The Jupiter Effect

imageToday’s story more closely fits the serious part of the theme of No Facilities. This story started 50 years ago this week and my telling it is long overdue.

I met Marty on the playground on my first day of 5th grade. Marty and I were not so much drawn to each other as we were both squeezed out like asteroids in the wake of Jupiter’s gravity. Cliques were forming around cool kids, around smart kids and around junior jocks but many ordinary kids didn’t seem to fit into those nascent groups.

I didn’t fit in because I was a new kid and the economy, demographics and the quality of the schools in the town I had come from were just not up to the new standard by which I was being judged. Marty didn’t fit in because Marty never fit in. He was awkward. He had unmanageable curly hair at a time when boys were just starting to let their hair grow long and Marty’s was funny looking. He stuttered and he was an uncoordinated sports injury waiting to happen – a trait that he and I shared.

Marty was a kind person. Marty was always smiling. Marty couldn’t be bothered by cliques and he helped me through some very tough days. Marty personified the notion that one needs to first accept oneself. Unfortunately, he could have been a poster child for the notion that people need to accept all other people, but that was not to be. Marty and I accepted a sideline status at a point where status was just starting to mean something.

Marty and I were close friends in 5th and 6th grade. In 7th grade the scale, speed and logistics of Junior High began to pull Marty and I apart. Neither of us were great students. Marty didn’t seem to care, and the system we were in didn’t care about him. The system didn’t care about me either but I was a bit more scared of failing. Marty’s and my academic schedule almost never overlapped. Ironically, our poor athletic ability brought us back together.

You wouldn’t think you could make junior high gym class worse, but you actually can. Some administrator had the idea that kids like Marty and me, kids who were always being picked last for the team, should be in a gym class by themselves. What might have been designed to be a compassionate and supportive experience was carried out as a humiliating ordeal by instructors who were loath to respect us. We learned to fence, we learned to dance and we learned exercises that might be called yoga today. We were never told why we were in the class and we were never told how we could get out of it.

imageWe hated being in that class and the experimental nature was palpable. Eventually, I was allowed to rejoin the mainstream gym class. I’m not sure what achievement set me free, I was just told: “you can go back to Mr. Sullivan’s class.” Marty didn’t return to the normal gym class until we were in high school where there were no experimental classes.

Marty and I weren’t in any of the same classes in high school. In fact, at some point between 9th and 11th grade, Marty was held back because in January 1971, I was in 11th grade but the article describing Marty’s death, listed him as being in 10th grade. Yeah, Marty died.

imageI had seen Marty about a week before he died. I had been excused from class to go to the bathroom. I ran into Marty in the hall and I stopped to talk to him. He told me about some new friends of his, friends who he said weren’t judging him. He didn’t tell me that he and his new friends were doing drugs, but it wouldn’t have surprised me and it wouldn’t have mattered.

He told me about a Saturday when he had been at Point State Park in Pittsburgh. He had been buying popcorn and offering it to people as they walked by. He was pleased by how many people would take popcorn from him – the fact that they didn’t avoid him the way so many people in school did made him happy. He sounded hopeful, as if he was looking forward to being released from the artificial environment of our high school – another trait that he and I shared.

That is the image that I still carry of Marty, a lanky kid with crazy wild curly hair and an infectious smile giving popcorn away to strangers in the park.

I remember thinking that it was odd that, in a school with over 2,200 students in 10th through 12th grade, Marty and I stood and talked alone in the hallway. We talked long enough for me to be in trouble when I returned to class. A week later Marty was dead. Several of us attended Marty’s funeral but there was no discussion, no grief counselors and no official recognition.

Later that week a story circulated from Marty’s gym class. It seems the instructor yelled out “Oppenheim” – when he got no reply, he yelled again and someone yelled back “he’s dead.” The instructor moved on without a word.

People die from drug, alcohol and substance abuse all the time. Lots of people died from inhaling chemicals in the 60’s and 70’s. We saw those deaths as a sad statistic of our time. This death was different because I knew why Marty died. He died trying to escape from the world around him. He died because that world didn’t have room for him. Even though he’s officially listed in the class of 1973, I count Marty in my graduating class. I also count him among the small group of people who made the years I spent in that school system tolerable. RIP Marty.

