Blind Spot
Home Up Parents Revisited

 

Book One:

A SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS


PART FOUR: RETROSPECT

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN:
BLIND SPOT

Written by Rick Archer

  2015, Richard Archer

 


SUBCHAPTER 126 - A FIGHTING CHANCE

 
   

The Titanic disaster should have been avoided.  The captain had actually been warned about the dangerous ice field ahead, but he inexplicably continued forward at a rapid speed. 

Following my graduation from St. John's, little did I know I too was on a collision course with doom.  Indeed, Mr. Murphy had warned me. However, because he was no friend of mine, I paid no attention.  Sad to say, Mr. Murphy could see it coming.  He clearly knew my fate was just a matter of time.  Given my childhood, my eventual downfall in Graduate school was as predictable as the Titanic disaster.

Upon graduation from St. John's, I had three major problems. 

My first problem was confidence in general and my inability to relate to my peers.  I was a loner who did not make friends easily.  In particular, that issue reared its ugly head during my time as a summer camp counselor. 

It was Mr. Murphy was had predicted my problem with authority and criticism would someday bring me down.  My issues with authority did not appear during college.  Typical of me, I jumped to the wrong conclusion.  I assumed I had matured and that Mr. Murphy didn't know what he was talking about.  I could not have been more wrong.  This issue was a ticking time bomb. 

The only reason I didn't get into any trouble in college was simply because I was left alone. With no one around to push my buttons, I got a free pass.  Not so in graduate school.  Once I met a professor who did not appreciate my outspoken ways, my big mouth got me in a world of trouble.  Lacking the political skills necessary to survive this situation, I was dismissed at the end of the year.

The Graduate School dismissal was horrible.  After my childhood scars... the inner ones... got me thrown out of graduate school, I hit rock bottom again.  I was in the most pain I had felt since my Senior year in high school.  I had no way to deal with the acute sense of failure I felt. 

However, to be honest, it was my total cluelessness around women that broke me.  I don't think there is any way I will ever be able to completely explain how much I worried about my looks following the acne explosion.  Unable to look in the mirror without feeling sick, I had a serious confidence problem to begin with.  Unable to date during high school, I hoped to catch up in college.  However I met immediate disappointment in my Freshman year at Hopkins.  Crushed by my girlfriend Emily, I became very afraid of getting hurt again.

I dealt with my fear by more or less avoiding women for the next several years.  All this did was kick the can down the road.  My inadequacy would eventually flatten me in graduate school.  It was the deceit of my two-timing graduate school girl friend that finished me off.  I was shocked to discover how easily I had been fooled by her.  Faced with the unbearable pain of loss, humiliation and rage, I developed a debilitating phobia towards women.  Similar to a boy bitten by a dog, I actually began to tremble with fear anytime I saw a pretty girl... yes, it was that bad.  Now I realized I had an even worse problem than my scarred face.  I was terrified of getting hurt again because I didn't have the slightest idea how to protect myself from letting this happen a second time.  

So far, I had spent my entire life waiting for the future.  I waited for four years in high school waiting till I could date in college.  That didn't work out, so I spent four years in college waiting to date in graduate school.  And that led to the worst pain of all!

They say 'delayed gratification' is the ability to resist temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward.  In my case, there never was any 'later reward'.  Furthermore, I never deliberately delayed my gratification - I had no choice!  Every time I tried to date, I got crushed... absolutely crushed. 

The pain of my dismissal from graduate school combined with the pain from this broken love affair was too much.  I was a failure in career and a failure in love.  When would I ever escape my loneliness?  How would I ever figure out what I was doing wrong around women?  Furthermore, what would I do for a career? 

The pain of losing my dreams left me virtually motionless for an entire month.  Facing the most serious depression of my life, I spent an entire month doing nothing but lie on a couch thinking about all the things that had gone wrong in my life.

I was hardly the only child to ever get roughed up in childhood.  While some children get knocked down permanently by hardship, I was one of those who was at least given a fighting chance.  For all my problems, I emerged from childhood with enough skills to cope.  Wounded, yes, but not totally crippled. 

As I struggled to find the strength to move on, it was my memory of St. John's that kept me going.  My memory of St. John's was my single anchor while I drifted.  My St. John's experience reminded me that I had licked serious problems in the past. 

Laying on that couch, every time I wanted to throw in the towel, I would remember my success at St. John's.  Yes, I had been tossed out of graduate school, but that didn't mean I wasn't stupid.  Not by a long shot.  Yes, I had been badly fooled by that woman, but surely I was smart enough to learn from my mistakes.

St. John's had taught me to compete.  St. John's had taught me to fight.  St. John's had taught me to persist.  Based on my time at St. John's, I knew I had talent. 

I clung to that thought like a man clinging to a life ring in the ocean.  It was that thought that kept me going.  Every time doubt crept into my mind, I reminded myself that for nine long years I had held my own with the best and brightest. 

Yes, I had failed, but no, I wasn't a failure.  St. John's had taught me this.  Yes, right now I had no direction and no idea what to do next.  No matter... someday I would find my way.  Deep down, I knew that if I could just find a way to solve my personality problems and gain some confidence around people my own age, I had a lot to offer. 

Although it is true my childhood doomed me to all kinds of future problems, it was my St. John's education and my St. John's experience that gave me a fighting chance in life.  It was my St. John's-instilled qualities... persistence, hard work, ambition, desire for achievement... that made quitting not an option. 

St. John's helped in one other way as well.  Although I lacked confidence when it came to interpersonal relationships, I had supreme confidence in my intelligence.  During the three year period following the Graduate School debacle, I decided to use my brain to heal my soul and help me deal with my blind spots.  During this period, I read every possible self-help book I could find in a determined search for answers to my problems.  Thank goodness a couple of those books made suggestions that would help me turn my life around.

Although I have to say my "Angry Young Man" Twenties were almost as miserable as High School Hell, once I managed to overcome my childhood problems, my days of delayed gratification were over.  I led a charmed and quite wonderful life once I passed 30. 

Facing the most serious crisis in my life, my memory of St. John's had acted like a lighthouse in a storm.  I will never forget that I owed my fighting chance to St. John's. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 127
- BLIND SPOT

 

At some point, the reader will surely have asked whether I am nuts or not.  After all, I sometimes refer to reincarnation and supernatural interference in our lives as if these things are as natural as the air we breathe.  Considering I have little more to go on other than some very interesting coincidences, I will be the first to admit I don't offer a lot of proof.

Do we have free will or don't we? 

I don't have an answer for that question.  All I know is that whenever I develop the attitude that I don't have to do anything because everything is "meant to be", all kinds of things go wrong.  Long ago during my Magical Mystery Tour back in college, I came to the conclusion that I had to assume I was in full control of my own ship in order for my life to work. 

Therefore, on a day to day basis, I run my life the same way as everybody else... when a truck is coming, I get out of the way.  I pay my bills, I obey the law, and I complain about the weather just like everyone else.  I don't attend church and I don't talk about God unless something brings up the subject.  Indeed, to the average person, I suppose I seem normal enough.  I am certainly not crazy, let's put it that way.

