Luke was dumber than batsh_t. Few people with a lower IQ on the planet. In sixth grade, Luke was surrounded by Mary and me, who spent most of our time trying to help Luke get through an academic day.
Mrs. Cuzzo would ask Luke what 8 times 6 was. Luke would crush his pencil, scratch his head, and look at one of us, who would whisper the answer to him. He would look back and say “What?”
Luke treated all subjects equally. There wasn’t a spelling word he could spell, a state capital he could remember, a radius he could tell from a diameter. The fact that he made it to the 6th grade must have involved some kind of payoff or a recording problem in the central office.
And God, he was a giant, gentle soul. Other boys would spend recess pulling out spider legs; Luke would pet caterpillars. He was legendarily strong, yet never raised a fist in anger.
As the years passed, I saw less and less of Luke. As luck would have it, our current homes are relatively close to one another. Therefore, I run into him once in awhile. And that’s what happened yesterday.
I enter the Short Stop for a cup of coffee, and wind up standing in line behind Luke. He is now 65 years old, with a crinkly eyed smile that lights up the world, and a handshake that will bring you to your knees. He finishes me off by messing up my hair.
” Hey Greg, remember how dumb I was?”
“Welll, uh, no Luke, whaddya mean?”
“Well I still am.”
Much laughter followed by more hair messing.
Luke would tell you he was “doing OK for hisself.” A couple of daughters, lots of loving grandkids, an adoring wife of near 40 years and a decent truck driver’s pension.
I may have been the guy with the advanced college degree, but to a large extent, I felt nothing but envy.
I started thinking about our son, and how much we attached success to his ability to get into elite universities. And standing before me was a man who could only be labeled a success no matter how you measured it, with college, and barely high school, playing a part in the measurement.
There was no doubt in my mind that Luke was a happy, fulfilled man. He was entering his senior years knowing that everything would, just like in all his previous years, turn out just fine. Unlike me, I am sure that Luke slept just fine at night.
So here’s to Luke. Kindness, decency, honesty, and compassion are what makes a person a success. All the other stuff, much, much, less so.
Keep on reminding me.