103 thoughts on “The Jupiter Effect

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  1. Pictures – The grassy area outside the center door of Jefferson Elementary school used to be a playground. It’s where I met Marty in 1964. The middle picture is Mt Lebanon High School. They were building the 6-story building in the center while we were attending 10th through 12th grade. They were adding on again when I visited in 2012. The green area and the fountain at the bottom are part of Point State Park in Pittsburgh.

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  2. Oh my Dan. I knew kids like Marty in school. I was like you, didn’t fit on either “side” of acceptable quite well. Fortunately I learned quickly how to fade into the background. And had two great friends. We were sort of like those Square Pegs girls except that none of us desired to be accepted by the “cool” kids. Having four sons, I am very sensitive to the fact that boys’ insecurities and traumatic experiences while in school, especially during puberty, are grossly ignored and sadly met with disdain. I have held a son crying over a broken relationship, talked one through bullying and another through theft of his property with no one caring. Another had to learn to stand his ground with inconsiderate and inept teachers. Marty sounds like a wonderful person. It was a blessing for you both that you landed in school together. I always think of the words to Vincent/Starry Starry Night. Sometimes the world is just too small for so much true beauty and light. I am sorry for your loss of a good friend. Thank you for sharing this story, so well expressed. It sounds like a movie script. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment. One of the things that bothered me was that if I searched on his name, all that ever came up was the article I included. I wanted something out there that told more of the story. I’m sorry that you have had to struggle with these issues but I am glad to hear that you are supporting your children. It means a lot, even if they don’t tell you.

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    1. Thank you! When I read your post about being the anti-bully, I thought you would appreciate this. That’s the kind of person we needed back then. Your daughter might have made more of an impact than she will ever realize. I wanted to say more when I commented but this was already scheduled and I would have said most of it in a comment.

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  3. Dan, we never fully know what our “friends” have lived through, lived with. And blog friends even more so. I appreciate you sharing this with us do much. Marty’s story needed to be told.
    You did him proud.

    Katie

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  4. Dan, I hope this helped – to tell your story about Marty.

    I’m not sure we “fit” better in later decades, but for some reason those teen years are hardest and can hurt the most. Someone like Marty, who made a difference in your life and lost his own – it’s a lot to carry those feelings into adulthood because we never really grasp what it all meant until much later.

    You say your telling is long overdue. I actually think your timing makes perfect sense. Not just because of the anniversary, but because I’m beginning to realize that this – the remembering, the understanding, the grieving for past hurts and wrongs and losses – is a huge part of what our 60s are all about. We finally have the wisdom and honesty to see prior relationships and experiences in a way we couldn’t previously understand, or weren’t willing to acknowledge.

    I am glad you wrote about Marty in such an open-hearted, honest tribute. But my guess is you’ve been quietly remembering him and his short life since the day he died.

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    1. Thanks Sammy. I have been quietly remembering him in daily prayers as long as I can remember. Maybe you’re right about the timing. I tried to turn this into a short story once in my 20’s but only collected a bunch of rejection slips. I don’t remember it well but I know that this was closer to what should be said. Thanks for adding your wisdom to this post.

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  5. I’ve always been the odd one out in all the schools and institutes I’ve been to, the duckling who never blossomed into a swan. I’ve never known how to fit in, always felt like I said or did or laughed or cried too much or too little. The only place I ever fit in was a library, and that’s where you would find me most days, even today.

    This post made me cry, it brought back so many memories. It made me want to reach out and hug those two boys chatting in the corridor. I’m sure, whichever world he’s now in, Marty has has been made welcome.

    From experience, I know that writing this couldn’t have been easy. Thank you for sharing, Dan.

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    1. Thank you Damyanti. This is among the hardest things I’ve ever written. I was fortunate to have known Marty and to have had a small group of good friends pulling me in the right direction. I worry about kids who don’t fit in today, when it seems that there are so many more places not to fit.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this Dan, Marty sounds like a great friend. I really enjoyed this post.