However, when no one is looking, I give free rein to my curiosity about the mysteries of life.  I am always on alert for further evidence that might support my growing belief that my life is secretly being manipulated.  In a private corner of my mind, I examine everything that happens to me for any hint of something out of the ordinary.  This is all part of the little game I play called "Spot the Coincidences". 

I trace this strange habit all the way back to the curious events of my Senior year in high school.  If ever there was a time in my life when I believe I was being manipulated outside my conscious awareness, that would be it.  I went through an entire year totally unaware of what was really going on behind the scenes.  When I re-examined that year from a different perspective 40 years later, I realized I had missed some very obvious clues as to what was going on.

I came to the conclusion that I suffered from some serious blind spots.  Now I had to ask the obvious question.   Was I really that stupid or did someone deliberately pull the wool over my eyes?

Literature is full of fictional stories where people have suffered tragedy due to blind spots.  By 'blind spot', I am referring to knowledge that the reader has access to, but the central figure is completely unaware of.  Lacking this vital information, our hero stumbles mightily.

Perhaps the most famous blind spot involved the Greek legend of Oedipus.  Here we have the Greek Gods manipulating the fate of this sad individual to create a terrible tragedy.  King Laius of Thebes was told that one day he would be murdered by his child.  Completely convinced of the validity of the prophecy, Laius ordered Oedipus, his first born child, be thrown upon the mountainside to die.  Except that a shepherd found the child and took the boy to safety.  Oedipus was raised by another family who loved him very much.

As he aged, Oedipus was made aware of this prophecy, but vowed to never let it happen.  Unfortunately, Oedipus had no idea he was adopted.  He thought the prophecy meant he would kill his adopted father.  So to protect the father he loved, he left his home permanently.  How can he kill his father if he leaves home?  Soon a youthful Oedipus met an angry older man upon the road.  They quarreled over right of way and Oedipus unwittingly murdered his real father in the process.  Thus the prophecy was fulfilled. 

The next part of the prophecy had Oedipus marrying his mother.  He was bound and determined to defy this part of the prophecy as well, but he was blinded to the truth by the Gods.  So he unwittingly married his mother anyway.  Upon discovery of his mistake, Oedipus cursed his ignorance and his helplessness to prevent this further horror.  Oedipus took the action of blinding himself.  Tormented by guilt, he spent the remainder of his life wandering the world in a self-imposed exile.

The story of Oedipus is meant to explain that no matter how hard an individual struggles to defy the Gods, ultimately he has no power to change his Destiny in a harsh universe.  What will be, will be.  The Gods will make sure of that.

I go about my daily life assuming I have free will.  On the other hand, I don't think I have free will all the time.  Although I act as if I am captain of my own ship, there is a part of me that believes some things will happen to me whether I like it or not... like cutting my eye out or having a freak attack of acne.  I then have the "free will" to decide what to do about these events. 

Am I correct in this belief?  That is the question I have spent my entire life considering.  My answer is that based on my experiences in life, I do believe in Fate.  However, I am helpless to prove this theory.  The best I can do is write this book and let the readers make up their own mind on this all-important subject.

One of the reasons I have spent my life preoccupied with the concept of Destiny is that I sometimes wonder if there might be more to that Oedipus story than meets the eye.  Is it possible that sometimes we are deliberately deceived by the Universe so that we are forced to learn a lesson?  I have no evidence on this matter, just a suspicion.  It seems like people make major decisions all the time that turn out terribly, then in hindsight they ask themselves how they could have ever been so foolish.  Feeling like an idiot, they can't understand why they were so blind to the dangers when they made their move. 

A simple example would be my mother's decision to buy that rickety house in my Senior year.  She made that decision based on the slimmest of economic margins.  In the process, she completely overlooked the fact that my father's child support would end two months after she bought the house.  Alarmed at this sudden shortfall, she made the crazy decision to depend on Janie and Linda, two complete strangers, to hopefully pay rent and bail her out.  That solution failed not long after I left for college.

The boyfriends of both Linda and Janie got tired of living there.  Both couples decided they would be happier finding places of their own.  Once they left, my mother lost that house.  My mother's blind spot had led her to make a reckless move and she paid dearly for her oversight. 

Knowing the risk she was taking, why didn't she foresee the dangers ahead of time?   I suppose the obvious answer was that my mother wasn't very smart.  That would be the realistic answer.  But what about the mystic answer??  What if my mother was deceived into becoming over-confident?  And if so, who would deceive her? 

We are taught to take responsibility for our decisions, but what if there are times when we are just reading lines from a script?  It seems like we all make at least a couple terrible decisions in our lives.  Then we look back and say, "What on earth was I thinking?  Why did I marry that man (or woman)??  I should have known better!!" 

There is a part of me that wonders if we make bad decisions because we have no choice... it is part of our Fate.  Is it possible that the Universe deceives us into making bad decisions so we can learn something?  I have no way of proving such a thing, but it certainly is an interesting possibility. 

Let me explore this question another way.  Where do 'ideas' come from?  Divine Inspiration is the concept of a supernatural force, typically a deity, who sends a creative thought to a person.  Divine inspiration has been a commonly reported aspect of religions for thousands of years.  In its simplest form, a human prays and God delivers a revelation. 

So, if we can accept the possibility of divine inspiration, can we also accept the possibility that misleading ideas can also be sent to us?  That is exactly my point.  Is there such a thing as Divine Deception??  

Is it possible that our Karma dictates we will be tricked into making terrible decisions so we can learn something or experience something that will balance the scales from a previous lifetime? 

There are people who say that certain accidents are God's Will... the Titanic sinking for example.  Legend has it that several people avoided going on that fateful trip because they had a premonition.  Yet others had no qualms and went to their doom.  Perhaps that was their Fate.  For the others, we might conclude it wasn't their time yet.

Following this line of thought, perhaps it is our Fate to make certain really bad decisions because we are clueless as to the truth.  If Oedipus can be deliberately deceived, maybe the rest of us can be deceived as well.  Let me explain why I wonder if this is possible.  I spent my entire Senior year of high school completely deceived as to what was really going on.  In retrospect, I have to wonder if I was kept in the dark for a reason. 

As we recall, I had one single goal in life... go to college.  That was all that mattered to me. 

Following the acne ordeal, as early as my Sophomore year I gave up all thought of dating.  I also sacrificed my all-important dream of basketball glory.  I did this in order to concentrate on my pursuit of college.  Studying endlessly, I became perhaps the most over-achieving student in the school.  I didn't stop there. Worried about my parents' inability or unwillingness to finance my college education, I took the dramatic step of getting a job after school to begin saving money on my own.  In other words, I did everything in my power to assure my college education... and what good did it do me?  I went through agony as all my plans went up in smoke during my Senior year.

