1983 National Merit Scholarship CommendationFirst off, let us (and by us, I mean, me) be clear, I received no Scholarship. What I received (and to the best of my knowledge what everyone else received) was a simple piece of embossed paper (I assume, as I no longer have a copy) with a sticker type seal affixed. It meant next to nothing. And I haven't got the slightest idea how I earned it. It certainly wasn't based on my Grade Point Average. So, likely it was test based.
Anyway, above is an exacting (and I do mean exacting) recreation of a newspaper clipping.
And as follows are some random details concerning the individuals pictured (and/or not pictured, as there were two more recipients than those shown, or so states the caption), presented in no particular order.
- A Girl
- Who was not in any of my classes.
- Seriously, I have no idea how she qualified.
- A Girl
- Who was in some of my classes.
- So, clearly, she was smart.
- But in the top eight?
- Another Girl
- Fine. I guess I didn't talk to very many girls.
- But none of those I would have considered the academic front runners made this cut.
- I do not know why.
- Some Guy
- I had one class with him.
- Once again (since I was in The Hard Math, Science, and English Classes), I have no idea how he qualified.
- Another Guy
- We were school friends, mostly.
- We shared tons of classes.
- But I never went over to his house... nor he mine.
- Living my life over, I would change that.
- Another Guy
- He died in a car crash.
- I didn't really know him.
- A Good Friend
- Who said he'd have preferred it if I was the one who had died in that car crash.
- So, as close as we were, maybe we were not that good of friends.
- And Myself
I had been away washing dishes, camping, and paddling canoes at summer camp, earning an insanely paltry amount after expenses were deducted for a summer's worth of work. I would never do that again. Anyway, the day after my return, I called the one, who informed me the other had died. I had been gone for a little over two months, so I assumed the event had taken place weeks earlier. And I asked him if he wanted to play. Well, apparently, he had literally just returned from his best friend's funeral... or at least, who I believe he would have called his best friend, having been playing with him (or so, I was led to believe) all summer long.
Summer of Fun → Tragic Death → Emotional Funeral → Heartless Phone Call
And that's when (in his grief, no doubt) he informed me of his Death Wish Preferences. Being who I am, I let it roll off my back. I mean, it was the grief talking, right? And though we had been friends for many a year, this was the second complete summer I had gone missing, having been grounded a previous summer for something like eight weeks for "Having a Bad Attitude" and doing such things as may encourage others to make such a diagnosis. Anyway, after the grounding, I had called him up and that time he had remarked, "I didn't know we were still friends." And ironically enough, he had spent that summer (once again, as I understand it) playing with yet another, who too had soon moved away. So, like, he was not having a good run of it. And after hearing all the cool stories of events shared with others, I was more than a bit jealous and could see his point of view.
Anyway, back to the National Merit Scholarship thingie, not counting the girls, four out of five of us guys were fairly closely aligned: i.e. in another universe, it is easy to see us sitting around a table playing some cut-throat game against one another. Throw in the odd man out (or throw out the odd man in), while adding that trio of girls (and possibly a few more) and we could have had ourselves some fun. We (in my ever so humble opinion) would certainly have been better off playing easier (more popular) games with more people.
And then, just like the girls, there were plenty of guys I would have thought equal to our intellect. So, I have no idea how the award was decided. But since I really slammed those standardized tests and was sent off to take more than one of them, I guess those were the competitions... and that I did pretty well.
Death & DestructionThey say bad things happen in threes, right?
Well, the third death in the series (a highly inaccurate statement) arose several years later, involved alcohol, a motorcycle, and a barbed wire fence, which was hit at great speed by a (likely) unhelmeted rider. But as the incident is deserving of a write-up all it's own, I will simply say that for most of my adult life this was the only person I ever mourned... and then, my father died.
The other death (the second death in the series) happened on the very last day of my junior year. I did not know the individual, know of him, or really, hear any stories about him after his demise except, you know, how it happened.
On the last day of school (as the story goes) two friends decided to swim across the lagoon (since filled in). In the middle, they decided to touch bottom (once again, as the story goes). And the one came up and the other did not. I have spent many a moment wondering about his last moments, diving to the bottom, touching, almost out of breath, turning around, pushing off... but instead of going anywhere, his feet sticking, sinking down into the muck, vacumn sealed, with no leverage to pull out, just stuck, thirty feet below the surface, the sunlight just barely tinkling through. I see the sun as rays, his body floating, now. He was dead long before anyone knew what happened... or maybe, someone, was already waiting for them on the other side.
There were lots of flashing lights as the buses pulled away, after a rumor filled delay.
And the ordeal made the Six O'clock News.
But a week later it was hardly worth talking about.
This death stuck with me in a way the other guy with his mundane car crash never did.
And I never even knew the guy's name.
Still, just floating in the water, sun streaking by... or thrashing about madly, until the last of the bubbles depart.
Yeah, I kind of feel bad being so cavalier about the entire thing. But like, how many have starved to death during the time it has taken you to read this page? You can say you care. But all evidence points to the contrary. Heck, let's face it, watching folks die (even if only fictional people) is most likely among your favorite forms of entertainment.
So, sorry if I sound jaded. It's just that I am.
Or would you prefer the story was never told? Or at least, not told in a f'ing page that's supposed to be about High School Academic Clubs?