    Together with my friend Anton we led a similar life, not quite fitting in anywhere at school. We gave up on fitting in at high school and developed our own kind of (cool). Wearing crazy outfits for sports events, being first up to dance at school balls (prom) and generally having no regard for the things everyone else found awkward actually worked in our favour. Come final year I think we had the respect of many.
    Thanks again, Nick

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    1. Thanks Nick. I did have a small group of friends and while some came much closer to being normal kids, we certainly charted our own path through those years. It’s all about finding a way. It’s amazing how many people I know who have similar stories. Those years are just difficult all over I guess.

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  7. This is so sad, Dan – a reminder of how fragile life is; how vulnerable teens, especially, are.
    Just this morning I read this quote from JK Rowling.
    “In fact, you couldn’t give me anything to make me go back to being a teenager. Never. No, I hated it”
    Fortunate though I was in many ways, I wouldn’t go back either, not for anything.

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  8. So often childhood getting glossed over or painted as a rosy idyllic time of learning and lighthearted struggle when in reality, it’s harsher and more brutal than we want to remember or acknowledge. Thank you for a painfully honest rendering of real life growing up in the 70’s. I especially like that part of your motivation was to add a chapter to his brief biography. Poignant and filled with love. Well done.

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    1. Thanks Kami, I am really encouraged by comments like this. I think Marty would be pleased by how many people have seen this post and especially by the people who have offered supportive words like these. We do tend to gloss over a lot of things from those days. Unfortunately, I don’t think much has changed in those settings, we just don’t hear much about the kids who are being ignored.

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  9. Dan, I’m crying. Oh man, this is a tough one to read. But I did. How awful what others do to those around them to drive them to substances to escape. I really am sorry for your loss, the loss of a friend, even though it was many years ago. It still must bother you or you wouldn’t be writing about it. BIG (((HUGS))) Amy

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    1. Thanks Amy. It bothers me to this day mainly because I still see / hear about some of the same behavior happening today. I warned you at the start that is wasn’t going to be my normal entertaining approach. When I realized that he and I had met 50 years ago this week, I knew I had to figure out how to tell that story. It was hard to tell, but I am so grateful to the comments that I’ve received (like yours) that suggest that it was the right thing to do.

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      1. It was the right thing to do, Dan, even though it was hard to read. I was one of those kids on the sidelines, just because I was different. No one wanted me on their team either. I was shy, grew up in very difficult circumstances, and bascially had zero socializing skills. Kids are cruel. I turned to drugs too and alcohol at a very young age to feel cool. No hard stuff, thank God. But still, just SO sad. Thanks for being who YOU are, Dan!!! I really LIKE you just as is!!! (((HUGS))) Amy

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  10. Thanks for sharing a fine and touching tribute to your friend . Paradoxically , Marty’s tragedy probably made you a stronger , more caring individual than you might have become without him .That’s what friends are for , eh ?.

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    1. His death definitely strengthened my resolve to get out of that school system and work to gain some control over my situation.It is sad. I doubt that I have to point out to a former teacher how unforgiving kids can be at that age. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. It’s hard to click “like” on such a post, Dan. What a sad story. You’re right about the fact that we do acknowldge drug, alcohol and substance abuse in general much better now than in the 70s. We have also learned to be more sensitive and to provide help to the students who witness such tragedies. It is sad but wonderful that you still remember Marty and pay him tribute through your blog, a writing platform where Marty would maybe have liked to share his loneliness, hopes and dreams.

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    1. I can appreciate that it was hard to click “like” Evelyne, it was hard to write. I wish I had been closer to him in the upper grades so I might have known what some of his hopes and dreams were. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  12. Sorry that I am replying late. I actually read the article a day ago, but was occupied with some work. Well, there are similar stories and events I have seen and heard here in India. Parents, teachers and peers sometimes put tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. Also I felt sad about what happened with your dear friend. Something similar happened with me, but I reacted differently, but my circumstances were bit different too. Great tribute and superb post. You inspire me to talk about multiple different topics that I have never explored.

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  13. So sad, Dan. I didn’t know it was going to be this sad. When you posted ‘Jupiter Effect’, I thought it’d be about a planetary phenomenon. But this leaves me sorrowful. I know what it means not to fit in, to be the odd one out. The worst thing about it is that you are required to fit into a system that is so corrupt and skewed and violent, you should rather be warned against joining it. When the only people who can accept you without judgment lead you to your grave prematurely. It is a heartbreak.

