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Finding Tim

A Fourth Alternate Reality

by Charlie
With editorial assistance from Dix and John


Before Tim could graduate a couple of other events had to slip by. The first of these was his announcement of the university that he would attend. He chose his time as the last home swim meet of the season. There were several smaller meets to go, plus the all-county meet. That would be followed by state and regional meets, and the nationals in the summer. Tim, as the reigning champion, had an automatic invitation to nationals, without participating in any of the others.

One evening at dinner, about a week before the final home meet and his college announcement, he said, "What would you all think if I retired from high school diving at this meet?"

We were all fairly speechless, but I managed a "What?"

"I'm serious. I have won everything there is to win in high school. I'll be at nationals. If I retire, at least two, and perhaps more, seniors are going to get a chance at medals-medals I just toss in the basement. I don't need more state or regional recognition. I need to start thinking of college and not high school."

Norman said, "As you say Tim, bullshit. You're only thinking of letting others have a chance at winning. Right."

Tim said, "Yes. The rest is bullshit. I have plenty of time to think about college. Sure, I'd enjoy being state champion again. But it doesn't mean much when you hold the national title. It would mean a lot to some other kid."

I said, "Would that other kid think he had earned it, or been given it by you."

"He's as likely to be from Duluth as the Twin Cities, and they haven't been paying much attention to me. I think that once the state tournament got started, without me, that I would be forgotten. A gold medal is a gold medal, regardless of where Tim is."

Betsy said, "Tim, I think that's wonderful. Do it. Go to the local meets and cheer for your team-well your former team if you retire. But stay away from state-that would devalue the winner's medal."

And that was it. A fabulous high school diving career ended with a graceful retirement atop the 3 meter platform, just after the award ceremony at the last meet.

Tim had invited Susan. Mike was there with his camera. Bill came up from Elgin on my special invitation. Tim had asked Susan to find him her equivalent at the Grand Forks Herald. Her sports editor had talked to their sports editor and put her in touch with Ed Schmidt-"just call me Eddie, everybody does." It seems that everybody liked Eddie and trusted him as well. Susan called him and essentially said, "Look, Eddie. My editor got your name from your editor. I'm told I can trust you. And, you'll have to trust me on this one. But I have a guy down here that you really want to interview. Get yourself down here."

Eddie did. A week before his retirement meet, Tim and Eddie, along with me, Susan, Mike, Norman, Betsy, and Hal, sat down for a long talk and interview. Eddie was told he could tape, subject to the same rules as we had given Bill. He heard story after story. After about three hours he finally asked, "Why're you telling me this?"

We realized that nobody had told him Tim was going to UND.

"What! This kid is coming to Grand Forks? Why?"

"Tim smiled. Because I like the place. I like people like you, that don't take yourselves too seriously. I like President Edison and Coach Knudsen. I felt welcome. When a gay boy feels welcome, he stays."

Tim went on, "Here is the deal, Eddie. After next Friday's meet, I'm going to announce my retirement from high school diving, and that I'm going to be joining the diving team of the University of North Dakota. Larry Knudsen will be there. All our meets are open to the press, but they won't be there. They only cover little 3-team meets when there is something special going to happen. And we aren't going to tell them about this. Susan gets her Minneapolis scoop. You get your Grand Forks scoop. And Bill Manley gets his Chicago scoop. Mike has an exclusive on photos. We cannot, of course, prohibit you from taking pictures. But if you do in the pool area, you never get another invitation."

"You have obviously been dealing with the press for quite a while. You don't seem the least intimidated. I'm impressed. I also appreciate what you're offering me, and I wouldn't even consider crossing you."

Tim continued, "Here is a more tricky question. Could you arrange live TV coverage for Grand Forks. It will be about 5:30 to 6:00 p.m. I would expect a good audience if they cut in for special news. And it ought to be a good story in Grand Forks."

Eddie said, "I can't believe how clinically you analyze yourself and your newsworthiness. Somehow it doesn't come across as super-ego, because your analysis is exactly right. I can trust my editor, and he can get a TV crew from our affiliated TV station down here. We'll keep the news script for the cut to live in Minneapolis under wraps until we hand it to the sports news anchor. If we can sit on this, and I think we can, that will be almost as good a story as your coming to UND. This is going to be fun."

I said, "Susan can make arrangement at this end, and you in Grand Forks. Then you can drive down on Friday and hook up with your local crew."

"They won't know anything about why we are there. They'll be told-toward the end of the meet-to be prepared to shoot the awards ceremony. We'll cut to live just as you get your trophy or medal or whatever, and follow you through your announcement."

