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Escape From Reality

By , Bloomington, IL
This whole story starts off all of the way back in 6th grade. I finally transferred out of Tri-Valley Middle School, and into Parkside Junior High School. For once, I actually had a chance to prove how intelligent I was. In my mind, it was me versus 250 other Parksiders. Needless to say, that mentality didn’t get me too many friends, but the ones that stayed with me, stayed until the end. The end of 6th grade wouldn’t come soon enough.

It was early in the third quarter when we received a phone call. That call shattered my life. My Great-Grandma Jessie had fallen down the staircase at her house. The doctors were confident she would get better for one reason; after the fall, she still had enough in her to climb up the staircase on all fours, get to a phone, and dial 911. And the doctors were right, she slowly regained health. But one day, my mother drove down to Peoria to visit her, and she couldn’t breath. She had caught pneumonia while staying in the very place where diseases were to be cured. Her body had taken enough of a beating recovering from that fall, so it was just a matter of time before she went into the I.C.U. and had to be put on life support. I stayed with her as much as I could. I swear, I can still feel her squeezing my hand.

No amount of support could hold her long. She even had it in her will that she would not like to be on life support longer than it took us to say goodbye to her. Regardless of that situation, I still had classes to attend. I was pulled out of one of my classes by my parents, and our only words spoken on the way over to the hospital were, “It’s time…” My only regret of the situation were that I didn’t have the guts to stay with my Great Grandma as they turned off her life support. After a few days rest, back to school I went.

The last quarter of my 6th grade year, thankfully, went quickly and without any incidents. Then my school work started to fall apart. For 7th grade at Parkside, I succeeded in my goal of Me vs. the world. I tested out of Math 4, and into Pre-Algebra. That was quite unfortunate, however, because the teacher had a bad reputation for picking favorites: and in an advanced class with a mentality like mine? You can bet that I was not one of them.

My pre-algebra teacher always would single me out of a group who were talking, dock points off of my homework, and most importantly, go out of her way to make the people she didn’t like know that she didn’t like them. I would constantly get points taken off of my test when she deemed my handwriting as ‘unreadable’, even when it was perfectly legible, and correct. I learned one thing from that horror of a teacher. How to look in the back of the book for answers, and work backwards to find out how to do that sort of problems.

Eventually, I found a release for my anger and confusion at the world. That escape from reality was on the basketball court. I had never really been good at it, and was a self proclaimed bench warmer, but it didn’t matter for one reason: I felt at home on the court. No matter what happened that day, week, or year, as soon as I stepped on the court, all of my sorrow and depression vanished. So I played Basketball. Whenever I had free time, I would make my way to the gym, and play. It didn’t matter if I was facing a starter from the team, or someone who could barely dribble. As long as I was playing, I had no worries.

All of that practice started paying off, and my parents noticed my love for the game. With their financial support, I signed up for a Normal Parks & Recreation league. I wasn’t the best in the league, but I was good. I’d take any good open shot, and if I didn’t have it, I’d set up a play for someone else to get it. With the collaboration of our team, we placed first in the league by two games.

Unfortunately for me, out of my 24 hour day, less than two were on the court. After squeaking through 7th grade, I went on to 8th. This time, I had a horrible Algebra teacher, along with a failure of the Skyward grade program. The teacher wasn’t a bad person, but she tended to not give us notes, and then assign homework over the stuff she never taught us. Needless to say, I didn’t excel in that class. But boy, what a surprise when a note came telling me to go to the counseling office about social studies. After getting drilled with questions by my Social Studies teacher and my counselor, I saw my grade on skyward. It was an 87% D. When they both took a breath, I asked my teacher what his grading scale was, and pointed at the screen. A minute later, I was walking back to class with a smile on my face.

But once again, my family life got in the way of my school endeavors. This time, my granddad was diagnosed with more than three separate types of cancer. This man was an inspiration to me, and everyone that took the time to get to know him. He was a business professor at U of I (urbana), and his life was ruled by two things, Family and Logic. At one point in time, he got into an argument with his doctor over whether or not the plan for his treatment was logical. He won. With his collection of cancers, he was one in over a million, but if I searched the globe, I doubt I could ever find someone of that high caliber. It didn’t take long for Granddad to pass away, and before long, I found myself depressed and wishing to be earlier in time, so I could talk to him one more time.

With the addition of the death of my greatest inspiration, my grades were dropping like rocks. Once again, I needed a release of emotions, and once again, I found myself in a NP&R basketball league. This time, I was one of three great players on our team. I cant remember my actual stats, but I know I got more that 7 points a game, which is pretty good for one of 8 players, when scores ended up being below thirty most of the time.

Our team had a rocky start, going 1-1 in our first two games. But after the first hurdles were over, we just rolled through the league. I had no more fear of losing someone, no more depression or mourning for lost loved ones, now I was just Jordan, #4 of red team. With the help of my teammates, we racked up win after win, and before long, we found ourselves at the last game of the season.

Within the first twenty minutes, I had a minor asthma attack, and sat on the bench until the fourth quarter. I made a brief appearance scoring two points before coming back to the bench. Then, one of our players fouled out, and another was one foul away. I got another chance at the game. After getting rebound after rebound, but no points, we were running low on time. There was 12 seconds left in the game, and we were tied at 23. The other team called a time out to stop the clock, I was out to make them wish they hadn’t.

Coach said one thing while we were in the huddle. “Its their ball, and we need a steal.” The buzzer sounded, and we set up our defense. They gave it to their best ball handler who drove on the right side of the lane. Unfortunately for him, that was where I was waiting. He tried to evade the defense, but I managed to nick the ball, and knocked it out of his control. The opposing team was slow to recover, because they trusted his ball-handling skills completely. It came down to just me and him in the final stretch.

Thankfully, Coach didn’t take a timeout as soon as we got the ball. I grabbed the deflected ball, and I ran. 10 seconds, 9 seconds. I just kept sprinting as the clock wound down. Finally, as the clock reached three seconds in the game, I arrived at the basket, and shot a lay-up. The guy I stole the ball from shoved me on the ground as I shot. As I laid on the ground, watching the ball go in, I had one thought. This one is for you two. The shot rolled in. 25-23. I got to shoot a freethrow as the refs caught the shove. I threw the ball at the basket, hit rim, and got my own rebound. The time expired. I know that my Granddad and Great-Grandma were watching that day, and I will remember making that shot for my departed loved ones. My escape became my dedication to those whom I love, but don’t have the opportunity to tell them.

I would like to conclude with a story I heard in church recently, as it sums up mine quite well. There was a senior on a football team, who had bad grades, but loved football. Whenever he had issues with life, he would go sit in midfield, and think. And every game, his mother and father would show up and cheer for him. Now, this player wasn’t very good, and he only played on special teams and whenever they were winning by thirty or more, but it didn’t matter to him, or his parents. He was playing for a reason. His father was blind. One day, he walks into his coaches office and asks to start in the next game. The game was their last of the season, and would determine whether or not they would make it to the playoffs. After a lot of persuasion by the player, the coach lets him start, but only for the first drive, unless he proves himself.

The first play that game, their opponents ran the ball, but he broke through, and tackled the runner. The next two plays, he recorded sacks. At the end of his game of his life, he got 22 tackles. His coach comes up and asks, “Where did that come from?” The player promptly responds with, “My dad died yesterday, so I knew that this would be the first game he would truly see me play in.” The player overcame his tragedy, and so did I. I know that I have many more to come, but my experiences have steeled me for them. All I need is one thing, my temporary escape from reality.





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