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    1. I’m sorry Peter. That’s the problem with a somewhat random blog. I go from entertaining to explanations to something like this. This is a sad story. I wanted to share it to put something nice our there about Marty, and also because the underlying situation still happens today – too often. All we can really do to change this is to be more accepting of others. Thanks for reading, for leaving a comment and for your support through the group.

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  14. My sister had a similar experience in school for a variety of reasons, which is why I vowed I would be a teacher who saw and tried to reach the beauty of every child who entered my classroom door. Most times I succeeded. Sometimes I failed, and those are the students who haunt me during my sleepless nights. Great story today, Dan.

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    1. My brother was a teacher like you. I’m sure he also think of the ones where he didn’t succeed. I had a couple of teachers who reached out to me and worked to cultivate something that they saw as being fertile ground. No surprise, a wood shop teacher and a teacher who encouraged me to “find a way to write.” On behalf of the kids you helped, I’ll thank you for your effort. By the time I realized how important those few teachers had been, it was actually or at least practically impossible to find them and thank them. Thanks also for reading/commenting here.

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  15. What a beautiful tribute for Marty! If this was hard to read, I can only imagine how difficult it was for you to write. A gym class just for you and Marty? That is insane. The teacher just moved on when someone shouted that Marty was dead? It makes me sad to think that someone can be so insensitive. I’m glad that you found Marty and that he found you. It’s a terrible injustice when children/teens are “cast aside”.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Dan.
    I’m thinking of the post you wrote about Facebook some time back…how do I click the “like” on this post?

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    1. Thanks Elaine. There were about 6 (out of 180) of us in the gym class but it was awful. No though at all was given to how it made us feel or look to our peers. Large classes, very large in high school and kids could easily slip through the cracks. I was lucky that he found me in 5th grade. It makes me sad to read about the same things happening today. Thanks again for your comment.

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  16. Dan, Nice tribute to Marty. I think at one point or another many of us have met or been Marty. It is good that the Martys fill the gaps that our culture often overlooks. We can survive the effects of Jupiter and sometimes if we are lucky we can even make a minor alteration in Jupiter’s orbit. Here is to Marty.

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  17. Like another commentator here, I hesitated in clicking the ‘like’ button, but did so for the sensitive and honest way in which the post was written. I’ll be commenting in a little more detail among our mutual confidants… my compliments though on a very moving post.

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  18. Dan – I had to step away before I could comment on this story. It hits directly home for me and my family. I can’t tell the details about that just yet, but it’s so tragic that the needs for escape are sometimes so powerfully effective.

    I think we’re all meant to see one another, but it’s too hard too often for too many reasons. That gym attendance taking story is just crushing, and yet it seems to fit as a blanket statement for Marty’s life, at least in high school.

    Like the others who’ve said so, I feel moved that you remember this young man so vividly and have spoken out about him. It’s a very powerful story that I hope a lot of people will take to heart too.

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    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Robyn. This story has hit close to home for many people. Junior High and High School are difficult times, but everybody should have the chance to get beyond those years and make their own life. This is one of the few stories I’ve told that I try to draw more attention to. The sad thing is, somewhere in this country, this story is playing out again.

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  19. You’re right about that. I hope that in sharing this story, maybe someone will stop and notice the child going through this today. My daughter managed to survive the cruelty of school until I finally had the sense to pull her out and home-school her. Her disabilities are invisible, and therefore unacceptable to the teachers and administrators, even other parents and students. Oh, she had an IEP. But that only made her a target. Thank you for sharing this sad tale.

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    1. I applaud your effort to deal with your situation. Still, it’s sad that it comes down to having to intervene so directly. Students will always likely be hard on other students, but when teachers, administrators and other parents join in, I just have to shake my head and wonder. I know people who have children in situations where they need just a little extra attention and my friends have to fight for every bit of it. On the other hand, the law says that schools have to help, and administrators cry all over the place when it’s time to prepare a budget about the services they have to provide. Nobody seems to accept that the experience is cumulative and that it can seriously impact a child/young adult. Thank you for adding your comment.

