Friday, April 3, 2020

Marvin's Book Chapter 14: Graduation #2

(From Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise, 2011)

On June 28,  2010, Tallahassee Community College awarded Marvin his degree.

I wanted the media there.  wished CNN would be there, that Oprah or Ellen would be there and cover this so everyone in the world might know that Marvin Mark Scott lived, and Marvin Mark Scott always tried and that Marvin Mark Scott would have graduated and gone on to shine his light brightly.

I wanted to wear my academic regalia and march in front of them and somehow make this a graduation ceremony, but it wasn’t meant to be. The board was very busy working to select the next president.

In the minutes before we were called into the boardroom, I stood outside quietly with Marvin’s Mom.

 In the three times I’d met her, we always hugged long and hard and silent, holding each other’s hands in a four-hand-knot, squeezing like long lost sisters who only had a few minutes to catch up with each other.

That day they were all there—Marvin’s father and mother, his sister, his three brothers, their wives, their children.

As she received her son’s degree, Marvin’s Mom told everyone there that her son was a good boy.
He didn’t swear. He didn’t drink, he didn’t do drugs, he loved Jesus, he loved singing and he never missed class.

She was thankful that we remembered him.

I spoke. The interim president spoke. The chairperson of the board spoke. A board member slipped me a tissue behind everyone’s back.

It was solemn, it was tearful. Then we walked out.
Marvin’s family had his diploma. They gave me a lovely clock, engraved with his name. We hugged, we cried, we went our separate ways.

On my way back to my car on that too-hot June day I realized something awful, something I was blind to until that very minute. 

I knew, without a doubt, that a graduation without a graduate was one of the saddest things ever, and not at all a happy ending to this book.

Which left me a little lost since I only write stories that have happy endings.

***Grading Files

The 14th Amendment gave all people born in the US citizenship. This gave rise to many great feets in American History. 

Define Foreign Policy: “A policy by Britain” 

After America became independent from Spain, some years later they created the Monroe Doctrine… 

White Man’s Burden: “He wrote a poem about separation.” 

Conspicuous Consumption: “theories that immigrants were consuming America” 

Lincoln wrote the Proclamation Emancipation Primarily. Wanted Cuba to be a US colony. Lincoln gets shot and passes the 13th Amendment.  

Lincoln is responsible for the Proclamation Emancipation of the slaves. He didn’t’ free them all, just the ones in the south. 

Women throughout history have been basically nonexistent.

Kendrick’s Book and Marvin’s Prayer
The week after Marvin’s graduation was dark for me.

I thought I’d be happy, I thought I’d finish Marvin’s book, tie a bow on it and send it off to the universe.

I expected my heart to be rejoicing, but it was somber. Not sad, just not soaring.

There are pieces of the story I haven’t told you yet that I’m still myself puzzling together.

I spent my very first Mother’s Day with Marvin’s parents and his sister Monica. We fit together like long-lost family. I stayed in touch with Marvin’s brother Kendrick on email and Facebook and cheered him on in finishing a book of his own.

This is the part where I tell you what Marvin never mentioned: his brother was Kendrick Scott, one of FSU’s team captains, credited with inspiring the Seminoles to win the 1993 National Title.
Look him up. He’s amazing.

Kendrick made the All-ACC Honor Roll three times and started taking graduate school classes during his senior year. Because Kendrick’s book, “It’s All Inside You,” was dedicated to his brother Marvin Scott, he asked me to speak at his book signing and tell a story about Marvin.

I went off on a hunt for inspiration, looking through my journals to find out what I was writing, what I was thinking and doing the days before I found out Marvin died.

The journal I was looking for starts on March 8 (which, I note, is Ash Wednesday) and ends as the school year starts in August 2000.

I have never read this journal, but I remember holding it and pouring my heart into it at 5am every morning that Lenten season as I worked my way through a book my mom gave me called The Cup of Life, which I believe had been given to her by a nun from the Sisters of Mercy.

I don’t remember writing anything that fills this golden journal from ten years ago, but I remember the cup.

I remember holding it and hugging it and asking to be emptied of all I didn’t need and to be filled with what I needed.

I asked to be a cup, an offering to others. Nowhere in the journal do I make a joke about wanting bigger boobs, but I want to point out here to the world that my actual cups have overflowed since April 2000. But that’s getting ahead in the story.

I didn’t write anything funny, or any notes for the future. It’s really pretty boring, and actually some parts—the parts I can’t keep my eyes on long enough to believe—are downright mean. In the middle of what I intended to be a sacred book of trying to find a connection to God, I filled page upon page with criticism of how I acted, what I didn’t do, what I should eat, why my weight was unacceptable, and whether my anxiety and constant sense of dread would ever go away. 

I can see now what I couldn’t see then—I hadn’t yet given enough to know what I had to really give to this world, so I didn’t yet know who I was. I wasn’t yet tested enough to know my strengths. I hadn’t lost enough yet to know what to hold onto.

As I look back on this journal, it is a snapshot of who I was right before a lightning bolt hit my life.

There it is. The day that Marvin died.

Whatever I wrote in my journal had to have been written before I knew he had died. What was I thinking, what was I writing the day Marvin died, before the big waves of change came into my life that lead you and I to this very page of this story?

April 3, 2000
I keep asking myself why I don’t pray very much anymore. But the question shapes the answer so maybe what I want to know is how I can pray more.

Then I skipped a few spaces and wrote, “Be still, and know that I am God!” 

I didn’t expect to see anything like that. The words I saw (a warning? a consolation?) made my stomach hurt, in a good way.

I read on, not recognizing myself or my voice in a narrative it seems I scribbled out for myself, or to God, or to whomever would pick this book up one day and let this story out.

Then I see what I don’t remember writing, not at all, in any way, but there it is, in my handwriting, written days later:
Lord, help me to grow from Marvin’s life.
Help me to gain from his faith.
Lord, help me grow through this pain and this loss.
Open me to your consolation.
Help me live a life worthy of the days you give me.

I copied that entry onto a piece of paper and tape a picture of Marvin next to it inside of a manila folder so I can bring it to Kendrick’s book signing.

At the book signing Kendrick handed the floor to me to talk about who Marvin was—diligent, patient, humble, insightful and musical. I described how I waited for Marvin at the door, how his death changed my life, and I read what I now think of as “Marvin’s Prayer,” to help dedicate Kendrick’s book.

One Monday that summer, Kendrick brought his children to play with mine. Just the idea that our kids would play together was delicious, and we hoped to meet a few times during the summer to talk about writing and let the kids play. We realized how many people we both knew—NFL players, ex-FSU players, students and friends.

We talked about writing, about publishing, about the art of storytelling and about books we love. I suggested to him that he read “The Alchemist,” and then forced my copy on him.  

After that, I sunk into a strangely quiet and almost sad place longer than I’d like to admit, more than once whispering to myself that since Kendrick wrote a book dedicated to Marvin, I won’t have to.