(FINALe-Part 3/3) “Showstopper”

The sound of that last trumpet echoed in my brain louder than what seemed possible. For the briefest of moments my heart was full of hope. What I had been witnessing was a truly remarkable celebration. Realizing that all of it was simply happening in my head, I felt emptied as I wondered to myself: 

Why couldn’t this creation of my mind be real?

“He’s dreaming again.”

“How can you tell?”

“Just look at that smirk on his face—it’s like he just made a presidential speech or something!”

My son Brett made the last comment: He was My Joker.  

All three boys got a small chuckle out of what he said. Even though my eyes remained closed I could tell where each of them stood in relation to my bed. Time had made them men, but they were still my children, and I loved them now more than ever. Normally, hearing them laugh would make me smile, but not today: As all it did was make me realize how much I was going to miss them.

Feeling like I was going to cry again, I kept my eyes closed and pretended to still be asleep.  

Truthfully, I was grateful to hear them laugh—Even if it was at my expense, as it made this ending tolerable. All night I had been slipping in and out of consciousness. I could tell that the time had come. 

No one ever explains how it feels to know you are about to die: Well, now I know. 

Accepting that the moment of my departure was surely near I tried to talk myself into a state of surrender. Silently, in my mind, I told myself, “You have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. Despite countless failures, you always kept the faith. Be proud of the legacy you leave behind Jose.”

Despite repeating these thoughts of encouragement to myself, I still could not help but wonder; Was it really worth it?

I was drowning in doubt and I was scared. Questions about what happens next haunted me. With my eyes still closed, I was lost in my own thoughts as the boys continued to talk to one another beside my bed.

“When you guys were kids did dad ask you that question all the time?”

“You mean, ‘THE’ question?” Brett replied.

“Of course he did,” Jayce said. 

I heard the sadness crack through his words: Jayce was My Believer. 

They remembered.

This fact made my heart grow just a little more in that moment. The question they were referring to was, “Who’s going to change the future?” 

To which I had trained all three of them to respond, “We Will!” 

It was a cute thing to do with them when they were all young. Little did they know that I truly did believe we would change the world one day. Unfortunately, that day never came….

Not long after the fire, I trained myself to keep my ambitions and dreams a secret. The YouTube video I created solidified the fact that I was delusional. Accepting that Reality-Always-Wins, I went on in life taking my medicine and focused on being a good father and a wonderful councilor to my three boys. I cannot say that I have any regrets: I just wish I could have left this world knowing that their future was brighter than the reality they are stuck in.  

The boys continued their conversation…

“Did you ever wonder why he asked us that? …Like; was he serious?? — I mean: Do you really think he thought we would???” 

The questions were presented to the group by my youngest son, Joseph: He was My Thinker. 

My entire life, Joseph was the little horn in my side that kept me on my toes, as he would religiously dissect every word that escaped my mouth; and relentlessly plaster me with questions.

The room went quiet after Joseph asked his two older brothers these series of questions. The silence allowed me to again start feeling bad for myself. Not wanting to think about all the things I wish I would have done I was grateful to hear someone speak.

“Did you ever wonder….”

“Wonder what?”

“What if… What if we believed him?”

No one responded to this question as the room fell back into awkward silence. Hearing that question again, almost like an echo in my mind, it was like I was hit with a shock of electricity. Memories began flooding my brain and an emotional earthquake inside of me slowly shook me from my slumber.

That question was the same one I had presented to my fictional self in one of the ‘articles’ in the book…

In 2020; the year of the pandemic, I took a year off from teaching and stayed home with my youngest son to help with his remote learning. At the time I was teaching math at a Recovery Highschool in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had gotten the job in February of 2019; a year and a half sober at the time. I was grateful for the job but with the pandemic that year I was also more than willing to take that time to stay home with my son and hang out with my twins as much as possible.

With the free time I had that year I finally got to finish writing my book. When I was done, I titled it: “The Book That Could Spark A Regeneration.”

In a biblical sense, the word regeneration in some religions meant; “Born Again.” Spiritually speaking it meant: “Renewal or Revival.” From a scientific perspective it simply meant: “Restoration.” 

A year earlier I had read a book titled ‘The Real History of the End of The World.’ Like most books I had read, this one found me and spoke to me in a way that opened my eyes at the time. The author, a historian named Sharan Newman, described the work as, “An exploration of the various theories of world destruction from ancient times to present day—theories that reveal as much about human nature as they do about predominant historical, scientific, and religious beliefs of the times.”

Upon completing my own book, I stole the word Regeneration as an act of defiance.  