As one thing after another went wrong, the final blow was seeing Katina Ballantyne handed the Jones Scholarship instead of me.  Now barring a miracle, I believed I would have to wait another year before starting my college career.   The thought of staying another year in Little Mexico was more than I could bear.  My disappointment and bitterness was so pronounced that I was on the verge of collapse. 

Fortunately my miserable story had a happy ending.  First the charismatic Maria Ballantyne walked into my life and removed my pain with her magic wand.  Then two weeks later the enigmatic E.K. Salls solved my problems by sending me to Ralph O'Connor to receive a college scholarship he had arranged for me before the school year ever started.  

Only a miracle could have saved me... and that is exactly what happened.

Except there was one problem with this picture... the image of Mr. Salls coming to my rescue had never once crossed my mind. 

This was my blind spot.  I had no idea that Mr. Salls was responsible for my scholarship.  Furthermore, I thought Mr. Salls hated my guts.

Mr. Salls, the man I had admired throughout high school, was trying to help me throughout my entire year and yet I thought he hated me.  I thought the man had turned his back on me!

As hard as it is to imagine, I spent my entire my Senior year in high school completely blind to the truth where Mr. Salls was concerned.  Operating under a blind spot, or 'misconception' if you prefer, of the highest magnitude, I spent my entire Senior year desperate to solve a problem that had been solved long ago without my knowledge.  Unaware of the gift awaiting me, I stumbled badly at every turn.

Starting with the absurdity of my mother's decision to buy that house, I experienced the distraction of the Holy Roller music, the torment of the forbidden sexual availability of Janie and Linda, and the bizarre transformation of my home into a Third World country.  Then there was my father's broken promise of college tuition as well as the strange issue of his salary preventing me from getting a scholarship.  As the pressure mounted, I did the stupidest thing of all... I cheated on a test... and I got caught against all odds! 

I still remember the incredulity that crossed my mind when that boy stared at me with suspicion.  I wasn't a cheater by nature.  Where on earth had this stupid idea come from in the first place?  I wrote it off as temporary insanity. 

Do you see where I am going with this?  Maybe our lives really are manipulated.

With each plot twist, I sank lower and lower.  The final blow came when Katina Ballantyne was awarded the Jones Scholarship. 

When rescue did appear weeks later, I made another mistake.  I completely overlooked Mr. Salls' hand in the matter and gave all credit for my college scholarship to Ralph O'Connor.  How did I jump so easily to the wrong conclusion?   When my full-tuition college scholarship simply showed up in my mailbox, my immediate conclusion was that Ralph O'Connor, a man I had met a week earlier, was responsible.  He had promised he would be in touch... and this letter was proof that he had come through.  So Mr. O'Connor became my hero.  In the process, I completely missed Mr. Salls' involvement behind the scenes. 

In other words, I got one hero right, but missed the other.  I have to be honest... I think Mr. Salls wanted it that way.  I think it was his nature to do good deeds on the sly and never take credit.  Well, he sure fooled me. 

It took the events of my daughter's Duchesne tuition issue in 2008 to realize I had completely misunderstood the role of my Headmaster.  I was incredulous to realize this fairly obvious conclusion had completely escaped my naive teenage brain. 

The first thing that crossed my mind when I uncovered the truth in 2008 was "How could I have been so blind?"  No doubt Oedipus said the same thing.

In fact, I was so completely deluded by the events of my Senior year that my superstitious side wondered if the Universe had played some sort of Cosmic Joke on me.  I recall being flabbergasted at my realization.  Where Mr. Salls was concerned, how could I have possibly missed something so obvious?

Well, I could only come up with two explanations.  The first explanation was that I was an ignorant teenager who kept jumping to the wrong conclusions.  Okay, to a certain extent, I'll buy that.  That would be the realistic explanation.

However, that explanation did not satisfy my 2008 adult mind.  Yes, I was young, but I also spent countless hours trying to understand why Mr. Salls would give that scholarship to Katina Ballantyne and not me.  NOT ONCE did it ever cross my mind that Mr. Salls had given Katina that award because he might have a bigger surprise for me.

Considering how superstitious I am, I had to ask the question.... Did the Universe deliberately keep me in the dark so I would learn a lesson?  Given my tendency towards a fatalistic point of view, I certainly had my suspicions.  Perhaps it was my Fate to be kept in the dark that year. 

Now as my 2008 adult brain retraced the events of 1968, I reached the new and quite obvious conclusion that Mr. Salls and Mr. O'Connor had a pre-existing arrangement to send one quality St. John's student each year to Hopkins.  If the boy needed financial assistance, Mr. O'Connor would use his influence to make it happen. 

No doubt I was Mr. Salls' hand-picked candidate for the 1968 Hopkins slot.  That explains why Mr. Salls practically ordered me to apply to Johns Hopkins in September 1967... without telling me, of course, that he had already penciled me in for a scholarship care of Ralph O'Connor. 

I should have caught Mr. Salls right from the start.  I had always sensed there was something odd about my Headmaster's insistence.  So why didn't I catch on when I had the chance?   The weak link in Mr. Salls' scholarship plan was figuring out how to get me to apply to Hopkins, a school I had never heard of.

When I visited his office at the start of the school year, his hands were tied.  How was he supposed to sell me on a college that had virtually no obvious attractions for me?   Mr. Salls was not a born salesman, trust me.  Embellishment was hardly his forte.  Mr. Salls was forced to persuade me to consider a school that had zero name recognition for me, an unattractive location and no women. 

Trust me, Mr. Salls wasn't terribly persuasive during our interview.  When he first brought up the school, he failed to instill even the slightest flicker of interest.  I think Mr. Salls realized this, so at the end of the interview he more or less ordered me to apply to Hopkins.  His exact words were, "I highly recommend you also apply to Johns Hopkins."

The implication was "Young man, I can see you are not remotely interested, but do it anyway because I am asking you to." 

Fortunately, his word carried a lot of weight with me.  It was due to my immense respect for Mr. Salls that I went ahead and applied to Hopkins anyway.  At the time I had no idea there was a potential scholarship involved.  I was simply doing what he told me to do.

How on earth did I miss what Mr. Salls was up to that day?  I should have caught on right there, but it went right over my head at the time thanks to my Oedipal Blind Spot.

There was another curious feature to that interview.  Mr. Salls never once suggested an in-state college.  Considering what Mr. Salls knew about my financial situation and the fact that Johns Hopkins cost four times more than St. John's, one would think he would also recommend applying to a school I could afford like Texas A&M or the University of Texas.  Not a word.  The only subject he brought up was Johns Hopkins.  In other words, he already knew I wouldn't be needing to apply to any in-state schools. 

Too bad I completely missed that clue as well.

Eight months later when I received my scholarship in the mail, there was a two month gap till graduation.  Not once during this time did Mr. Salls give any indication he had arranged my scholarship behind my back.  Mr. Salls remained so secretive that his involvement went right over my head.  If I had not hit that speed bump concerning my daughter's 2008 Duchesne tuition, I would never have discovered the truth, but when I did, I was incredulous to realize I had spent 40 years completely blind to what had taken place.

