn’t saved me, but he did. The proof was in the picture and I am forever grateful.
Years later when I entered seventh grade, I enrolled in our local junior/senior high school.  Eric was a senior and the captain of the football team. He wasn’t the typical jock type. He was a quiet, smart, nerd complete with polyester plaid pants and bowl haircut. If he hadn’t been the captain of the football and baseball teams he would have been a total embarrassment to me.
I pretty much tried to pretend that he wasn’t related to me; however, there was one benefit. Since he was my brother, the quarterback of the football team would actually speak to me. Jimmy was a sophomore and every girl in the school had a crush on him. You know the type – absolutely full of himself. But at lunch he would talk to me, a little seventh grader. I was in heaven and every day I looked forward to lunch time.  One day Jimmy showed up in the cafeteria with a black eye. He barely looked at me. I tried to joke with him about the shiner but he just walked away and never really spoke to me after that. I never knew why, until years later, when a former teammate of Eric’s told me the story of Eric decking Jimmy in the locker room for making a comment about me. I never knew that Eric had been the one to give Jimmy that shiner, and what a shiner it was! No wonder Jimmy never talked to me again. That was probably a good thing.
Fast forward back to divorce court day. Eric and I walked into my attorney’s office only to be told that I wasn’t going to be getting divorced that day because she had not filed the necessary paperwork. I was furious. She looked at me, then looked at Eric and said, “Well I can now see why you’re in such a hurry. He’s very handsome and much better looking than your husband”.  I wish Eric had decked her right then. But alas, Eric doesn’t really have a violent bone in his body. I quickly informed the attorney that if she couldn’t get the divorce completed that day she could at least get my name back. I’d much prefer to share Eric’s name any day.  In the end, I fired the attorney, divorced the husband and kept my brother. He’s a keeper.
So as I think about Valentine’s Day, rather than focus on cupid’s arrow, I think about all the love in my family. Cupid’s got nothing on that!