It's giving Tuesday so I thought I'd take a moment to share why Gary's scholarship fund is so dear to my heart. No doubt many of us have stories and anecdotes of our experiences with Gary. Some may be of profound interactions, others - simple observations of the way Gary carried himself during those formative high school years. For the most part, my memories of those days are cloudy as if viewed through cataracts. But a few, the important ones, maintain the clarity of my formerly young eyes. And one of those involves Gary.
When I was a junior, my Senior Girl Scout troop planned an ice skating party at the Cranberry Bog. We were all to bring a date. I think for most girls, that was probably an easy ask. But not for me. My happy-go-lucky demeanor didn't win me any "suitors". At our 50th class reunion a friend noted that in high school, I looked like a 12 year old. Bahahaha, wait, did I really? I went back and looked at old photos. He was right! I never even knew! What I did know was that getting a date for the skating party would be a challenge. And as I went through the rather short list of possibilities I landed upon Gary's name.
Gary and I shared many of the same Jr. and Sr. high classes as well as homeroom. I knew him pretty well, well enough to know that if I asked him to go to the skating party he would probably say yes. Not because he had any affinity for me, but because he was just that kind of guy. I should note - we weren't best buds. This wasn't a Three's Company, Chrissy and Jack type of thing. We were simply classmates whose shared experiences placed us somewhere above the "acquaintance" line on some obscure relationship scale.
Yet, true to his nature, and my expectations, when I asked Gary to accompany me he didn't hesitate. He willingly sacrificed a Saturday afternoon so I could save face and show up with a date. In fact, he accepted the role as if it were an opportunity to earn a merit badge or land a job. That afternoon at the rink Gary catered to me like a servant to a queen. He laced my skates, kept me warm, fetched me hot chocolate, and held my gloved hand as I awkwardly circled the rink favoring my right leg. What he didn't do was act embarrassed to be with me. When the party was over, we slipped back into our places on that obscure scale.
As I reflect back on that outing I am unable to articulate how much his kind treatment meant to me that afternoon. But it set the standard for what I would look for in a husband and it drove the way I raised my son. What was second nature to Gary was foreign to the rest of us. And that's thing about Gary. Pretty sure Robert Frost knew his type when he penned The Road Not Taken. Like the journeyer in that familiar poem, his words ring equally true for our classmate:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and [he] took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.