Now that I gave it some serious "adult" thought, Mr. Salls' decision to help me made perfect sense. I realized Mr. Salls was smart enough to know I was in big trouble.  His years of experience dealing with colleges allowed him to realize what a headache my father's salary would pose long before it ever hit me.  Without his help, I would be lost.  Therefore, based on his understanding of my situation, Mr. Salls made a quiet decision to personally solve my financial crisis.  

Thank goodness Mr. Salls believed in me.  Without Mr. Salls, I cannot imagine how I would have solved the issue of my father's salary.  However, I wish Mr. Salls had let me in on his good deed.  My ignorance of his secret moves not only caused me untold panic and heartache, it had a direct effect on causing my defiant behavior.  If I could have eliminated all that fear, no doubt I would have behaved much better during my Senior year.  Instead, due to my continued ignorance of the good fortune awaiting me, I was bouncing off the walls with anxiety. 

That said, my adult mind decided I would have handled things the same way that Mr. Salls did.   It would be suicide to go around making financial promises to students out in the open.  What if I wasn't accepted at the school?  Or what if other students learned of my generous gift and now their parents wanted a similar deal?  I was forced to agree that discretion and secrecy were definitely called for.

When it came to secrecy, Mr. Salls was the right guy.  Mr. Salls certainly knew how to be secretive, that much I could say about him.  No doubt his World War II training in military intelligence had rubbed off on him. 

A very private man, not once did Mr. Salls drop the slightest hint to me about what he was doing.  This was typical behavior for my inscrutable Headmaster. 

Unfortunately, his taciturn nature set me up to be the victim of this nasty Cosmic Joke.

I think I was kept in the dark for a reason.  I have a hunch the Universe had a lesson for me to learn the hard way.  I was to be the unexpected beneficiary of a magnificent gift.  However, before I received my gift, the Universe demanded that I suffer no end. 

Just like Oedipus.

 


SUBCHAPTER 128
- CHEATING RE-EXAMINED

 

So why did I cheat?  Now that is an interesting question.  Before I continue, let's agree I had no business cheating on that German test in the first place. 

That said, I have already pointed out there was something very suspicious about that cheating incident.  Earlier in the year, thanks to my respect for my Chemistry teacher, I had already made the decision I never wanted to cheat again.  Furthermore, I didn't even want to cheat on the German test.  I remember actually debating whether to go through with it or not.  After all, I didn't have to cheat.  I knew most of the information from paying attention in class and briefly studying the material the night before.  Had I not cheated, I estimate my grade would have been at most 5 points less.  Big deal.  So why did I do it?

The realistic explanation was that I was a stupid, immature kid who was acting out. 

However, in this case, I tend to favor the mystical explanation.  I felt exactly like the guy who claims he was set up.  Perhaps I was "tricked" into doing something stupid.  What exactly is temporary insanity?  Is it a psychological phenomenon or is it a case of an external suggestion planted in one's mind?  I am not trying to escape responsibility here.  I am simply saying that sometimes "Reality" can seem very fishy.  In my opinion, the circumstances surrounding the cheating incident were highly indicative of metaphysical meddling.  In other words, my gut tells me this was a situation indicative of "Divine Deception". 

The tension began the day I realized that college was four times more expensive than St. John's.  This sobering realization was the source of untold anxiety.  For the first time, I realized my grocery store money was just a drop in the bucket. I became increasingly afraid that I wasn't even going to college next year. 

My father compounded my fears exponentially with his $400 insult.  Once he broke his Sixth Grade Pledge, I snapped completely.  After what he did to me, I was so full of hate towards him that I couldn't see straight.  I allowed my bitterness to cloud my judgment in all sorts of ways.  The cheating incident came soon afterwards. 

So yes, I was feeling unusually bitter on the day that I cheated.  Was I acting out as a desperate plea for attention?

 

Katina Ballantyne, 1968
 

There is a theory in Psychology that 'acting out' is an attention-seeking device.  One example might be someone's half-hearted attempt at suicide.  In my case, that doesn't feel right.  As I recall, I definitely had no intention of getting caught.  I took every precaution to assure I could peek at the list of German authors without the slightest chance of being caught.  This was not an attention-seeking device, but rather a silly act of defiance against the rules.

Alone in an empty room in a remote corner of the school, it took a coincidence of the highest magnitude for that boy to come bursting in out of nowhere to catch me red-handed. 

I have previously stated that the coincidences in my life serve as the indirect proof of God's existence.  When I returned to the events of my Senior year using my adult mind, this incident became Exhibit #1 in my contention that I underwent a "Fated Event".  It was this coincidence that made me suspect the chain of events in my Senior year was no ordinary run of bad luck.

These problems were a "Supernatural" run of bad luck. 

In other words, I felt that getting caught cheating was meant to be.  This led to one of the most dramatic blind spots of the sequence.  My guilt over the cheating incident set me up perfectly for jump to the wrong conclusion when Katina won the coveted Jones Scholarship instead of me.  I went nuts.  As the poorest kid in the school, I felt robbed.  Why would Mr. Salls do something like that to me?

My questions over the unfairness of this baffling maneuver led to the very understandable conclusion that Mr. Salls had handed the scholarship to Katina as a rebuke to me for cheating.

Never in my wildest imagination did I dream that Katina had been given the Jones Scholarship simply because Mr. Salls had a bigger prize waiting for me.

 

My mistake was to assume the worst - I lost the scholarship because I was being punished for cheating.  That the only explanation that made sense to me, so I stopped looking for a more subtle explanation.

The Divine Deception had worked perfectly.  I suffered the most powerful disappointment imaginable.  I wasn't going to college because a man whose respect I craved had deliberately snubbed me. 

Mr. Salls had to be punishing me.  What else could it be?  I could not believe my stupid, self-destructive act of cheating had backfired in the most horrible way possible.  I honestly thought I would miss college the following year due to my own ill-conceived actions.   The resulting guilt and shame was unbearable.  My self-loathing was off the charts.

Considering Mr. Salls' assumed rejection of me came on the heels of the cheating incident as well as my father's rejection, I felt worthless.  I was sinking fast in a vicious downward spiral.    I was so seriously depressed I could barely function.  It became an ordeal to go about my daily activities.  No, I wasn't suicidal when I lost the Jones Scholarship to Katina Ballantyne, but I was vulnerable.  One more piece of bad news might have triggered it.

Now that I reached the conclusion that Mr. Salls was very angry at me, nothing happened in the final two months of the year to persuade me otherwise.  For one thing, I had virtually no access to the man.  I only saw him two times and both times he seemed upset at me.

Once was the moment he handed me the phone number for Ralph O'Connor.  Perhaps my guilty conscience affected my judgment, but Mr. Salls seemed distinctly aloof that day.  He was curt and abrupt.  I felt like he was disgusted with me. 

The other time I saw him was several weeks later when I was called into his office to explain why I had stolen the gym equipment.  Mr. Salls stared darts at me the entire time.

