The Exemplary Behavior of #19


This story mirrors A Death in the Family.

Rudy was seventeen.
A senior in high school.
Engaged in the game of basketball.
With his teammates.
When he was considered the best player.
The shining star.
The guy the crowd came to watch.
He seemed to make the game that much more exciting.

That was also the year that Rudy’s dad died.

His team had been practicing for upcoming games.
They would compete with other high school teams in the national tournament.
Hoping to score their way to the top.
As champions.

Rudy wanted to be part of his considered underdogs team.
To prove to everyone that they had what it took to win.
Win big.
He was the captain of his basketball team.
The star player.

His dad was buried.
The same night Rudy’s basketball team played.
Without him.
And lost.
Their first game in the country’s national tournament.

Yet, Rudy wasn’t thinking of the game.
He felt numb.
He couldn’t think.
About anything.
Not yet.
Not when his deceased father was overpowering his thoughts.

But, a few days later.
As his mind began to settle down.
As he began to accept the fact that his father was gone.
He forced himself to think about other things.
Including the fact that his basketball team was competing.
In an event he felt he needed to participate in.
And, to help ease his grief.

Back in his school town.
He wanted to attend the girls’ game.
To support them.
Where a crowd of people who knew him would be gathered.
Watching the sport with enthusiasm.

As he walked towards the basketball arena to watch the girls’ play.
He saw his rival team standing outside.
Near the entrance.
Guys he knew.
From a previous school.
Guys he liked.
Was still friends with.

They hugged him.
Consoled him.

When Rudy walked with his head down.
Into the auditorium at San Antonio Academy.
His high school.
To watch the game.
Surprisingly, the crowd of fans began to chant.
For Rudy.
“Largo! Largo! Largo!” they screamed.
Rudy’s tall nickname.
Number 19 was back. The star.

Weeks later.
The final championship game was a must-see event.
The crowd cheered as they watched Rudy.
And his teammates.
Play skillfully.

And jeered.
When they believed the ref made some bad calls.
Which resulted in three key players.
Including Rudy.
To be benched during the remainder of the game.

In the end.
San Antonio lost that evening.
Trailing behind on the scoreboard.
Against their opponents.

Rudy’s previous coach.
Led the opposing team to victory that night.
Wanted to give the trophy to Rudy’s team.
Felt his team earned it even though the final score told otherwise.
“You deserve it,” he told Rudy.
“No, we won’t accept it. Your team won on the floor.”

He and his teammates walked away empty handed.

Days later.
At the senior graduation ceremony.
Coach spoke quite a bit about Rudy.
Praised him.

Rudy cried.
That’s all he could do.
Was cry.

A Death in the Family

Rudy was seventeen.
A senior in high school.
Enjoying life.
Having fun with friends.
And very much involved in the game of basketball.

That was also the year that Rudy’s dad died.
In a tragic car accident.

Rudy, his parents, and two siblings.
Were living in the small beach town of Tela.
In Honduras.
Enjoying a simple life.

One day.
His father came home.
Stating he’d been offered a job in another city.
7 hours away.

Can I stay here?
Live with Rolando?
His grandpa said it would be fine.
Rudy pleaded with his parents.

After much cajoling.
And discussion.
His parents agreed.
Knowing he’d be in good hands.

One evening.
Several months later.
While watching TV.
Rudy was sadly told.
Your father has suffered in an accident.

That’s all.
Nothing more.

Rudy just sat there.
Not sure what to think.
He walked outside.
In a daze.

Out of nowhere.
A family friend suddenly hollered.
I can’t believe it!
I saw it on the news!
Your dad died!

Rudy’s eyes grew wide.
His jaw dropped.
His hands fell to his knees.
Legs bent.
Causing him to fall back onto his haunches.
His head fell forward.
Onto outstretched arms.
Splayed across kneecaps.

He was shocked.

He had misunderstood.
What he was originally told.
He thought his dad was seriously injured.

Not dead.

He spent the next hours in a stupor.
Not thinking clearly.
Trying to make sense of what he had been told.
Wondering, if possibly, there had been some kind of mistake.
That it wasn’t his dad that died.

He was rushed home.
To where his mom and siblings were living.
In the town of Tegucicalpa.
7 hours away.

That drive.
In a yellow bus.
Was the longest drive of his life.

A long drive to a funeral.
The unexpected funeral of his father.
Who had died an untimely death.

Within the following few days.
Rudy had to make a heartbreaking decision.
Either return to school or stay with his mom.
To be by her side.
While she grieved the loss of her husband.
His dad.

As hard a decision it was to make.
For a young seventeen year old.
He knew what he needed to do.

I need to go back, Mom.
I need to play ball.
To get my mind off this tragedy.
Of losing Dad.
His heart was breaking.
With every word.
As he told his grieving mother.

She nodded.
Knew he was right.
He needed to move on.
To live.
To help him heal from the family’s overwhelming sadness.

Back in Tela.
Back at school.
With friends.
Rudy was overwhelmed.
With unwanted attention.
He decided he would simply have to deal with it.

When he walked.
With his head down.
Into the auditorium of his high school.
To watch a game.
Many people held his hand.
Hugged and consoled him.
Saying how sad they were to hear about the loss of his dad.

In the days that followed.
Days that seemed to last forever.
Rudy completed his academic school year as best he could.
Trying to stay focused on his school work.
While working through the grief of losing his dad.
And his constant concern for his mom.

A graduation ceremony was held in the gym.
At the end of his final semester.
Where he played basketball.

All the seniors were expected to attend.
As their last right of passage.
Into the adult world ahead of them.

Rudy didn’t want to attend.
Didn’t see the point.
With his dad having just died.
Only a month before.
He didn’t think he had what it would take.
To celebrate his accomplishments.

His mom, though.
Was persistent.
She begged made him go.
Told him that he needed to close the final chapter.
Of his high school years.
Told him he’d regret it.
If he didn’t attend.

Rudy nodded.
Full of grief.
Said he’d go.
For his mom.

Rudy’s emotions took over.
He cried.
And cried.
That’s all he could do.
Was cry.

rudy:mom:HS grad
After his recognition.
He walked with his mom down the aisle.
As she held on tightly to his arm.
Happy and sad.
Tears of joy for Rudy.
And tears for the death of her spouse.

Rudy could not.
Muster the courage to attend.
The after party,
So, he quietly took a deep breath.
And walked out the door.
Leaving his school days behind him.

Ending one chapter of his life.
Renewing a familiar one.

Being back home with his mom.