"And my final dive. They'll either want two cameras or need to find an angle that will get the ceremony and my final dive."

It all worked. Nobody saw it coming, though there was a little buzz around the pool when the two cameras set up. TV cameras then were big guys, not the little mini-cams you see today.

Just as Tim was about to receive his second trophy, this for 3 meter springboard, the local station in Grand Forks interrupted their early news for live coverage at the Southwest High School pool where the last meet of the year was just concluding, and Tim, the national diving champion and Olympic hopeful, was about to receive a trophy. Even the announcer didn't know why they were going live, only that his producer had told him that is what they were going to do.

Tim accepted his trophy, handed it to Coach Nelson, and climbed up the 3 meter platform, followed by Larry Knudsen. A microphone had already been strung up there. Tim took it, looked out over the crowd, and said, "I want to thank you all for your support over four years. You and all the others that have attended, cheered, competed against me-beaten me from time to time-and loved and supported me. I love you all, and you will be sorely missed in the years to come. I will never forget the many kindnesses I have received as a competitor here in the Twin Cities. But now I have two announcements.

"First, I'm now retired from high school diving. I have dived in my last high school meet, dived my last dive, held my breath for my last score. It has been a wonderful four years, and now I'm ready to move on to the next stage of my life. And that brings me to my second announcement.

"Let me introduce my next year's diving coach, Mr. Larry Knudsen, the swimming and diving coach at the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks."

Larry came forward, took the mike from Tim, and smiled like he had just won the Irish Sweepstakes-and in a manner of speaking he had. "Tim visited the University of North Dakota about two months ago. We showed him around the campus and the athletic facilities, introduced him to our team, and assured him that he would be more than welcome.

"We don't have any illusions about our diving program. We compete with third tier schools, and do fairly well. As you may know, Tim was offered a berth at the University of Indiana. They have a swim and diving team that hardly knows we exist. But for reasons of his own, and I'm only slowly beginning to understand them, Tim wants to come to the University of North Dakota, where he will lead our divers for four years. Look out world, the Fighting Sioux divers are coming!"

Tim came forward, said "Thank you, everybody," and did the most difficult, most graceful dive that I have ever seen him execute. I was poolside and helped him up the ladder. As soon as he was out he kissed me, long and hard. The cheering, following the almost stunned silence that greeted his announcement, was deafening. Tim was truly their home grown hero, and they were getting a chance to cheer him for the last time. As that seemed to sink in, people rose to their feet and cheered even louder. I wondered what the people in Grand Forks, watching this on live local television thought.

It took an hour to clear everybody out of the natatorium. Susan, Eddie and Bill had long since run to telephones to file stories. Mike had rushed to get his pictures processed to go with all three of their stories. The basic story would be on the AP wire within twenty minutes. Mike's pictures converted to wirephotos soon after. But the more detailed stories, with inside background information, would appear only in Grand Forks, Minneapolis, and Chicago, under the bylines of three really terrific reporters. Over the years, we would learn that we had been lucky to find Eddie, and that he would be for us in Grand Forks what Susan had been in Minneapolis.

Bill had gotten a journalism scholarship to the University of Missouri on the strength of his Boston Marathon reporting. This was just icing on the cake. But he would soon arrive in Columbia, Missouri, with the most impressive portfolio of his class, and probably of many classes. His next big sports stories would come from Mexico City!

Bill and Mike joined us for dinner. We told Bill that he could write what he wanted about the private conversations he was party to, but that when he was doing that, he should show us the story first. He always did, but he had such sensitivity to our situation that we never had to tell him to remove any detail. About half way through dinner Tim said "I think I miss diving already, and I only retired today."

Nobody knew quite what to say to that, so Bill opened a new subject. "Are you going to your Senior Prom?"

That caught Tim off his guard. He thought for a minute and said, "I don't think that the organizers of the prom are thinking in terms of gay boys."

I said, "I think that's their problem. And you're certainly pretty well accepted at school."

Tim said, "There is a reason that they insist that all boys come with a girl. It is difficult for girls to come alone, and in this world they can't ask boys-or at least most of them are unwilling to. So if the boys want to come they have to bring a girl."

"So take Tina."

"And go to my prom without you? Never."

Norman said, "I recognize that never. It's his non-negotiable never."

I said, "We have to work this out."

Well, we did work it out, but not the way you might think. As soon as we talked to Tina about it she simply gushed with ideas. Hal and Sue must come. Carl and Carol. Charlie and Tim. Tina would bring Merle.

"Wait, Tina. Merle? I thought you were dating Mike."