First the cheating incident, then the Jones Scholarship incident, then a frosty stare during the phone number moment, and finally an angry frown during the stealing moment... I had to assume that Mr. Salls was mad at me.  And guess what?  He probably was mad at me! Do you blame him??  The man had every right to be upset.  Holy smokes, I had to be the biggest headache of any student in the school. 

Assuming I was in Mr. Salls' doghouse, I concluded there was no way to redeem myself.  So once Ralph O'Connor gave me my scholarship, I saw no point in straightening things out with my Headmaster.  Just graduate and leave in disgrace.  Indeed, I left St. John's thinking Mr. Salls disliked me just as much as Mr. Murphy did.

So there's my blind spot... I thought Mr. Salls hated me the entire time that he was secretly helping me.

It was the cheating incident that set this entire "Blind Spot" in motion.  This absurd coincidence was followed shortly by Katina's Jones Scholarship.  And who of all people showed up to rescue me from my despair?  Mrs. Ballantyne, her mother.  This was a woman I had never spoken to in my life and yet ten minutes into our conversation she began telling me her life story.  It was a second coincidence of the highest magnitude. 

People can laugh at me all they want for being so superstitious, but what if I am right?  These back-to-back coincidences had such a profound effect on the direction of my life that I feel completely justified in concluding unseen hands were manipulating my fortunes.

If Mrs. Ballantyne had not shown up when she did, I cannot imagine where my guilt over cheating on that test and my anguish over losing that scholarship would have taken me. 

Kind of a lucky break for me that she showed up, yes?  

Given the significance and perfect timing of her unexpected appearance, one can certainly see why I have concluded Mrs. Ballantyne's surprise visit was nothing short of a miracle.  If not for her timely intervention, my teenage ignorance was taking me in a very dangerous direction.

After graduating thinking Mr. Salls either hated me or disliked me, I kept that thought throughout adulthood.  It wasn't much fun to think I had disappointed a man I had admired so much.  Were it not for the 2008 Duchesne tuition incident, I would have never known the truth.  In fact, I have to wonder if my 2008 revelations were meant to be as well.  Divine inspiration??

I cannot even begin to describe how silly I felt in 2008 to realize Mr. Salls wasn't punishing me after all.  Good grief.  I could not believe I had spent 40 years thinking Mr. Salls was mad at me when in fact he was looking out for me the entire time.   All that guilt and anguish for nothing. 

Oh well, the truth is I deserved all the suffering I went through, so I don't feel sorry for myself.  Besides, there was some good that came out of this.  At the time I was caught, the odds were so remote that I assumed I was caught "for a reason".  I concluded the Universe was sending me a very blunt message.   Based on that incident, I developed a sense of integrity that I have cherished ever since.  Considering I never cheated at anything again in my life, I have the right to say I learned my lesson.

The Universe certainly has an interesting way of teaching its lessons, doesn't it?

 


SUBCHAPTER 129
- MY SILENT BENEFACTOR

 

During the time I was making a complete fool of myself in my Senior year of high school, I kept wondering why I was getting so many second chances. 

I will never forget how lost I was once I concluded Mr. Salls didn't even like me.  I had spent three years in his German class trying to show him how much I respected him.  I recall hating myself worse than I have ever hated myself for letting him down. 

My 2008 epiphany revealed what had really been going on.   Now I finally understood that Mr. Salls had made it a point to watch out for me throughout my Senior year.

Who let me off the hook when I cheated on my German exam? 

Who let me off the hook when I stole the gym equipment? 

Who looked the other way when I was being sent to Penalty Hall with alarming regularity? 

Who gave me the award for top German student despite being suspected of cheating on my German test? 

Who allowed me to graduate despite my unpaid school bill?

 

Who else could it be?  Who else had that kind of authority? 

I felt crushed.  Mr. Salls was my patron all along and it took me 40 years to figure it out.  How I wish Mr. Salls wasn't so damn inscrutable!! 

Knowing Mr. Salls, I suppose he would have denied everything.  That was just his way.  Mr. Salls did not seek credit.  He was a man who avoided scrutiny.  He pulled his strings and worked his magic behind the scenes. 

I would not be surprised to learn my story is just the tip of the iceberg.  No doubt Mr. Salls did unseen favors for many unsuspecting kids just like he did for me.

Mr. Chidsey, the first Headmaster, had always been a hero to me because I knew exactly what he did.  Mr. Chidsey was the man who arranged two scholarships for me at St. John's. 

Now it became obvious that Mr. Salls was another hero from my childhood.  He was the man who sent me to college.  Without Mr. Salls, there never would have been Mr. O'Connor.

I just wish it hadn't taken me 40 years to figure it out.  Since Mr. Salls passed away in 1985, there was no way I could go back to him and express my gratitude.  I was full of regret that there was no way to thank him for what he had done for me. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 130
- A MESSAGE FROM BEYOND

 

Yasmine and Christie Ballantyne
 

Strangely enough, my friend Mrs. Ballantyne was kind enough to relay a message from the past.  This took place in 2009 during my fourth of five visits with Mrs. Ballantyne. 

For once, this particular visit wasn't mysterious... or maybe it was.  Mrs. Ballantyne had an impulsive idea to come see me one night.  Who knows where this sudden "idea" came from? 

Dr. Christie Ballantyne, her fifth child of seven, and his lovely wife Yasmine had been taking Swing dance lessons from me.

Christie and Yasmine dropped by her house for a visit late one afternoon.  That is when Mrs. Ballantyne heard her son mention he had a dance lesson with me later on.

On the spur of the moment, Mrs. Ballantyne asked her son if she could tag along to say hello.  Christie said of course.  Hop in the car, Mom.

Naturally I was delighted to see my surprise guest.  Although Mrs. Ballantyne was 89 now, I was pleased to note her mind was as sharp as ever.  She moved well too.    I was impressed. The lady was indestructible. 

Mrs. Ballantyne was also still sassy... she immediately chewed me out... "Rick Archer, where have you been?  Why haven't you been to see me!?" 

I grinned and gave her a big hug.  Mrs. Ballantyne had to be the most engaging woman I have ever met in my life.  She was such a character.  Never a dull moment around her.

I found a comfortable place on a nearby couch for Mrs. Ballantyne to sit.  Then for the next 45 minutes I helped Christie and Yasmine work on their Swing dancing. 

 

As I taught, every now and then I would glance over at my important guest.  Mrs. Ballantyne never took her eye off of us.  She watched our dance lesson intently with that constant bemused smile of hers.  No doubt the lesson brought back memories from her days of Swing dancing with her husband Jay during World War II.

Towards the end of the lesson, I was dying to talk with Mrs. Ballantyne.  So I decided to cut the lesson a little short.  I put on some Swing dance music and told Christie and Yasmine to practice on their own while I went to greet my guest.  Christie nodded; he understood. 

Now I made a beeline over to Mrs. Ballantyne.  She quickly took my hand in hers and told me how happy she was to see me.  The feeling was definitely mutual.   I really cared about this lady. 

