By Andy Weddington
Friday, 17 June 2011
"A person who is gifted sees the essential point and leaves the rest as surplus." Thomas Carlyle
At age three, while most children learn the ABCs, numbers, and colors, he mastered the Presidents of the United States. That is, using full names he could recite them in order or any order. But more impressively, if quizzed by only name or number he could answer correctly; order did not matter. And he could not be tripped up by mismatching name and number.
About the same age, while most children watch Sesame Street, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and cartoons, an evening news program showing black and white footage of a black woman caught his attention. He asked if the woman was Coretta Scott King. Though the segment was about civil rights, it was not Dr. King's widow. But how could a three-year old come up with that question.
A year later, while most children listen to nursery rhymes and silly songs, he'd been given a set of CDs of famous composers (e.g. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky). Soon thereafter, after hearing a couple of notes from a cut, he could name the composer and the piece. And it was practically impossible to stump him.
He was mainstreamed into the public school system. Though homework did not rank high on his list of interests, dedicated teachers and loving, engaged, and committed parents kept him focused and moving forward. He was able to do the work and pass state mandated advancement standardized testing. Some doubters were amazed though no one who knew him was.
As grade school passed, while most children preferred colorfully illustrated books, he took interest in the Almanac. He'd sit for hours in his grandfather's lap and together they'd read--picking up where they left off on the previous visit. His capacity to absorb and remember information remarkable.
Then came interest in movies. He knows them. The series Star Wars and James Bond, a couple of favorites, held his fascination and focus. And still do. As do others. What to say? He enjoys film.
He learned to play piano but making music, at least for the time being, does not hold his interest.
His favorite color is purple.
He loves Oliver--the family dog of Labrador mix that, of all things, is afraid of water; an irony that escapes him.
He appears most comfortable when alone and on the computer--researching whatever comes to mind.
He reads papers and magazines and books. He asks questions.
The oldest of four, siblings, who do not enjoy the same ability to remember everything they hear and read, understandably avoid playing trivia type games with him. They know, from experience, they don't stand a chance.
He is not especially comfortable making eye contact nor with social affection but he's not resistant. He grins and gentlemanly tolerates it.
He prefers routine.
He has a unique sense of humor and great laugh but does not pick up on subtlety or innuendo.
Though an adult, there's a trusting innocence about him that will ever be. He'd do no one harm and could not imagine anyone wanting to take advantage of or harm him.
In short, he's an interesting young man who sees the world through a different prism; mostly a myopic one polished to a degree of acuity foreign to the vast majority.
Now 18, five days ago he graduated from high school. His sister, a year junior, played clarinet in the school orchestra supporting commencement. His parents and brothers and an aunt and uncle sat in the auditorium balcony to witness his accomplishment.
Between classmates Jayme and Matthew, Scott walked across the stage, received his dipolma, and shook hands with a couple of faculty. He sat and, when the class was so instructed, shifted tassel from right to left. A milestone.
After the recessional he joined Wildcat classmates on the lawn for the joyous ceremonial tossing of mortarboards--some 300 total; black for men and gold for women filled the air. A beautiful sight against the rich cobalt blue sky.
Most of the graduates, including Scott, have plans for college.
In fact, just yesterday he sat for English and math placement tests. University studies begin in August.
He wants to major in film. But first things first--there's English and math and life and social sciences and more to tackle.
One way or another, he'll study film.
Yet of all he's revealed and achieved to date more intriguing is what's yet to come. What will it be? What will college stimulate? Who knows. But surely the most amazing awaits. Certainly.
And that sentiment of wonder irrespective of my distinct privilege and honor, beyond words, to be Scott's uncle and godfather.
So how nice to witness his high school graduation. And to be there because a few months back, while chatting on Facebook, he asked me if his aunt and I would come to his big day. "Of course, Scott, of course. We'd not miss it."
Labels. Society loves them. There are labels for anything and anyone. And if a label doesn't exist one is created. I do not like labels. For labeler and "labelee," labels tend to channel, to restrict, to limit, to become self-fulfilling. There is no necessary correlation between a label--a word--and a person. But some people, many people, assume there is a connection. How ridiculous! Scott, and many like him, have much to teach us--if only we slow long enough to engage--to look, listen, and learn. I have about as much "education"--classroom and a lot of hard knocks--as life can offer, but he's unwittingly taught me far more. And far more than I've taught him. Mostly he's taught me I don't know much--not much at all.
1. Mingling with family and friends post-graduation I noticed a gentleman wearing a Marine officer's uniform tie bar. About the same time he spotted my tie and flags lapel pin. As is always the case with Marines, we were chatting within moments. He was an artilleryman and served with 11th Marines. Not surprisingly, we shared an acquaintance or two. Small Corps. It was his daughter who graduated. He was beaming.
2. Five graduates opted to enlist in the military (I learned about them after the ceremony). One, a girl, is heading to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island to see if she has what it takes to be a Marine. She was not the above noted Marine's daughter.
3. I sent the Principal an email the evening of graduation congratulating him on an impressive commencement, and suggested, that after recognizing all academic standouts, those pursuing military service either through academy appointment, ROTC scholarship, or enlistment be publically recognized. In his prompt reply he mentioned serving in the U. S. Army and thought the idea a good one and he'd pursue it next year. Since we're a country at war, a more selfless and admirable decision of youth does not come to mind. Stand and be recognized, of course. And such recognition, for that matter, should be standard practice at all high school commencement exercises. And colleges, too. For all seeing the face of courage is always purposeful.