For my second ‘Angel’ I’m keeping it all in the family. The same son that goaded Asshole #2 into exasperation loves his mother. His mother, Mary, also my wife naturally, had to drop out of high school her senior year as we were starting our family a little early. Unfortunately, Christopher Jon was born prematurely not long after we were married and didn’t make it. (At around three pounds he most likely would have made it today, but in 1966 they didn’t do a whole lot to help him.) Although people said: “Oh, my, you wouldn’t have had to get married,” we never thought that. We really didn’t think we had to get married, but we chose to. Of course it might have been smart to wait until I graduated from the U of M to have another child, but we had been ready so Eric Jon popped out in 1967.
In spite of having cut her high school days a little short, when we lived in Colombia, South America, Mary taught 4th grade at Colegio San Carlos, a Benedictine school in Bogota…generally thought to be the best school in the country. The rector, a wise, marvelous man – Father Francis – told Mary when she balked when he asked, explaining her lack of formal training, told us teachers were born not made. An interesting philosophy, after teaching for thirteen years I fully agree with, but I doubt the teachers’ union would endorse. She also attended St. Thomas, a top-notch private college. Now, let me explain the ‘unintentional asshole’ version I had alluded to in the Asshole #2 example: Believing myself proud of my wife, I once (notice: ONCE) boasted at a dinner table with couples from my financial career that Mary might be the only high school dropout to teach at and attend two elite schools. (I still shudder when I write this.) Although I saw myself as bragging about my wife’s exploits and that in spite of social misconceptions to the contrary: that high school dropouts can be highly successful. Mary did not see it this way and was extremely embarrassed. I mean, I knew the reason she took a hiatus from her education…that it had nothing to do with grades (she was an excellent student) or intelligence (she’s obviously much smarter than I am – not that that’s saying a lot), but the couples at the table could’ve taken my blundering boast much differently. So: I was not ‘intentionally’ being an asshole, but due to my lack of sensitivity and self-centeredness, indeed I was.
So the Angel: Eric, in preparation for Mothers’ Day this year, called the private high school Mary had been forsaken by and told them her story. So, on the designated day, Mary and I get picked up by Eric for an “event” we had no idea was about and driven to Mary’s old high school. We’re met at the door by the Activities Director who gives us a tour of the new additions to the school. I’m going: “if they think it’s a fundraiser, they better think, again.” We end up being guided into a ‘visitors’ parlor’ and find ourselves facing our family, including grandchildren, a number of friends, and some of Mary’s old classmates (although the school had abandoned her, her friends had not). As we rounded the corner, we stop abruptly, confused (at least I was) and as one of Mary’s best friends approaches with a bouquet of roses, Mary (to once again prove she’s much smarter than I am), says: “Am I going to graduate?”
Well there was applause and tears all around. Even the school President, who awarded Mary her 49-year past-due diploma, had to wipe his eyes. I guess sometimes an “Angel” is born not out of ‘human kindness’ but of human love.