A Major Award
Swede: What is that thing ?
The Old Man: It’s a Major Award
Swede : Shucks, I wouldn’t know that, it looks like a lamp
The Old Man: It is a lamp you nincompoop, it’s major award, I won it
Swede: Damn, hell you say, a major award, and you won it ?
The Old Man: Mind power Swede, mind power. “ A Christmas Story”, 1983
I have mentioned my brother here on a few occasions. He is somewhat younger than me and only marginally better looking. He also happens to be one of the few people I admire, and among those people I personally know, there is no one for whom I have more respect. Recognizing this quality, the Alumni Association of the University for which he works gave him their annual “Hallmark Award” at a ceremony in Houston on Friday night. I normally try not to attend ceremonies where I am reminded of my own personal awardless status, but my mother promised a free buffet at the dinner and that was worth the drive.
So there I was with about four people I know and 300 others I don’t know, standing and applauding my brother as he posed for the cameras holding the award. He also is being honored with his name inscribed on a tile outside in the Houston Baptist University Walk of Fame. The President of the University stood up and said some nice things about him and everyone shook his hand, even me, my jealousy firmly in check. I could go on and on describing the reasons that my brother deserves this honor, but several people did that for me Friday night and I see no reason to belabor the point. A university does not carve your name in tile unless you are pretty special (or have dropped a million dollars on them).
No, I think that what we must do from this point forward, in what is, after all, MY blog, is talk about the unfairness of life which has , thus far, left we unawarded.
I have finished first (or close) on a couple of occasions. In fourth grade, my story was voted best in the class. That same year I jumped 86 inches in the standing broad jump, also a class best. Some years I was the tallest boy in my classroom, although Valarie Cortez was always several inches taller. My Little league team, the Jets, went 13-1 one year and won the Junior League Championship (I was a part time right fielder).Now and then, when I rotate off of some board or committee, I will get some kind of a bullshit plague, but that’s for time served, not for anything special. It’s like the suit they give you when you leave prison.
Recently, I was named a semi-finalist in a Poetry contest and it took several days before I realized that everyone who entered was a semi-finalist. I once finished third in a humorous interpretation contest at the recently decertified Sam Houston High School. The year before last, I won our firm’s bracket contest during the NCAA basketball tournament, but the guy holding the money had it stolen before I could spend it. So I am not totally without honors. But none of these are “Major Awards”, where they have a dinner and call you to the front and you receive a standing ovation and a beautiful clock and everyone crowds around you and tells you how richly you deserve it. Just once in my life, I’d like a major award, especially one where they expected me to give an acceptance speech, so that I could be humble and glow with gratification while I tried to quiet the crowd so that I could thank each and every one of them. Is that really too much to ask ?
Long ago there was an actor (of sorts) with the improbable name of Red Buttons. You might recall his supporting role in the “Hank Williams Story” starring George Hamilton, and his penultimate line “They say his heart just stopped” right before the audience breaks into song. Buttons was discovered to be a terrible actor before he was old enough to retire. He spent the next fifteen years showing up on the Johnny Carson Show where he perfected a routine called “never had a dinner” where he complained about his lack of honors. Johnny and my father may have been the only two people in America who enjoyed this long going routine.As I get older though, I realize how Red Buttons felt. Everyone would like a night in the limelight. But as the bible tells us, many are called, few are chosen, and if Red and I end up without an award, at least some deserving people got one. My brother is at the top of that list.