3. Robert Jacks
Last week I saw a video of Robert’s kid walking for the first time. That was an awesome and proud moment for him obviously, but I ate it up too. I remember holding his kid a year ago and thinking, what a great feeling it must be to be a dad.
I’ve known Robert since elementary school, but the friendship really solidified in junior high. Sure, Pokémon played its part– dude always used that rare candy trick, and I could never beat him! But the new environment gave way for three new “hot topics”: girls, academics, and sports.
He had a great balance in all. Not sure if Robert was ever really aware, but he was a popular guy. Well-liked by the coaches, teachers, and peers– he never let it get to his head either. He stayed down to earth every step of the way.
I mean, he was so humble, it’d catch me off guard. Whenever he had a problem to mull over and open up, he’d say stuff like “we’re in the same boat”. But every time, I’d think nah. This guy was leaps and bounds ahead of me: a star athlete and sharp with the school stuff.
In Calculus, I dropped the ball on the Asians and math stereotype because Robert was getting A’s when I struggled to get C’s. Not to say he didn’t have a fault. A little bit of laziness was the only thing holding him back from getting Valedictorian. But, maybe a disinterest for titles isn’t such a bad fault to have.
First of all, I want to give Robert huge props for listening to my girl talks. I mean, I still have a knack for discussing the opposite sex now. But Robert– he had to put up with me when I was all super whiny and “woe is me, I’m in the friendzone”. He never dialed the wah-bulance even though he should’ve.
After one such friendzone episode, I was really shook up. This girl said something like, “I don’t think it’s in God’s plan for me to be with you”… after previously telling me she needed to pray about it. [Note for old Jon: “let me think about it” means no.]
I couldn’t think straight the whole day. I didn’t eat breakfast. I skipped lunch. I might’ve even skipped a class to just lie down in the nurse’s office. But then it came time for football practice, and the coach wouldn’t let me bail. As we were gearing up in the locker room, Robert flipped when he found out I didn’t eat.
See, as much as Robert loved football, the highlight of his day was lunchtime. And, the only thing to top lunch was a second lunch he’d bring to eat before practice.
He handed me his food. “You got to eat.” I tried to hand it back, but he was adamant. It’s like that scene at the end of Dark Knight when Batman hands Commissioner Gordon the walkie talkie.
Yeah, just like that, except over a sandwich.
Earlier that day I might’ve cried over rejection, but in that moment while I was eating, I cried because I didn’t think I deserved a friend like him.
I’ve never seen Robert belittle someone. I think a lot of the empathy I have now can be traced back to what I learned from him. I knew he was going to be a great father. And now that he has Matthew, there’s no doubt it’s true.