So many people had called me crazy for my idea on how to heal this world; yet countless books were written about men across time that prophesized its destruction. This realization pissed me off. I therefore decided that I would wear the “Crazy Crown” with pride and gave my book this title.

Knowing that the title sounded delusional (on purpose), I was scared to share what I had created with anyone. I thought what I wrote was good, but with everything that had happened before I could not risk being locked away again and having to start over. The thought of losing more time with my boys tempered any delusional thoughts I had at the time: Finally. 

A few times I did consider having some friends read it, but each time I brought it up their unexcited reactions convinced me to keep it to myself: “Don’t let them in Jose!” I would remind myself. 

Over time, I decided that I was destined to be a sad soul and that the world would never be what I imagined in my mind: That I had to become a responsible adult and let my dream die. 

In the end, I never did anything with that book I had worked so hard to write. 

A copy of the book now lays buried in my closet contained in a thin aluminum storage box. Whatever it was I wrote back then was simply a dream of mine: An idea on how to change the future.  

Accepting that any idea attempting to take flight in this miserable world always came crashing down due to realities gravity, that story stayed locked away in that box and life eventually moved on…

How had I forgotten about it? 

I never taught again after I took that year off. Teaching simply did not agree with me. I felt like I was being forced to teach things that did not really help my students succeed in life. We were paid to teach certain things in certain ways so that students could one day work and survive in this world. We however spent almost no time teaching our young minds how to create a better world; or how to adapt to this changing and confusing world. 

Back then I dreamt of teaching my students how to use their imaginations, and how to separate truth from fiction so that it would not manipulate how they perceived reality. I hoped to focus more time on teaching them how to be kind and patient; how to love; how to dream; and how to be productive losers.

Personally, I felt we were drowning children in lessons of our past and making them scared of their future. I wrote the book hoping it would become a required reading for high school students: That was my target market. 

With so much I wanted to see done differently, I simply could not handle the bullshit anymore and chose to leave teaching entirely. Eventually I went back to swinging a hammer. At least that way I was building something. Even if what I was building was temporary, I found that a bit more rewarding at the end of the day. 

Reflecting on it now, I guess it just felt like I was pretending less when I was swinging a hammer. 

The book was supposed to be my attempt at building something everlasting. Something that could stand the test of time and transform reality even when I was gone. From a delusional perspective, that first book was actually intended to be a prologue to other books I dreamt of writing. It was intended to be a foundation. 

In my head, I called it “My Blueprint.”

But again, I never used it. Instead, I simply spent the last twenty years watching the world continue to slip into more and more chaos. As I thought about all of this, I realized the worst thing about dying is not being able to change what you have been.

Then, it hit me, “I was not strong enough to use the book…but maybe THEY would?”

Energized by the idea, a subtle ray of hope cracked through the darkness. Deciding that it was finally time, I slowly opened my eyes. On my bedside, the digital clock sitting there made me aware that I had not yet left this life: “1:19 P.M. April 15th, 2040.”  

“How fitting,” I thought to myself. 

I had imagined this day in so many ways; yet never pictured it like this. (sad face)

Full of ambition and the desire to create a better world, I poured my heart and soul into writing that book. Even the music I referenced was meant to inspire an unknown audience of future believers. Thinking about all of it, the question that haunted me relentlessly back then hit me like a bolt of lightning; “Was I crazy?”

At this moment however, when the threat of public ridicule is replaced by the realization of impending death, allowing oneself to dive into a world of delusions seems like common sense… 

Perhaps that story could have changed the world…Why Not?

Looking at the three boys in front of me, I wondered: “Maybe my attempt to change things will not be lost— Maybe you will deliver my ideas to the world— Maybe you can save them???”

Unable to speak, due to the throat cancer that would be my demise, I looked at them in silence. I was probably seeing things that weren’t really there, but it appeared to me that the excitement that flashed in my eyes spoke to them.  

Were their sleeping minds waking up along with mine?  

To be honest, this was all I ever asked for as a father: To inspire my kids to think …. To dream …. To ask themselves: “What If?”

Questioning if this was destiny unfolding, my mind began to remember everything I had written back then. The idea for the word diverge. Using the word detach. Teaching the world about acceptance, and pride, and fear, and faith, and so many other things I wanted people to appreciate while putting together their ‘Life’s Puzzle.’

Then another thought hit me: “Was my entire life a test of my ability to be patient?”

Maybe it was meant to be my children, not me?

All of the excitement building up inside me quickly popped like a balloon: “THEY DIDN’T KNOW THE SECRET!!!”

