Monday, August 27, 2012
Jack was one of the brightest kids I've ever met, and although I know it is not always the case, his stellar test scores and grades attested for that.
He was a whiz. He was a high achiever.
But he was also a cutup in class-- as much as you can be in the small, laced-up, private school environment he loved.
We didn't really witness this, because of his quiet side at home, but we'd hear from other families that entertaining "Jack Stories" were part of their dinnertime routines.
Last summer Jack and I talked about middle school, and he shared that he wanted to be seen as more than just a funny guy. His wit and charm had been there from birth, but some of his clowning around had started as a way for this extreme introvert to fit in or find an identity. He didn't think he needed that anymore. While at home, on the ball fields, and at scouts we saw a more serious Jack, at the school he loved he had been a foil, sometimes a follower, and often a clown.
Entering middle school, Jack was interested in letting his more thoughtful, serious side show. He and I talked about how hard it is to change your image, particularly when you are in the same old setting, and when people like who you are. I proposed switching Jack to a large public school. Jack lobbied hard to stay where he was, and knowing that even in his small school, middle school would be different enough and would present more growth opportunities for him, we agreed.
So on that fateful Thursday, the second day of school, we drove home and I heard how excited Jack was about the coming year. How great he thought his Math, Bible, and English classes would be. How he loved his classmates.
Then he started telling me about a funny skit he and his friend made up that day. In the left turn lane, waiting to pull into our neighborhood, I looked at him in the rear view mirror. My eyes narrowed and I said sharply, "Jack!" That one word contained a bit of exasperation, maybe some venom, and certainly a big dose of expectation. Oh to be firstborn and have to carry the weight of it all!
That one word said: "Jack, I thought you were going to rein it in this year! What about our talk? Will others ever have the chance to truly see the Jack WE KNOW AND LOVE?"
He responded immediately with his rapid-fire speech: "No Mom No! I know what you're thinking! It wasn't like that at all. It was free time. It was great. Seriously, this is going to be the BEST YEAR EVER!"
We pulled into the neighborhood, continued our conversation about the future, and I truly felt we had made the best decision for Jack. He felt so positive about his friends, his teachers, his identity. I knew it would be his chance to grow and lead and flourish!
Well, you know how this story ends, but it got me thinking today about expectations and changes.
It takes a brave, strong person to change, especially if others aren't ready for it or don't understand it.
I've already shared that Tim and I have had to adjust our expectations of one another since Jack's death. I've turned more inward, and my inward husband has become increasingly social and physically fit. My couch potato-ness has reach new heights (depths?) while he is running, rowing and playing team sports to keep sane. We have to accept this in each other.
Sometimes we are given a change of perspective, and that changes US. This isn't always comfortable to those around us.
A mom who decides to stop drinking might feel marginalized at neighborhood events. Adopting a healthier diet or lifestyle could come off as rigid or weird. You may have changed your family priorities in light of some new perspective gained, but it has left your social circle wondering "Why?"
I have heard from many people who have changed as a result of Jack's accident.
They are closer to God. They are mad at God. Some have found more motiviation in their work. Some think their jobs are meaningless. They are praying more. Hugging more. Worrying less. Spending more time with their families. Ending unheathy friendships and habits. Trying to find more meaning in this life.
When you see things in a new way, turning back to the old way is an option, but it squanders whatever wisdom has been gained. And this wisdom is usually gained at a high cost.
For example, I was an ardent meeting-goer in my previous life, but at this point there is no way I'm going to get all up in arms about the minutiae of church business or youth sports, or whatever. I mean, seriously, if it's not about LOVE or LIFE or DEATH or HEAVEN, it seems like bull to me at this point. I want to keep this eternal perspective, even though I wish I'd never been given it in the first place. I don't want to squander it. Does that make sense?
Jack was ready to make some changes, but we never really got to see how that would turn out.
What about you? Do you have some changes you are pondering? I'd love to hear more.