As usual, Mrs. Ballantyne had a surprise for me.  She always had a surprise for me.  I swear the woman had special powers.  We got to talking and Mrs. Ballantyne said she still remembered the day when she asked her friend Charlie what he knew about me. 

My ears perked up.  "Her friend Charlie...??" 

Did I really hear what I thought I had heard?  "Charlie" was the name Mr. Salls went by with his friends.  

A tingling sensation came over me.  Where was she going with this?

Mrs. Ballantyne told me she recalled the day that she and Mr. Salls were sitting in her living room. 

Now my eyes grew even wider.  Mr. Salls was in her living room?  

I had long suspected that Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Salls knew each other pretty well, but I assumed it was limited to casual conversations at St. John's.  I had no idea they were this close. 

Mrs. Ballantyne and her husband Jay met during the World War II Big Band Swing Era
 

I interrupted and asked, "Mrs. Ballantyne, were you and Mr. Salls friends?"

Mrs. Ballantyne grinned.  "You didn't know?  Charlie and I were great friends!  I talked to Charlie nearly every day at the school.  Our families had beach houses across the street from one another down in Galveston.  My daughter Marina was best friends with Charlie's daughter Elissa."

I shook my head in consternation.  No one tells me anything.

Mrs. Ballantyne resumed speaking.  She said that not too long after our visit in the Weingarten's parking lot, she wanted to know more about me.  So she asked her friend "Charlie" to tell her what he knew about me.

Mr. Salls immediately frowned.  He began by saying I was an excellent student and that I had a scholarship.  Then he told Mrs. Ballantyne that he often worried about me.  He explained my history at the school, then remarked that he had heard from one of my teachers (obviously Mr. Curran) that my home situation was pretty miserable. 

Mrs. Ballantyne said, "Charlie said he had a special interest in you.  No one had ever worked harder in his class than you did.  He admired your determination to succeed.  He commented the only person he knew who seemed more driven at that age was himself."

I was astounded.  In that moment, Mr. Salls had come back to life to say he was proud of me.  I was 59 years old as she spoke, but I swear I choked up just like I was a lonely 18 year old kid again.  My eyes welled up and I shook my head in amazement.  I never had any idea that Mr. Salls kept close tabs on me.  

I was surprised to learn Mr. Salls knew how pitiful my home life was.  Based on what Mrs. Ballantyne had just told me, I suddenly realized Mr. Salls had followed my career at the school far more closely than I had any reason to believe. 

Mr. Salls was not only a great teacher and a great leader, he was also a very kind man.  He just didn't want anyone to know it.  He was much too modest to draw attention to himself.  He kept his eye on every single St. John's student whether we knew it or not.

In my opinion, E.K. "Charlie" Salls was a man with a very big heart.  He took a misguided kid like me and had the wisdom to see past my poor judgment.  Despite my long list of mistakes, he gave me the fighting chance I needed to one day become a decent person.

Mr. Salls at Commencement
 


A friend of mine who reviewed this book had something interesting to say.

"It is somewhat amazing to me that you didn't end up in Montana and write a manifesto explaining why you bombed people. 

I am eternally grateful that you turned out differently instead of these young idiots in society today who think life is hard on them - boo hoo - so they go into a school or a movie theater or a church and shoot up innocent people.

All in all, considering your troubled youth, you are amazingly sane.  How did you manage to come out so normal?"

That question is easy to answer.  I had Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Curran to look out for me. 

Thank goodness Mr. Salls trusted there was more to me than my awful behavior in my Senior year.  That probably explained why he took such a gentle approach with me. 

Unlike Mr. Murphy in high school and the professor who threw me out of graduate school, I think Mr. Salls had compassion for me.  I think he understand I was basically a decent kid who was trying as hard as I could.  I also think I reminded him of his own childhood... that is what he meant when he told Mrs. Ballantyne I was just as driven to succeed as he had once been. 

As Mrs. Ballantyne spoke about her friend, I felt so embarrassed at how badly I screwed up in my Senior year.  Poor Mr. Salls.  Oh my goodness.  No good deed goes unpunished!

Mr. Salls had gone to the trouble of arranging my college scholarship. Then for the rest of the school year he was forced to watch in horror as I broke every rule in the book.  Cheating on the test, stealing gym clothes, arguing with Mr. Murphy, nearly failing Calculus, plus my ever-present sullen demeanor... the list goes on.  Meanwhile my mother was running up a school bill half the size of a year's tuition and refusing to pay.  Oh, the thoughts that must have crossed his mind.

Could I possibly have been more out of control?  I must have tried his patience dearly.  I can only surmise that after Mr. Salls had worked so hard on my behalf, he was determined not to let me fail.  So he chose to intercede every time I dropped the ball.   

Thank goodness Mr. Salls believed in me.

Mr. Salls was the mastermind who mysteriously guided the fortunes of many young men and women from behind his thick curtain.  I bet my story is just one of many fascinating tales.  Operating in stealth, he was able to keep many students pointed in the right direction.

Mr. Salls was the most skilled educator I have ever had the privilege to know.  Where others might have given up on me, Mr. Salls made sure I was given every possible opportunity to fulfill my destiny.  I owe my silent benefactor so much.

It is sad that I never got the chance to thank him.  However, at least through my story, I can make sure his name lives on.  In that sense, perhaps I can repay some of my immense debt to him.  More than any other person in my life, it was the secret kindness of Mr. Salls that turned my life around. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 132
- FAREWELL, MY FRIEND

 

Maria Mitchell Ballantyne passed away on Memorial Day, May 25th, 2015. 

Some fools might have the nerve to dismiss Mrs. Ballantyne as little more than a good housewife.  These people have no idea how much talent it takes to raise a good child. 

Mrs. Ballantyne didn't raise just one good child, she raised seven good children.  That is quite an accomplishment.  However, since her talent went pretty much unseen, I doubt Mrs. Ballantyne would have ever gotten the credit she deserved without my story.  Therefore I appreciate that I was given this chance to tell the world just how special she was. 

In a letter to me from Marina, her fourth child...

The warm, inviting, beautiful home my mother created was constantly filled with her children's friends, grandchildren, great grandchildren, as well as the 26 people from all over the world who came to live with Mom at various times.

For over 45 years, Mom hosted her famous Christmas parties.  Then there were the swimming pool parties she hosted for Dad's residents at the hospital.  Our home was filled with music, joy, and laughter.

Our home was also a haven for those in need from the poorest hospital patients to royalty.

Mom treated princes and paupers precisely the same with respect and a strong dose of her unique brand of truth serum sprinkled with a sailor's vernacular.

Parking attendants, waiters, bus boys, and shop owners would run to kiss her because she saw them really saw them and made them feel special.

Mom's civic activities included The Park People, Blue Bird Circle, and the Annunciation Orthodox School Board.

She could beat all seven of her children at tennis, and, as legend has it, even beat her brother, George Mitchell, when he was captain of A&M's tennis team.