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  20. This post is absolutely wonderful, and awful (Marty’s loneliness and your accurate summation that he died to escape not fitting in.) Your writing straddles the abyss between emotional and unemotional well. I encourage you to keep going, if you can, because you are an excellent storyteller. I want to know more about you: what was happening when you drifted away from Marty, and what kept your decency intact to keep in touch with him. keep writing. I’ll read with pleasure.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I wanted this to be Marty’s story, not mine. I have more drafts of this post than anything else I’ve ever written. The short answer is that, in a school system as large as ours was, small differences in achievement separated kids quickly. I was a little bit better (in school) than Marty. We ended up on different sides of the line. I surrounded myself with my family and a small group of good friends who were all better students that I was. Combined, they kept me from falling through the cracks. The rest of my story is strewn about in other posts. If you want to know a little more about the positive influences in my life during that time, search the blog for “Sita” or keep reading. I keep coming back to those days.

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        1. That’s quite a story. The sad thing is that the school system, teachers, coaches and administrators all help to maintain the status quo in these situations (a fact with which I’m sure you’re aware). Thanks for adding your thoughts to this post. I’m hoping to keep it in the top 10 so it stays on the sidebar. I want a better story out here for Marty.

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  21. Sobering post, but Marty would have appreciated the recognition from you, his friend. I went to Catholic schools on scholarship. I never fit in with the cool kids, I got good grades and received recognition for that, but I was poor and not from the new part of town. My mother, who was an excellent seamstress by trade, made my uniforms because we couldn’t afford to buy them and they never quite matched the store bought. I always felt like I had a blinking sign on every day announcing that I didn’t quite fit in. What’s the old saying about what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? That may be true, but you still have scars. :-)

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    1. Thanks Judy. I was lucky in that our high school was under construction the entire time I was there. They relaxed the dress code to allow jeans and that was good for me as I never would have been able to keep pace with the cool kids if I had to dress like them. It is true about the scars, you carry them for a long time and things periodically bring them to the surface. One of the reasons I wrote this is because, when they were planning our 40th reunion, they did not include Marty among the “Departed” because he was officially part of the class of 1973. I thought “40 years later and they are still ignoring Marty.” I know these things resonate with people like you who have experienced something similar. I wonder if the cool kids ever get it?

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  22. What an incredible bit of writing. You have done your friend proud. Many of us have our own Marty stories but they are hard to tell. You knocked it out of the ballpark. I just hope your message will make a difference. Your new fan, Jan!

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  23. Just read this post as I noticed it on your sidebar as one you would like people to read. So glad I did but how heartbreaking. You have done your friend justice by writing this and by being his friend when he was struggling to find one. He was obviously a friend of yours too even if he came and went from your life. School can be so cruel to the kids that don’t fit neatly into one group. I think it’s getting better in this day and age but things like this still do happen. And there are new ways for kids to torment each other with cyber bullying and social media. I’m sorry Marty didn’t make it past high school – I would like to think things would have improved for him.

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    1. Thanks so much for reading this one Deb. I think things would have gone better for Marty if he had been able to escape that school. It was a very difficult place to be if you didn’t fit in in all the “right” ways. I think there are still a lot of Martys out there. I would like to think it’s getting better, but I’m not so sure. I’m sad whenever I read about bullying, in school and in social media, because I know how hard it can be for some kids.

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  24. Beautiful, sad reflective post Dan. Immediately made me think of my own time in school and that of my own children.

    My daughter was really sad when I picked her up from school towards the end of last year, after a few hours of prompting her to share what she was upset about, she said she was being teased by a group of girls who ‘call me a goody goody in a really horrible voice because I listen to the teacher and always do my work on time.’

    She has been so affected by this, I am considering home school. I am conflicted because I understand that children need to learn resilience, but this rubbish feels so unnecessary and there are enough struggles in store in our lives generally, particularly as we grow into young adults.

    Thanks for sharing (and pointing it out as a post on your main page – I’d have never found it otherwise)

    ML

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    1. Thank you for reading and commenting ML. I leave this one up there on the main page because I hope more people read his story. I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Kids can be so cruel. People have to learn to be resilient, but it’s hard to endure those situations day after day. I was fortunate to finally establish a small group of good friends, but I was very happy to get out of that school system. I don’t envy your decision making process over this. I wish you luck.

