Bright and early yesterday morning, Gary and I hit the road for an academic awards assembly at the girls’ elementary school. Instead of the loud, orange stickers visitors used to get at the school office, they now offer loud, orange badges that hang elegantly around your neck, sure to clash with any outfit. As Gary accepted his at the front desk, he joked, “This is like an FBI badge” and practiced flashing it to the easily-amused ladies at the desk, who laughed, which was a dire mistake, because it only encourages him.
As we strolled to the cafeteria, Gary solemnly held up his orange badge and declared to the young, impressionable students, “Official school business…official school business…did you finish all of your lunch?”
After sizing him up and deciding he was merely joking, not certifiably insane, the kids laughed. Some dared to inform him that no, in fact, they did not finish their lunch, shrieking with laughter at the prospect of his reaction to this news, and they seemed disappointed when it was time for their class to move along back to their room, away from the tall, loud man with the official orange badge.
I escorted Gary to a cafeteria table before he got us kicked out of the school or placed in detention, and we waited there for the girls’ classes to file in for their assembly. I had noticed the kids’ grandparents (Crow’s father and stepmother) gawking at us from a few tables over, but since they have personalities as sparkling as wet cardboard and are as appealing as an STD, I had simply ignored them.
What happened next is a wonderful example of why I often think Gary just may be a better person than me, certainly with a more pure heart than mine. It is relevant to note that Hitler and Snot (my secret, loving nicknames for the grandparents) have behaved, over and over, like beasts, lying just as much as Crow does, manipulating the kids, bad-mouthing both Gary and me to the kids, flinging accusations like monkeys flinging shit, and in general, along with Crow, being as selfish and hateful as possible to make things as painful as humanly possible for the kids.
When Gary’s youngest daughter, Dove, walked into the cafeteria with her class, she spotted me first, smiled, and waved wildly. I waved back, and Gary turned around. His entire face brightened when he saw her, and he waved to her, then did something I must admit I never would have done: still smiling, he pointed over to Hitler and Snot, making sure that Dove saw that her grandparents were there.
I wouldn’t have done it because they are belligerent and hateful. I wouldn’t have done it because they don’t deserve it. But Gary did it because he loves Dove and wanted to be sure she saw them and was able to say hello. No matter how they have treated him over many years, he still made this simple yet enormous gesture, not for them, but for Dove.
I felt deservedly humbled by it. I love him for the innocent and untainted way that he loves the kids and me. I love him for the way he will push aside his personal feelings to do what is best for them.
Ignoring Crow and her father and stepmother is certainly better than engaging in their typical behavior of staring at us, as if we are the most mesmerizing and fascinating creatures that ever strutted the planet. Ignoring them is far better than forcing the kids to feel like they need to choose a side, or making childish remarks to the kids that they don’t need to or want to hear. But yesterday made me realize there is something above and beyond ignoring them.
Gary does far more than take the high road, especially when it comes to Crow, Hitler, and Snot. He is so far above them, they can’t even pretend to see him anymore. And yesterday showed me that I just might have some catching up to do.