I just got back from the funeral of one of my ex-wrestlers. By the request of the father, I gave a eulogy. I would have gladly given my left nut instead. He died from a "self-inflicted gun-shot wound". A shot gun blast under the chin that took the top of his head off. After 24 hours of his not responding to cell-phone calls, his father discovered the body at Robert's apartment.
I first met Robert as a sixth grader when he showed up for the first day of wrestling practice. He was an awkward, clumsy,un-athletic marshmallow kind of a kid. Basically, he was a prototypical nerd. Our middle school program is designed to give the kids a taste of wrestling with some opportunity to develop very basic skills. It means that we don't have to convince high school freshmen that wrestling isn't gay, isn't WWF, and really is a legitimate sport.
It didn't take long to realize that Robert was different from the rest of his 6th grade class. Over the summer he had taken (remember, he is 10 years old) a couple of computer classes at Ventura Community College. He got the second highest grade in his classes. He conversed with me as if he were an adult speaking with an adult. It took me a bit to realize that this kid wasn't intimidated talking to an adult - much less a big, loud, (use to being) intimidating adult. I quickly figured out that "smoke and mirrors" wasn't going to work - I had to be completely honest and completely vulnerable with this kid to win his acceptance.
The other thing that I quickly learned was that he was a terrible athlete, much less wrestler. He was the proto-typical nerd. About 1/2 way through his 7th grade year I told him that it wasn't important if he won - don't get pinned. (He was going against a much more technically superior wrestler.) He got his butt kicked - but didn't get pinned! Before long, he was scoring against his opponents, then winning, then pinning. His social skills sucked. I promised his dad (another Viet Nam Vet) that I would have him, at least, housebroken by the time he got to high school.
He moved up to the high school and wrestled his freshman year. He was nothing to get excited about - but he won his fair share of matches. His sophomore year he chose to participate in the drama program (more lights, sound equipment, computer programs, etc.) In the meantime, he had hacked into the high school computer system and created enough problems to be completely banned from even touching a computer at the school.
After he left the wrestling team, I lost contact. More my having other people to be concerned about than any other reason. I guess I just didn't care enough.
Robert graduated at the end of his Sophomore year. He took a full load at the high school, and supplemented that with classes at the local Junior College.
After he graduated high school he began taking local college classes and working free-lance as a computer guru. He found a girlfriend. He got his own apartment. Life was good. Then, at 19, he blew his brains out. Accidental or suicide hasn't been determined. Trust me on this folks, a bright light in he universe has just been snuffed out. The world is a darker place for his passing.
His dad asked me to provide a eulogy. After I talked about what an absolute pain-in-the-ass he was, I talked about his absolute, undeniable genius. I finished by paraphrasing Rodgers and Hammerstein:
Many a thing you know you'd like to tell him
Many a thing he ought to understand
But how do you make him stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand
How do you solve a problem like Robert, How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand.\
I am going to miss Robert. And I am going to spend the rest of my life wondering what I could have, should have, done to prevent this loss.
Folks, look to the Northern Lights. Robert will be hacking into the system and modifying them to meet his own definitions. Watch for it!