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      1. Thanks for your kind comments, Dan. I try to keep both the children engaged in activities outside of school, so it’s not the only ‘social’ thing where friends can be made. That does help. I was similar to my daughter when I was younger, but I never cared and that confidence seemed to really help me through things.

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  25. I recently found out that my junior high pal died of breast cancer, so I at least have an idea of your sense of loss. I hated high school, too. It can be an extremely toxic environment. Not sure if those who tell you to stick it out are giving the best advice. Fortunately for me, I screwed up so bad I was advised to test out. I went to college two years early. Best decision I ever made.

    A little bit of kindness can work wonders. We need to smile more. Thanks for reminding me to take some popcorn from a smiling kid who offers it to me.

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    1. Thank you. I managed to stick it out, but I’ve never gone back, other than to see the building. I wasn’t the kind of student that could have gotten an early start on college. College was better, and working was even better. Once I could focus on something I was good at and be evaluated based on performance against expectations, I felt like I was in control.

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  26. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Dan. You’ve immortalized Marty in a way that I’m sure would make him proud. We, your readers, have become like the strangers taking the popcorn he offered, admiring his smile, his kindness, his humanity. His was a life lost too soon, but thanks to you, not forgotten.

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  27. Oh my sadness as I read of this situation, this struggling boy trying to just tread water in a rough stream of unforgivable adults and teens (pre-teens). I usually don’t go backwards but for some reason thought I must check out the post Dan recommends we read today.
    I am sorry for the loss of Marty. He was a friend to treasure and thank you for his story. Did you ever try to send this post to his parents or was there a sibling?

    I wrote about a young man, Benjamin, who killed himself by walking out of our local Delaware (Ohio) high school and waited to stand in front of a train. When my path crossed with his aunt’s recently, I guided her to my memorial post.
    This happened when Felicia attended high school. She probably never really smiled or looked at Ben, a boy my Dad felt an affinity for, one of the many babysitting clients I had over nine summers and seven full years. I wrote a story which started “Once upon a time there was a boy who liked dinosaurs and wild animals.” (Something like this.) When I had him as my charge, I tried to get him to go outdoors and yet, he preferred books. My Dad put programs on my ancient computer of zoos and dinosaurs (of course, Space!)
    I’m sorry for Marty. This was very poignant and my tears flowed, lots of them flowed. My heart aches and I want to go slap teachers for their lack of feeling, some are good, but there are others who are horrible. They look away and allowed bullying when it could have at least somehow been prevented in the lunchroom. Ben got teased by a football player, who got expelled. Not charged by the family, since the father was an OSU prof and mother a nurse, they couldn’t blame the teenager, it was known he was targeted. They did try counseling. . . ~Robin

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    1. Thanks for reading this, Robin and for such a thoughtful comment. I think about Marty and how my graduating class abandoned him to the following year. I’ve never been to a reunion and I’ll likely never go to one. Marty was our classmate for 11 years. As he was falling behind, most kids, teachers and administrators didn’t care. I know because they didn’t care about me either. I had string family support, but I couldn’t wait to get out of that school.

      I’ve never reached out to his family. I only ever met his father once, other that the funeral. I think I read that his father had died.

      The saddest thing is the degree to which this stuff still goes on today. Your stories are repeated, over and over. Children are so precious – this should never happen. Thank you again.

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      1. I’m glad you had such loving and caring parents, Dan. The strength in family bonds cannot be replaced by friends, usually.
        It is too bad about Marty and as you mentioned, there are variations of his (your) stories, now in cyber-bullying and hurtful behaviors towards children who are unique. It breaks my heart when you do hear about this happening.
        My kids’ friend, Benjamin, just had his spirit broken. It happened without his complaining but the cafeteria staff and some teachers looked away. The family is a nice one who had invited my son, Jamie, who was well liked, to join them on camping trips. Ben was a bright and creative young man. I had not babysat him for a few years when this happened.

        Sadly, Ben left an older brother with special needs, Zach. He often will come up to me at the library and talk to me about losing his little brother. I’m sure it doesn’t make much sense to him and doesn’t help him to progress, he is potentially someone who could carry out a job. I live in a multi-generational apt building, where college kids, elderly and some special needs adults live. Those with delays, one cleans the ODOT building, another works at Burger King and another at a local restaurant cleaning tables as a busboy.
        As a teacher, I tried to give the ones who were being mistreated “jobs” such as bulletin board designer. I also dwelled on their best talents.
        Children are so precious, this was a meaningful statement.

