The high school guidance counselor who broke the news to Joanne Coyle and me said the school district had never seen anything like it. Two record breaking IQ scores in the same class. Within two points of each other.
A later guidandance counselor, Max Heinl, kept me in perspective by calling me "4-minus-4" in class. Most people didn't know why. And while Joanne and I were proud, we didn't brag or boast. And we didn't knock 'em dead in class. Neither of us was valedictorian or salutatorian.
We went along our ways, invoking our scores with teachers when it suited us. I wanted to go to college while in my senior year of high school and became the first kid in Malvern to do so. But I had to argue with the principal to sign the admission application.
Joanne did other extraordinary things. When it was time to write reports on the poem Evangeline, Joanne did not. When the teacher huffily asked her why, she said she'd like to explain and got up in front of the class and recited the 77 page verse that begins: "This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and hemlocks, bearded in moss and in garments green, stand indistinct in the twilight." That's how I remember it and all I remember!
Joanne and I got together early yesterday to share stories of illness and hope. She is rejecting a double lung transplant and is finishing up testing today to determine if she qualifies for another. She has been on oxygen since Thursday.
I have been falling while walking across lawns this trip. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic progressive disease. I have fought it for 20 years.
A woman across the street shouted for her husband to come pick me up when I fell while she was quizzing me as I unloaded the car. NO. I fall a lot. I'll get up with less trouble myself. I have multiple sclerosis, I am used to it, I said.
"Yeh, I've got a bit of repetitive stress syndrome myself," she said.
Stupid people, Joanne remarked.
After her transplant, she enjoyed golfing in a women's leage evenings at The Quarry. A few women there said they'd like to trade places with her: live in luxurious surroundings with their own pool and bad lungs.
"Stupid women," she commented. And then we talked about classmate Jeff Kieffer, who hung himself a year ago, six months after loosing his job as VP at one of the largest home building companies in the Carolinas. He'd amassed a small fortune on his own building homes without incurring personal debt. But his self worth was his job and Eastwood homes didn't foresee a profitable year.
Stupid. My advice was to sell his toys and till gardens for the family. Over simplification, but when it comes down to it, that is survival and that's all you need.
"You know, I observe the people around me and sometimes I just think, they don't deserve to be breathing the same air. Here we are, you strugging to keep walking. I struggle with every breath. But we both want to go on."
What's wrong with people? I dunno. But I do know that Joanne and I both have attitude. And it willl take us places!