By Mark Kodama
The nice thing about a small town is that its people always take care of you. So when my big brother Pete was injured in the football game, he did not have to worry. God is always teaching you something.
My parents are local lawyers. My mom only works part time so she can take care of Pete and me. She says taking care of her boys is a full time job.
My dad is the head of the county’s public defenders’ office. In other words he defends criminals. Sheriff Smith says my dad is mostly okay except that he likes black people too much and never goes to church. Sheriff Smith also said that whenever things go south, there is no better man to have by your side than my dad.
My dad always says everyone should be judged by the content of their character. He also says there is no such thing as a bad person – only people doing bad things. He also said that in this country no man is guilty until proven so in a court of law.
All I can say is that I love my dad. As for God, my dad said these things must be decided by everyone themselves. My dad never says if he believes in God or not. All I can say about that is that I believe in God because I do not want to go to hell.
My brother Pete was the high school varsity quarterback, power forward for the basketball team and pitched and played shortstop for the baseball team. He was also the captain of the debate team, a national merit scholar and straight A-student.
Candy was his girlfriend. She was the prettiest and the most popular girl is school. She was also the smartest girl in school although she never acted like it. Naturally, Pete was the homecoming king and Candy the homecoming queen. To everyone, everything things seemed so easy to Pete. They did not know how hard he worked. You could see his face lit by his lamp through his bedroom window as he worked into the early hours of the night studying chemistry or calculus.
Principal Mann said he was destined for greatness. He said he was the brightest kid in the county.
Now, he works part-time at the hardware store stocking shelves. Candy is off at some ivy-league college. God is always teaching you something.
Voltaire High School in Lisbon County is in the richest part of the county. We used to have the best team in the county. Then we had the worst. Other teams in the county liked to remind us of this fact. Before Coach Leibniz became the varsity football coach we had the worst team in the league. In fact, in Pete’s first year when he was on the freshman team, we lost every game.
But Coach Leibniz patiently built the varsity team player by player until last year we had our first winning season.
Although Pete was the star of the team, it truly was a great time with many great players. By the time of the homecoming game, we were undefeated at 4-0. We were to play our cross town rivals at Lombardi High School. We were both spoiling for a fight.
The stands were full of parents and students. After the first quarter, about fifty students ran the track just in their underwear. By halftime it was 14 to 14. The half-time show was grand. Pete and Candy, his girlfriend rode around the track in a new Mercedes Benz! Pete was the homecoming king and Candy was the queen. In his football jersey, he looked like King Arthur himself and Candy his Guinevere.
We regained possession after Lombardi fumbled. Pete received the ball in a shotgun formation. As he was looking for an open received, Lombardi’s tope linebacker came racing through our offensive line. Pete never saw him coming.
After the whistles were blown, and the play had ended, all the players began to kneel. The coaches, the trainer and the doctor ran out onto the field as Pete laid motionless on his back. Everyone was silent. Pete began to move then he stood up. Everyone cheered. The trainer drove a shaken Pete back to our bench in a golf cart and the play resumed.
When that nosey Ackley asked the principal whether he was going to call the ambulance, Principal Mann said “Well that is not my responsibility, Ackley. That’s up to the coaches and the doctor.”
After the game, the coach asked Pete if he was okay. “Coach, I am seeing stars.”
“Well, sleep it off,” the coach said.
After the game, we took Pete to the emergency room. When we arrived at the hospital I waited in the lobby with my Aunt June while mom and dad went into the emergency room. At some point I fell asleep, my head in my Aunt June’s lap.
I woke up once in the early morning wondering where I was. My mom awoke me in the morning and said it was time to go home. Candy, Sheriff Smith, Coach Leibniz and Principal Mann were all there.
“Thank goodness your brother is okay,” Mom said.
“We should have brought him here right away,” Dad said.
Pete looked shaken. Candy gave him a hug. “I love you,” she said through her tears. “I will love you forever.”
My father was silent.
“God is always teaching you something,” Mom said.
But we soon found out Pete was not okay. Pete had suffered a severe concussion and his brain had swelled. He had terrible headaches, mood changes, memory problems. He could not concentrate nor do his school work. Sometimes, he flew into violent rages and threw and smashed things. Sometimes he would just sob. He refused to see his friends. Pete was never like that. He just wasn’t himself for a while.
Pete put off applying for college. Pete mostly just laid in his dark room. His clothes covered his lamp. Dishes of uneaten food covered his desk. He was out of school for two months.
My parents took Pete to different neurologists, psychologists and a neurosurgeon. They all said the same thing: things would likely improve with time.
After two months, Pete returned to school. He had trouble concentrating so he took simpler classes to graduate. He thought he would again take the harder classes when he fully recovered.
Principal Mann let Pete graduate with his class in June. However, Pete had to finish his classes during the summer.
Pete still has troubles concentrating so he has put off applying for college until he can attend Lisbon County Community College.
He now works part time as a stock clerk at Pangloss’s Hardware Store. But Pete is not bitter about anything. He still writes to Candy although she has a new boyfriend at college.
Pete is determined to get back to where he was. Pete also says he is glad that he can just a regular person for a while.
“God is always teaching you something,” he said.