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          1. I think I learned this from watching both kinds and being aware of how my Mom played, “Guess whose coming to dinner?”
            We met a wide variety of students she mentored from Perkins H.S. to Westlake H.S. We learned about “druggies,” “hoods” and pregnant girls “in trouble” who she loved and tried to guide to places for help and gave financial support. She didn’t call them these names but they would say this was how they felt teachers expected them to be. We had family meetings where she would ask who did we want to help?. . . It meant only one Christmas gift or one birthday gift sometimes.

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            1. What a wonderful tradition of helping and, more important, understanding. My father ran a bowling alley, and he employed all manner of “problem children” as pinboys (including me). He helped us to understand the value of education, hard work and he taught us to be confident and, although they didn’t talk about it then, to have self-esteem.

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  28. Dan, what a heart-wrenching story. I have tears in my eyes and I just want to hug you and Marty. I am proud of you for writing his story and I hope you found it cathartic as well. Thanks for sharing it here with us (and for telling me about it on my blog!) I came right over immediately to read and I’m glad I did. You honored Marty in such a beautiful way. I think sharing our stories is what we’re all here for because we connect by sharing our experiences. I’m so glad we have connected. Big hugs to you and rest in peace dear Marty. ♥

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    1. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for having been the kind of teacher who reached out to kids like Marty and me. I don’t usually try to promote posts that blatantly, but this is one I wish everyone would read. Mainly because there are still Martys out there.

      I was fortunate to have a family that was paying close attention and a few teachers who saw something in me I was reluctant to see. I was happy to leave that school, but I did take some lessons with me.

      Thanks again.

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      1. Dan, I am ever grateful that you shared the post with me and I pray others read it as well. I never mind when people say, oh you should read this post I wrote because I know it means something special. And yours most certainly did mean something special.

        I am thankful you had your family and some teachers to keep you safe. I am glad you left that school too and even though I know the lessons learned made you the lovely man you are today, I never wish we had such tough lessons to learn especially as children.

        Thanks again for sharing such an emotional experience with me/us. You are held in our hearts with much caring.

        May all the Marty’s out there find peace and friendship with the sweet Dan’s who care. And may people be kind and compassionate and more open to learning about how everyone makes a difference. ♥

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  29. I’m sorry to write again, but I went back and read the newspaper clipping that you included in the post. We had a young boy here do something similar last year. You’d think that things would be different in 2017 from 1971, but it was the same method to get high. Such a shame. I have had 4 of my former students pass away from O/D or suicide – all young men in their late 20’s/early 30’s just in the past year. It breaks my heart, truly. I am glad you are still here to tell your story (and Marty’s).

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        1. I didn’t mean to sound negative. I know that a lot of people care and I know a lot of teachers do as well. I always think about Marty when school starts. I just wonder how many more are out there?

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          1. I didn’t think you were negative at all Dan. I think you had an experience that impacted you and Marty was a part of that experience and every time September rolls around, he’s there in spirit because you care about people. All people. And you’ve had these childhood experiences that mold you into the lovely man you are. I think we can find Marty in many people in all age groups and it’s only when we take the time to care enough to ask and listen to the response to ‘how are you?’ will we be able to help others who may need it. The key is to listen and to help. Thanks for sharing Marty’s story with me. It changed me as it changed you and the countless others who knew him either personally or through your blogging his story. I admire your sharing. Thanks for being you. ♥

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            1. I’m so glad this story continues to impact people. I don’t like making people sad, but I feel Marty deserved more out of life. Thanks for all the kind words. I think I mentioned that my brother is a retired teacher. He approached his job as you did. If we had more teachers like you guys, we’d have less people end up like Marty.

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            2. Marty is our sweet reminder who encourages all of us to try harder, to be better teachers and to listen more to the subtle changes in people. Marty’s legacy of joy in giving people popcorn, in being your friend and in having a hard time all rolled into one incredible human being’s experience reminds us to reach out to connect more, to accept each other and to be kind. I love that your brother is a retired teacher! Hugs from me to all of you!

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