Thursday, September 06, 2012

Ronald Joseph Dekker

There's one in every school.

35 years ago I went to Anchor Bay Junior High School. Now Anchor Bay Middle School. Amidst the usual band of stoners, athletes, cheerleaders, sluts and losers was a boy named Ronnie Dekker. Ronnie was, as we used to say, "a little slow." Actually what we used to say was "retard". And we said it a lot. He had the habit of saying things, asking questions, that were the wrong things at the wrong time. One memory that has stuck with me was in 8th grade sex-ed. You remember, they split up the class, and the girls went to one room where they watched a filmstrip about their flowering womanhood and were later given a sampler pack of, well, you know. The guys went into another room where the gym teacher, who was likely also a football coach and a social studies teacher and didn't even want to be talking about this stuff, talked about, well, you know. Don't snap bras, don't pinch butts, and how about those Lions? Any questions?

Ronnie had a question. I don't remember the question, but I do remember the sound of 29 other boys laughing at him.

Ronnie was well known in Anchor Bay Junior High School, and later Anchor Bay High School, but he wasn't well liked. In fact, Ronnie was mercilessly teased and bullied.

And yeah, I made fun of him too.

Life is nothing if it's not about the passing of time, and time passed. Ninth grade ended, we moved to Elyria on orders of the United States Coast Guard, and I started over at the bottom of the social ladder at Elyria High School. Memories of Ronnie faded off to that place where all memories go until such time where an event knocks them loose from their resting place in the cave, and you suddenly remember the teasing of someone who never deserved it. But those of us who teased him, yeah, we deserve a lot.

My son Matthew was diagnosed as autistic in April of 2004. My life immediately became an endless series of trips to the neurologist and meetings with school officials and specialists. Matthew was always special, but now he was "special". A year later Rebecca was diagnosed as autistic. Rebecca was always special, but now she was "special". You know what I mean.

I made fun of schools like Murray Ridge when I was in high school, and now my children attend Murray Ridge. God is probably laughing his ass off now. "Yeah, I'll show you."

And my memories suddenly returned to that boy in junior high school, the boy who asked the wrong questions at the wrong time, the boy who was endlessly teased.

My son was Ronnie Dekker. My daughter was Ronnie Dekker. And my soul was sorrowful to the uttermost for the part I played in Ronnie's sorrow.

But what happened to Ronnie? Whatever happened to this boy who likely graduated high school and either got a job in a work setting specially designed for those "special" people who will never work at banks or go to college or run for public office, or just never worked at all?

For many years I never knew. As my children progressed slowly, and I came to the realization that they will likely never say my name, I wondered. What happened to Ronnie Dekker?

Ronnie bowled. Ronnie was an usher at his church. Ronnie was involved with Special Olympics.

Ronald Joseph Dekker died on June 23, 2012.

I'm sorry, Ronnie.

But I should have said it sooner.

Obituary for Ronald Joseph Dekker


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