I knew Mark and Greta Holger since we were all kids. We went to school together. Mark and Greta ended up going to the same college, where they fell in love. They were married and had a son Robert (Bobby.)
Greta was a nurse and Mark a businessman. They were both very intelligent, but such things, of course, are relative. If they had a flaw, it was the same elitism that successful people hold so stubbornly to. Overall, however, they were not bad people.
And as for intelligence, their son, Bobby, was beyond gifted. The Holgers were understandably proud and saw in his achievements verification of their own self-worth. To be fair, they were nowhere near where their son was. Young Bobby, was very, very special.
I was a councilor and first met Bobby after he had difficulty “fitting in” in school. They brought him to me to help him learn to adjust. Over the course of a few months I gathered the information I am sharing and have pieced the following together.
My initial interview with Bobby showed him to be polite and quiet. His answers to my questions were terse. He seemed to be watching his surroundings at all times. I once mistook him for not paying attention, but he showed awareness, readily answering my questions.
I quickly discovered that he had a great hunger for books and learning. While he was still an elementary student he had gone through his parent’s old college books. He studied everything he could and showed knowledge of subjects ranging from medicine to electrical engineering. My impression, with no exaggeration, was that this young boy would grow up to change the world. He would certainly change mine.
His parents expressed concern about his lack of interest in the other children at school. They had refrained from seeking a special school because they wanted him to meet a variety of other kids and public school was a great way to do that. It was of course his vast intelligence that separated him from the rest. This ultimately resulted in a fight between Bobby and another student, Mike (Mikey) Wells.
“Bobby,” I asked, “What happened at school?”
In a rare display of emotion, he frowned and stated, “Mikey beat me up.”
“Why?” I asked.
He thought only for a moment before responding, “Because he’s mean.”
“Oh, no, I meant what happened to make him be mean?” I clarified, or tried to.
“He’s jealous and angry because he won’t have a very good future.”
“Bobby,” I asked, “What did you and Mikey do just before he hit you?”
“We were talking. He said his Dad told him that God hates things.”
“Many things. Mikey’s God is a bigot.”
“Did you say that to him?”
“No, I told him that his father was a truck driver, not a preacher. Then he hit me.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Can I ask you how that made you feel?”
Bobby looked at me with a mixture of confusion and amusement on his face, but he answered, “I was afraid, angry and sad.”
“I think I would be, too,” I said, trying to comfort him but not sure that he needed it. “Did Mikey get in trouble?”
Here Bobby showed me awareness in a way that nearly sickened me.
“Mikey is always in trouble. That doesn’t matter. He just comes back and says and does more mean things. The teachers know that he is bad, but they don’t do anything about it really. Mikey smiles and laughs at me because he thinks he got away with it.”
I was stunned and unsure what to say, but he continued.
“My Dad tried to talk to his Dad about it. Mikey’s Dad yelled and said there’s only one real God and that he would kick my Dad’s ass like Mikey kicked my ass. He said I was a faggot and a sissy. I was afraid for my Dad, but we left. I asked my Dad why they were so mean to us. My Dad told me,” and he looked into my eyes and smiled a little, “it doesn’t matter because we’re better than them.”
“Yes, you are,” I advised him, “as long as you don’t make the same mistakes he makes.”
“I try to avoid mistakes,” he said, looking out the window.
I completely mistook what he meant.
story by Joe Stanley