the grade

08/02/2021 3 By BuddyCushman

I like the movie “School of Rock”. I like it a lot. It’s been a joy for me many years sitting with my son Spenser and watching “School of Rock”. He likes it even more than me. We’ve had a lot of fun together – knowing the next line, singing the next song. One-upping each other’s “School of Rock” knowledge. Cool father and son time.

I have a favorite line in the movie, in which there are many really good ones. But this one is my favorite. It’s spoken by the character named Summer, she of the ‘Class Factotum’ pedigree, if you’ve seen the movie you know who I mean. Kind of uppity and slightly holier than thou, a tinge of arrogance. What about our marks, what about our futures? That’s when we meet her. Now, everyone goes through changes in the movie, surely Jack Black who goes from scamming for rent money to genuinely falling for the kids. But it’s the change Summer goes through which I dig the most. Why she has my favorite line, Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” yowling in the background, Jack letting her know he’s going to fulfill her wildest dreams and give her “an A plus and 50 gold stars” for engineering the trickery the rocksters have just pulled off to be offered entry into the battle of the bands. But surprise, and finally – here’s the line: “I didn’t do it for the grade.”

I didn’t do it for the grade. I didn’t do it to get something out of it for me. I had no personal agenda. It’s not about me. It was just the right thing to do. That’s why I did it.

Summer didn’t say all those things, just the “not for the grade” part, but the message is implicit. I did the right thing, and because it was right that’s why I did it.

Today is my (ex) wife’s birthday. I sent her a text early this morning, saying I hoped it was going to be a wonderful day for her. That’s all. As badly as I have missed her, that emptiness growing over time, especially powerful and painful last week, I wanted to tell her happy birthday. I got to spend the last 11 with her. And now not this one.

For a lot of the years of my life, and most often unbeknownst to me, my behaviors were directed by what I could or would get out of something. When I began getting a clue about how I was built, how I worked, I got to start owning my own and making changes toward a healthier me. It’s been a lot of work, and worth it all. To go from self-centered-ness to, most of the time, other-centered-ness. The last couple of months I have ached, literally ached, to hear my (ex) wife’s voice. Just to have her talk to me. But it hasn’t happened even once, and it dawned on me on an early walk today, right after sending the text, the old me would have sent it in the hopes it would be enough to jiggle some compassion and for old-times-sake out of her and get a phone call. Like, surely this reaching out deserves a reply. On today’s walk I thought about it and I was clear I’d sent the text because I just wanted to say happy birthday. To the closest person in my life for a lot of the years of it. Just say I hope it’s a wonderful day.

Today, I’m like Summer. I didn’t do it for the grade.