Week Eight

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This week (October 15th) marks week number eight (8) of my cancer treatment.  As you know from the prior post, I had an excellent report from my oncologist last Wednesday (October 9th).  Many folks will say that miracles do happen…I’ll just say that I believe in the power that’s all around us.  And I’ll continue to believe that there’s a reason and a purpose for the good and – unfortunately – the bad in our lives.  If my bad situation – with a great upswing – helps me, my family, and others around us better appreciate our world…then so be it!  As I’ve said many times before, my situation, my life (our lives), and this world are simply part of a journey.  If it makes me a stronger, more focused, more compassionate person – I’ll take it.  It is what it is…I don’t know who said that, but it makes perfect sense.

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My Son

Right after my terrific news on October 9th, I drove my son, Zach, and several classmates to Hoover, Alabama for a one-day quiz bowl tournament at the local high school.  Zach is in charge of the quiz bowl teams this year, and he, along with the teacher sponsor, coordinates all of the matches for his high school.  Prior to his junior year, Zach had never been highly motivated to be a leader in any activity he participated in: school, clubs, or sports.  He enjoyed participating, and he actively participated, but he never “rose above the tree tops” to lead in any activity.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.  We’ve never focused on you have to be a leader like many parents do.  As long as he enjoyed what he was doing, we let Zach be his own kind of participant.

Something changed, however, during the second half of Zach’s junior year.  He became much more involved in the nuisances of the quiz bowl group and became, at the end of the school year, the leader-elect for his senior year.  Note: Zach allowed Vicki and I to read his college essays.  One of them was an excellent piece about how a perceived failure during a quiz bowl match became Zach’s motivation to not only be a better player but to also motivate others around him to improve their play as well.  I think that essay gave me an insight into how Zach “evolved” from a participant to a leader.

For those of you who are not familiar with quiz bowl, it is essentially a competition among four-person teams who try to correctly answer questions about a myriad of subjects within a specified amount of time.  Think Jeopardy or Knowledge Quest, and you have a pretty good idea of how the competition works.  Student teams compete all around the country at the high school and collegiate levels.

The tournament in Hoover, Alabama was on Saturday, October 12th, so my spirits were flying sky high.  I had my great scan results on Wednesday plus I started my new job on Monday, October 14th.  I think having my eyes “wide open” from all that positive energy helped me to see my son in a new light.

The champs…almost.

Zach was not only responsible for coordinating entry into this tournament, he also selected teams – there were three teams representing his school – and he made sure everyone was focused on their role as a team member.  In addition, he was captain of the varsity A team, which would compete against other seasoned teams in the morning rounds.

I didn’t know it prior to our arrival at Hoover High School Saturday morning, but I would also act as unofficial score keeper for Zach’s group.  I had never been to one of these tournaments, and I had no idea what to expect.  I really had my eyes opened when I watched my son in action for the first time.  He was poised, focused, confident, encouraging, relentless, and competitive – highly competitive!  I didn’t recognize him as my own son…at least not the one I see at home every day after school.  Zach was in his element.  And – yes, I’m a very proud parent – he was awesome!  Not only was he the team’s captain, but he answered a majority of the questions in almost every match.  Incredible!  At one point, members of the opposing team came over to tell Zach that he did a great job.  As it turned out, he got an individual award for correctly answering a huge percentage of questions.

All in all, it was not a bad day.  Zach’s varsity team got eliminated in the semi-finals and wound up in third place (out of more than 50 teams).  Zach and his teammates were initially disappointed, but, as kids do, they quickly rebounded and enjoyed the long, monotonous (for me, the driver) trip back to Memphis.  I was exhausted when we finally got home, but I had a whole new appreciation and respect for my son.  He is truly a terrific young man.

Note:  As you’ll see in the picture below, the quiz bowl team is a very diverse group.  That was also what made my day with these young people – including my son – so special.  It was wonderful to see these kids interact with each other (and with students from the other schools).  They could of cared less what someone looked like, or where they came from.  They just wanted to compete and have fun doing it.  Yes, Zach’s school has a lot of diversity – I’ll talk about that in another post – and I’m glad it does.  As a country we need to come to a realization that our society is much more diverse than even a generation ago.  It was refreshing to be around so many faces that didn’t look like me.

We could all learn a lesson on getting along and being ourselves.