My mother was a fixture at St. John's School where she and my father cheered zealously at her children's sporting and music events.

Throughout her life, my mother's focus was always her children and their families. 

We love her very much. 

Dana and Michael are standing.  At the table are George, Christie, Marina, and Lisa. 
Katina is standing at Mrs. Ballantyne's side

  A family gathering in Aspen, Colorado.  
 

 


SUBCHAPTER 132
- THE INSPIRATION FOR MY BOOK

 

It saddens me to admit that I had so little respect for my own mother that I gave a total stranger like Mrs. Ballantyne such mythical importance.  It is a testimony to Mrs. Ballantyne that she handled my puppy-dog admiration for her with such grace and understanding.  Another person with less compassion might easily have written me off as the creepy loser kid.  But then I imagine I wouldn't have been attracted to person with less compassion.  My fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne was no accident.

Mrs. Ballantyne was a great woman.  I feel privileged that I had the chance to meet her and get to know her.  I think it is amazing that a woman with seven children of her own, 23 grand-children and 5 great grand-children had the room in her heart to worry about other kids as well.    

This has been the story of how a 30 minute talk in a parking lot made all the difference in the world to me. Mrs. Ballantyne's gentle words helped me overcome a terrible crisis.  It has also been the story of how many people came along at times in my life to point me in the right direction when I was about to lose my way.

Someday I am going to come across a kid who clearly needs a lift.  Perhaps I will know the child well or maybe just barely.  And when I get my opportunity, I hope a few kind words and suggestions of my own will have the same healing effect that Mrs. Ballantyne's conversation had on me many many years ago. 

I will do this because I have learned the power of a simple act of kindness.

Without Mrs. Ballantyne, my book would have never been written.   The early seeds for my book were planted in 2005 when I wrote my first draft regarding the parking lot incident.  Then following our 2009 conversation, I expanded my story from one chapter to twelve. 

In October 2012, I had a run-in with a drunk on a cruise trip.  The repercussions were unusually severe.  Although I did not provoke the incident, certain people twisted the blame to me.  I suddenly found myself cut off from people who had once been my friends.  This was the last straw.  For the past five months, one thing after another had gone wrong with my dance classes.  Following my theory that doors open when I am on the right path, I came to the conclusion that I must be on the wrong path. 

I got the distinct impression that someone was telling me to quit worrying about the dance classes and that maybe it was time to turn my attention to that book I had been thinking about.  There was only problem. 

It was one thing for me to speak openly of an unseen world, but how would Mrs. Ballantyne, her family and Mr. Salls' family feel about my involving them in my strange tale? 

My concern about Mr. Salls was almost immediately put to rest.  Virtually at the same time as I was trying to decide whether to begin writing my book, I received this email.

From: Kim Salls, Jr
Sent: Tuesday, December 30, 2014 1:41 PM
To: dance@ssqq.com
Subject: St. John's School and my father


Rick,

My son, E. K. Salls, III, found your article about my father when searching for something else on the internet.  After he told me about it, I read your story today.  It is a wonderful, well told story that brought tears to my eyes when I was reading about what Dad had done to help you.

Thanks so much for your kind words.

I graduated from St. John's in 1961 so I probably did not know you. My brother, Cal, was in the class of 1965.

Bettie and I run in to Maria Ballantyne once or twice a month when we are eating dinner out, quite often at Paulie's or Tony Mandola's.  She is a great lady. 

Sincerely, Kim (E. Kimball Salls, Jr)
 

Due to the name similarity, it took me a second to realize the email had been sent by the son of Mr. Salls.  I met with Kim Salls soon after receiving the email. 

Over coffee, Kim told me many details of his father's life and helped me understand the man a little better.  I immediately added the new details to my story... how Mr. Salls met his wife, how he came to St. Johns, etc. 

Kim then passed my story on to his family.  I was grateful to find the family of Mr. Salls very much appreciated hearing my stories about their father.  From what I gather, Mr. Salls didn't drop his guard very often with his children either, so they were thrilled to learn more about their mysterious father.  They gave me their blessings to share his story, mystical mumbo jumbo and all.

I was elated.  You know how I feel about coincidences, yes?  The timing of Kim Salls contact could not have been more encouraging.  I felt like someone from above had just told me to get to work on my book.

Edgar Cayce stated that people are typically reincarnated in groups.  If that is the case, then I have to believe that Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne were meant to be my mentors in this incarnation.  I find it interesting that these two people who aided me so dramatically had childhood stories that ran eerily parallel to my own. 

Mr. Salls gave me the gift of my college education and second chances galore during my Senior year.  He served as an important role model that I drew upon throughout my career as a dance teacher and as head of my organization.  Concurrently, his friend Maria Ballantyne showed me the value of kindness which in turn awakened my interest in a spiritual life. 

Could I possibly have had two finer mentors? 

While I know only a few details about the childhood of E.K. Salls, I know enough to conclude that he came from a very humble beginning.  This is strictly a guess on my part, but I believe if I knew more about his childhood, I would learn that he had it just as rough as I did.  I very much feel like Mr. Salls' younger twin.

I know enough to realize the scholarship he received at Philips Exeter was surely "the great miracle of his life".  His education took him from a tiny island off the coast of Maine first to Exeter, then onto Harvard and then later on to his career at St. John's. 

Today St. John's is an incredible institution.  It has been an honor to reveal the enormous extent of E.K. Salls' contributions to the school's growth.  I doubt that Mr. Salls' contributions have been largely documented... Lord knows he would never dream of taking any credit for himself.  Thank goodness I was able to come forward to speak of the greatness of my favorite teacher.

I have no doubt that his own experience made Mr. Salls fully aware of the importance of a scholarship to a struggling child like me.  I have come to believe that Mr. Salls saw a kindred spirit in me.  That would definitely explain why he went so far out of his way to help me... especially during my difficult Senior year of high school.

 

I know more about the childhood of Maria Mitchell Ballantyne.  She came from a very humble beginning uncannily similar to mine.  Like Mr. Salls, she and I make a curious pair of twins. 

To me, it does not matter that Maria Ballantyne was given "the great miracle of her life" by a mobster. 

Is there some law that says "generosity" is limited to wealthy philanthropists like George Mitchell and Ralph O'Connor?  Of course not.  We can all be generous.

Indeed, thanks to the generosity of Mafioso Sam Maceo, his gift was exactly the break Maria Ballantyne needed.  Her education took her from a lonely existence where no one other than her brother cared about her to an amazing life wrapped around her brilliant husband and the joy of raising 7 remarkable children.

If there can be any remaining doubt as to the greatness of Maria Mitchell Ballantyne, a glance at this family photo reveals the life accomplishment of this remarkable matriarch.

The extended Ballantyne family is indeed a sight to behold.


Mrs. Ballantyne's oldest son Michael, the Ballantyne family trailblazer at St. John's, contacted me in 2009 after he read my original story about his mother.  Here is what Michael had to say:
 

November 2, 2009

Again -- thanks for the reply and thanks for writing such a wonderful story in the first place. 

