We met under somewhat unexpected circumstances. He was sitting at a nearby restaurant table, writing. The unexpected was in seeing a man using a fine writing instrument. Beside him was an inkbottle next to a notebook full of calligraphy-like writing.
There should be nothing strange about seeing someone using a fountain pen, though they are used less today than a few decades ago. I use one daily and have a collection of Viscontis, Montegrappas, and S.T.Duponts. It was unusual, however, to see it in Lyons, Colorado. “Yes, it can happen everywhere, but not here,” I argued in my head.
Grażyna whispered, “Go and talk to him. He is someone you can relate to.”
|Forever expressive. Jerry in his story element.|
Jerry was a leader. And being a leader, he was a rebel.
There is no excuse for being a decider. There is no excuse when you opt for honesty, authenticity, and affirmation for another human beings’ choices.
Jerry shares a story of fourth grade when his mother looked at his report card one day when he came home from school. She noticed an “unsatisfactory” grade. “I had flunked singing in music class,” he proudly recalls. My mother wondered, “How can he get an unsatisfactory in music?”
She walked over to the school, which was just one block and a half from their home, and she sat with Mrs. Huston and wanted to know what the problem was. “No, he can sing alright,” she was told. “He can sing as well as the other children.
Not understanding what she was told, Jerry’s mother eventually got this: “Well, he can sing all right, but he doesn’t always sing the right words.”
“But that’s not why he got the unsatisfactory, is it?”
Jerry’s flunking the class was because he was trying to teach the other children to sing his words.
“That’s my boy,” Florence said and held her head high.
A leader was born.
Jerry shares another well-preserved memory from 75 years ago of taking a brown paper sack with two lunches in it and riding on his pre-World War II tricycle to the Conoco gas station his father owned. There they would enjoy lunch together. It was just a few blocks away, and two different paths were open to him. In his hand-written journals, which Jerry entitled Aphorically Speaking, he writes, that “one was via the sidewalk with its smooth surface, straight lines and irritable neighbors. The other path was a diagonal cut across two vacant lots along a narrow, crooked path my dad called the ‘bee way.’”
For Jerry, a four-year-old lad, the bee way was the preferred option. It was natural and represented a “sheer feeling of freedom,” he says. It was shorter, for one. Yes, perhaps it was wrought with small dangers for a small boy, narrow and difficult to negotiate on the tricycle. Bees liked it, too. The flower varieties were abundant, different daily as seasons played a transforming role. It seemed neighborhood dogs, snakes, cats and rabbits also preferred the bee way.
Risk taking was slowly becoming evident to small Jerry, marking his life with obvious choices. Enjoying freedom, even for a short journey to see his dad, was symbolic of who he was becoming.
Jerry’s dad knew. His boy would always have the same reply when asked if it was the sidewalk, or …
Over the next decades, Jerry says, “my first thought was to search for an alternate route and when none existed, create one.”
|Grażyna is watching Jerry signing a stump |
for our chickens.
There he was sitting in the Pizza Bar, one of his favorite eateries, which he calls Pizza Barn (it includes humans and all other animals meeting together), and making contemporaneous notes about happenings in his life, observing moments of which would impact him daily, but also sharing his stories.
It was obvious that in his sharing, the stories became richer as new people entered into them through their reactions.
Talking as one rebel to another we agreed that freedom of choice is foundational to who we are. This just might be a value represented by the leaders we can become.