Lean to the left! Lean to the right!
Stand up! Sit down! Fight! Fight! Fight!
That’s what we chanted from the stands, right? I will tell you that it is a lesson worth heeding, not only on the gridiron, but in life, overall. And to think I was under the impression that I could just put our high school reunion away so handily.
Metaphorically, the brain is lined with a million hooks, upon which we hang these memories. Having stirred these memories recently, they are still jostling around up there, clamoring for my undivided attention. I can only assure you, I am a prisoner in chains to the combination of the memories themselves, being present in the same venue as the individuals who created them. I want to return to our freshman year and my old nemesis, Father Aidan.
Because I have always felt that the grading system at Bishop Amat could be somewhat arbitrary, I was entranced by a story told to me by Ralph, who was in all of my classes freshman year, and who also had Father Aidan as a teacher.
I was the kind of student who routinely earned grades for tests and assignments in math and science that were not passing, and yet I never got anything lower than the magical C- on a report card.
This is not the kind of information that I was inclined to volunteer, when it came to explaining my poor showing to my parents. Any thought of giving me a ration of grief was tempered by the knowledge that my explanation for poor grades, was always tied into the thirty hours of work I put in, at Sunrize (sic) Market each week.
No Milk Today, as Herman’s Hermits sang to us back during our freshman year.
I. Don’t. Think. So.
I was not about to complain to my parents about a grading system that cut me some slack, most likely because I did work hard and never gave the priests a ration. Essentially, to put it bluntly, I was rewarded for being a nice kid.
Not everyone fared as well as I did, as Ralph was to explain to me in an email that followed one of the posts I did last June, one that featured Father Aidan. Besides being impacted by the communique itself, I was struck by his message. He wrote,
“Aidan gave me a D on my Freshman English 1st semester report card…Dad was not happy and wanted an explanation from me…all I had was every returned assignment and test in a folder, which were all B’s & a few A’s and C’s. I couldn’t explain it to my Dad. Dad was a high school teacher also and figured something was up… so he took it upon himself to visit Aidan one late afternoon (cocktail hour had already started)…and had a lively discussion which resulted in my grade being changed to a B. Dad said…for me to keep all tests and assignments for the balance of the year.”
End of story?
Not quite. Ralph concluded by saying, “I had so much respect for my father after that incident-he stuck up for me and I was so proud of him. Of course Aidan gave me the stink eye for the rest of the year, but he never fucked with me again.”
Besides sticking up for his son, Ralph’s dad taught him to go after what was rightfully his. This is a lesson that we would all do well to emulate. The cosmos in its infinite wisdom often finds a way to reward integrity, and conversely, a way to acknowledge injustice. That would be the divine Ms Karma.
Ralph’s anecdote reminded me of my own grading injustice from San Jose State, my first semester working on a Masters in English. After completing a class invitingly entitled, “Methods and Materials of Literary Research.” (Er, pre-internet days), I was shocked to have received a B on my report card.
I won’t bore you with the fine points, even if I could remember them, except to say that I worked hundreds of hours on this class. Partly because it was my first semester of Masters work, but also because I lived directly across the street from the San Jose State Library, I had thrown my body, heart and soul into this class.
|Specialist 4 O'Neill|
Nevertheless, though that B in M&MoLR knocked me for a loop, I shrugged my shoulders and let it go. Life in the Big Leagues, I said to myself. Coincidentally, I had just begun dating my late wife of forty years, Annie, and she immediately got in my face about just accepting what I thought was a mistake.
“Go to his office and ask him about your grade,” Annie advised me. More to please Annie than because I thought it would do any good, I dutifully went to see this professor, who was also the head of the English Department.
I will never forget his demeanor, as he confidently whipped out that grade book with a flourish, and located my name. He trotted out his twelve-inch-ruler with polish, to place beneath the row of my grades and then just froze. The only movement was his forefinger, which kept flitting back and forth like my ancient Royal typewriter, being operated at full speed.
“Er, uh, ahem, I must say, I can’t explain this B on your report card. You have clearly earned an A.”
Why did I receive a B, when I clearly had earned an A? Why did Ralph earn a D from Father Aidan, when he deserved a B? I have no definitive answer to either question, which is why we must always be ready to question matters of injustice.
My red beard grows out white these days, but injustice is still injustice. Having an advocate for you is a huge first step, but if you don’t have one handy, be your own advocate. Fight for what is right and demand an accounting of others’ stewardship because if everyone did this, the need would disappear.
|This was taken on the DMZ,|
dividing North and South
Korea. Did I submit the
wrong photo to the Reunion