Rick, if you ever see my mother again, you should ask her to show you a letter my Uncle George wrote to her one Christmas while she was in college.  They were really struggling even back then.  George was hustling a bunch of different jobs in college and would send her money. 

In the letter he was talking about how lucky they were to have each other and how they would always be a family.  George was trying so hard to keep my mother's spirits up when she felt so lonely.

I am proud of my mother for how she helped you. 

Michael Ballantyne
 


I am sure that some of my mother's empathy is genetic but in large measure a lot of it is due to the problems in her youth.  They had so little.  Even today my mother buys things to hoard.

I have heard her brother George who made a vast fortune state on more than one occasion that had he not had some lucky breaks he would have wound up washing dishes in a Greek restaurant.  I think that folks like my mother and my uncle who had so little both in terms of money and a home life do empathize more.

As a kid we used to go to the Athens Bar and Grill on the ship channel and she would bring home Greek sailors all the time -- poor fellows who were working their butts off to supply their sisters with a dowry so they could get married or send money home so their family could come to America.

Mom would pour her heart out to these men and encourage them to continue to follow their dreams.

It sounds like she did the same thing for you.

Mike Ballantyne


The Athens Bar and Grill?  Could this story get any weirder?

Considering the tales I have told about my mother's escapades at the Athens Bar and Grill, I saw a considerable amount of irony in Michael's anecdote about the Athens Bar and Grill.  My mother took sailors home for sex, Michael's mother took sailors home to nurture and encourage them.  The contrast between our two mothers could not have been more poignant.

Who would have ever imagined a finer person than Maria Ballantyne would have emerged from such a tough childhood to go forward and accomplish so much?  Given the similarities of Mrs. Ballantyne's childhood to my own and the unusual role she played in my life, one can understand why I have felt compelled to add her story as well as that of her dear brother George alongside my own. 

As for Mr. Salls, I was drawn to him in much the same way as I was drawn to Mrs. Ballantyne without ever understanding why.  

I found it fascinating to discover that Charlie and Maria turned out to be best friends.  I would love to know if they realized they shared the same humble roots as each other.  I imagine they did.  That probably explains why they were so close.  It must have been interesting for these two friends to walk the halls of St. John's surrounded by so much wealth and power knowing they shared a secret.  Who would ever guess they were both once very poor? 

I cannot help but feel I was meant to be the third corner of this most unusual triangle.   

Given that I believe in the hidden side of life, I firmly believe Mrs. Ballantyne and Mr. Salls were destined to play important roles in my life.  They struggled so much in their own childhood that when they came upon a young man who reminded them of their past, their heart went out to me.  Both Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne went far out of their way to help a struggling boy in much the same as someone had once helped them.

There is something I wish to share with my reader - I did not write this book to make money.  Nor did I write this book to seek glory.  I shared my deeply personal stories for two special reasons. 

One reason should be obvious... I wished to show my gratitude to Mr. Salls and Mrs. Ballantyne.

My other reason was to give testimony to God.  Writing this book was the only way I could explain why I believe in the existence of God.  I am convinced there is more to this world than meets the eye.  It has been my hope that by sharing my story, I could make people more curious about the strange things that take place around us.

However, not everyone who reads this book will necessarily reach the same conclusions as me.  As I have said repeatedly, I can't prove any of my mystical theories.  There will surely be people who conclude I must be out of my mind.

As I was writing my book, I kept asking myself how Mrs. Ballantyne would feel about being included in my story.  It is one thing to bare my soul.  It is another thing to involve other people so intimately in my story.  I was very concerned about how Mrs. Ballantyne might feel.  After all, Mrs. Ballantyne was the cornerstone of my book.  How would Mrs. Ballantyne feel about being identified as the participant in a supernatural event? 

I had a feeling  Mrs. Ballantyne would approve.  After all, she had read my original story in 2005 and had nothing but compliments.  However, in the book I would add many more details about her life story.  How would she feel about letting the world know her education was financed by a gangster?  It was only right to run it past her.

So I spoke to Christie, her son.  I told Christie I would only add his mother's story to mine with her permission.  Christie replied that this wasn't his call.  He suggested I should go ask her in person.  And then Christie added that his mother was in failing health, so be gentle.  I promised I would.

In February 2015 I paid what I suspected would be my final visit to Mrs. Ballantyne, my lifelong hero.  I was worried about her condition.  I had not seen her in six years and she was 94 years old now.  I was sad to discover that Christie was correct.  Mrs. Ballantyne had indeed become frail.  However, to my delight, her mind was still pretty sharp.  Mrs. Ballantyne recognized me immediately and gave me a warm smile. 

Her first words were, "Rick Archer, I know you!  You were in Katina's class at St. John's!  Where have you been?" 

I smiled as always.  Mrs. Ballantyne had the funniest way of making me feel like the most important person in the world. 

I had several questions to ask Mrs. Ballantyne about the past.  In particular, I wanted my burning question answered..."Mrs. Ballantyne, what went through your mind on the day you discovered who I was back at the the Weingarten's parking lot??"

Unfortunately, I was out of luck.  I had waited too long.  Mrs. Ballantyne no longer remembered any details of the fateful meeting back in 1968 or for that matter the reason why she had come to my dance studio in 1978.  Oh well. 

Although I was disappointed, I didn't let it bother me.  That wasn't the main reason why I had asked to see her.  What I wanted to know was whether Mrs. Ballantyne had any objections to letting me share her personal story in my book.  So I took a deep breath and asked.

"Mrs. Ballantyne, I am not sure what Christie told you, but I came here today to ask your permission to tell the story of your difficult childhood.  As you may recall, back in 2005 I first wrote the story of the significance that you have played in my life.  I believe our lives are linked in a special way.  I would very much like to tell the world why you are so important to me."

Mrs. Ballantyne smiled.  Without hesitation, she said of course it was okay. 

"I remember your story, Rick.  Of course you have my permission." 

And then she grinned.  Mrs. Ballantyne got that familiar twinkle in her eye.   "But only on one condition!"

My heart stopped beating.  What could it be??

"You have to promise me you will tell the story of the time I beat my brother George at tennis when he was captain of the A&M varsity!!!"   And then she flashed that huge smile of hers. 

Now I smiled too.  What a thing to ask for!   I nodded and said, "Don't worry, Mrs. Ballantyne.  Consider it done."

Before I left, I had one more question to ask. 

"Mrs. Ballantyne, do you believe in Fate?"

Mrs. Ballantyne thought about it for a while.   Mrs. Ballantyne looked at me very carefully, then spoke up. "Rick, I will tell you what I do believe in.  I believe in miracles."

I nodded.  Yes, Mrs. Ballantyne, so do I.

 


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: PARENTS REVISITED

 

Intro 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30
SSQQ Front Page Parties/Calendar Jokes
SSQQ Information Schedule of Classes Writeups
SSQQ Archive Newsletter History of SSQQ