Without the secret, it wouldn’t work. The secret would make it Heartwarming; and make them smile. The secret would make it Heart-Wrenching; and make them think. The secret would make it Hilarious; and make them laugh. 

The secret would produce the “Three H’s” necessary to create the showstopper this world needed. 

With this realization I quickly sat up. This action from me startled the boys. Not paying any attention to the concerned words they were throwing in my direction, I frantically looked around for something to write with. 

I was not supposed to get overly excited; as my body could not handle it, but this was too important—I needed them to know

This was going to wake them up.

Giving up on their attempts to talk to me, my boys simply watched me; not understanding what was happening or what to do. With difficulty I reached over to the bedside drawer and opened it. I found a black sharpie marker, but nothing else. Frustrated, I scanned my surroundings in a further attempt to find something to write on.

I wish I could just talk to them!

Above my head, the Saint Francis Prayer was attached to the wall. Excited, I struggled to reach up in an attempt to rip it down. Unfortunately, it had been there for years and the tape holding it in place made it impossible to remove.

Damnit.

Exhausted, my head fell back onto the pillow as I let out a deflating breathe of air. 

With all the intentions of giving up, my eyes looked lazily at the bedside table on the other side of the bed. On it, Billy’s tattered book that had comforted me so gracefully in life laid silent. “I could write the secret to my boys in that,” I thought, “But do I want to deface something so important by writing my gibberish in it?”

Feeling defeated, I began to hear footsteps approaching the room. Lifting my head slightly from the pillow, a calmness came over me as I watched rain sprinkle the window that was next to the door of the room: “How long had it been raining?” I wondered.

One by one, I watched four friends come through the door and join us in the room; Candace, Lauryn, Nel, and Pras—My Students.

Rotating my head, I watched them walk further into the room and stand beside my boys. The fact that they were here with me now, at the moment I was to leave this world, made my heart ache with happiness. I loved these students of mine more than anyone could ever understand.  

If I could only speak to them now: What would I say?

Overwhelmed with emotion, I looked at the seven heads in front of me and noticed my joy turn to anger: “—Why did I have to put them through all of this!?!”

This thought made me hate myself as I felt like a monstrous beast preparing to destroy their lives. 

Noticing the change in my expression, my boys looked at me with concern. Each of them then turned and looked at the four students standing beside them. Looking confused, it was Joseph who broke the silence and asked the question they were all wondering…

“What is he looking at?”

In my mind; with my imagination, these four students were as real as they were. The fact that my boys could not see them broke something inside of me.  

I’d never be able to see my boys faces when they finally realized who I was looking at on this day.

Debating my next move, I once again turned my head and stared.  

The rock that caught my eye was about four inches in diameter and had a smooth white finish. Sitting on top of Billy’s book, I could imagine exactly how it felt in the palm of my hand. This seemingly simple rock was given to me a year ago by my boys.  

When I was struggling to keep it together after my diagnoses, they gave it to me with a simple note attached: “You will forever be our rock.”

Sobbing uncontrollably with feelings of self-pity, I had held that rock for countless hours in search of some inner peace; never truly finding it.  

I will leave my secret there: Why Not???

Tiredly, I reached over and grabbed it. 

Becoming more aware of my surroundings; almost as if to chronicle them, I noticed the rain outside begin to fall harder on the windows of the room. Fighting for strength, I sat up the best I could and prepared myself. With shaking hands, I started to write.

I began getting short of breath and everything started to blur. Squinting my eyes, I watched my hands create the final words that this body would ever share with the Universe. 

When I was finished, I put the message to my chest and looked up to get one final glimpse of this world—My World…My Children.

All eyes in the room were on me. Zeroing in on them, one by one, I was fittingly reminded of one undeniable truth: “All along the target was you.”

Staring out through the pages of this life I would give anything to be able to speak just a few words: “To My Believer—This world needs your heart: Don’t let anger dull its shine. To My Joker—This world needs your laugh: Don’t let anger wipe it away. To My Thinker—This world needs your sense of wonder: Don’t let anger blind you. To All My Children—This world needs YOU: Don’t let anger win. Now, go change the future…With Love….”

Without warning, all strength left my body. My lifeless hands fell to my lap. As they did, slowly; like in a movie, I saw my children look down to see what I had written on the small white rock that rolled onto the bed. The confusion on their faces was a wonderful site to witness as I faded from this life. I had them….

“I Am Uncircumcised.”

The end?

(Dear Reader, click here to see the YouTube video that was released after the fire in 2016.)

The Teacher’s Playlist:

“Can anyone hear me?”

Earth by Lil Dicky

Follow us on Facebook: @SocialRecovery101
Read our story at: RecoveryHighSchool.com

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