"Oh, heck. You all were in Michigan when Mike and I broke up."

Tim asked, "You broke up? What happened?"

This was all a hurried conversation after school. I had joined Tim so that we could talk together with Tina. Tim continued, "Somehow I think we need more time for this conversation. I was going to dive with the team, but I think we should head somewhere where we can talk."

I said, "Steaks at the Western. They'll let us in early, provide Cokes, and we can order steaks at four. It will be an early dinner."

"Great, said Tim. OK with you, Tina?"

"Sure." And we hopped in my car and drove to the Western. It was about 3:30, but they let us in and gave us a table. I called Mom to tell her that we would miss dinner at home.

Back at the table I said, "OK, Tina, it's your story."

"OK. First, Mike and I really like each other. We were clearly falling in love. I think we both hoped that we had found 'the one.' Nothing happened to change that. But falling in love means talking, and finding out about the hopes, and dreams, and plans of the other person. We discovered that there was no way that we could make a life together. Mike wants to be a photographer. He's damn good. You know that. He wants to travel the world. Take pictures everywhere. See everything. He dreams of a wife that will travel with him. Maybe a writer. Another photographer. If you ask him about children, he gets a frown on his face. He would love to have kids, but he can't imagine changing his life style in order to have them.

"I think that much that I find attractive in Mike is the excitement that he brings to life. He's like you Tim, in so many ways. And he's good, and kind, and decent, and smart as Hell. But you dream of changing the world while you essentially hold still. Mike dreams of changing the world while he moves through it.

"I'm different. I'm more like you. I would like to do important things, but one of those is raise children. That means being settled. Somewhere. The more Mike and I talked it out we realized how different our dreams really were. The first thing that Mike said was that he could settle down. He would do it for love. I sort of thought the same way, I could keep up with Mike for love.

"But the two of us are smart enough to know that wouldn't work. Somebody would be unhappy. And eventually he, or she, would blame the other for the unhappiness. So it was a mutual decision that we wouldn't let this go any further. We made a promise. I'll keep in touch with Mike, and let him know where I settle. He'll come by whenever he can."

I said, "Tina, I'm both sad and happy. I had dreams of you and Mike...."

"So did I Charlie. So did Mike."

"But I think you're right, and you're so smart, and lucky, to have figured it out now. By the way, who gets the oil painting that Merle did of you and Mike?"

"Merle has promised to do another one. Both Mike and I want to have one. Our memories are short, but entirely happy. We want to remember each other."

"If Mike is going to travel around the world, what is he going to do with an oil painting?"

"He has to have a home base. I'm rooting for North Dakota."

"I smell a rat. So what's up with you and Merle, you're taking him to the prom?"

"Yes, but beyond the prom it is too soon to tell. But he's a great artist and a fun date. That's all I'm looking for now."

"But you wouldn't mind if things progressed? An artist tends to stay in one place, right?"

"Mind your own business, Charlie."

"It's entirely too much fun minding other people's business. And parents tell me I'm good at it."

Tim said, "Let's talk prom. Charlie and me. Tina and Merle. Hal and Sue. Carl and Carol. Mike, maybe. We need extra girls."

Tina said, "Girls would line up to join this party, as long as they get to dance with Tim."

Tim said, "Does Mike have any girl now?"

"Yes, he has dated Ginny Williams a couple of times. He would probably want to bring her."

"We need two extra girls. And we have to pair up so that each pair has a Southwest student. How about this?

1st extra girl with Charlie

2nd extra girl with Hal

Tim with Carol

Ginny Williams with Carl

Mike with Sue

Tina with Merle

"That gets everybody in. We hire a limo that can carry 12 and we don't worry about who is dating whom, except when we come through the door with tickets. Tables will be for 10, but we can grab two extra chairs. Everybody dances with everybody-well I don't think Merle wants to dance with Mike. Tina, find us two girls."

That turned out to be easy. Myra and Helen were, Tina assured us, really nice girls, but not caught up in the 'boy thing' and thus didn't have dates for the prom-and they really didn't want to come with each other. "But," Tina said, "you have to promise me that you will really pay attention to them. They have to be more than a ticket in the door."

We promised.

What a night! Hal and Merle drove over from St. Paul early, and dressed at our house. We were all in our room, and Tim and Hal started kidding around when Hal changed his Jockeys. It got a little physical until Tim realized that Merle was: looking, startled, and not clued in about the relationships amongst the Gang. As only Tim would, he confronted the situation head on: "Merle, you have two choices: Go to the bathroom to change your pants, or get sucked into our games."

I wondered about Tim's choice of word.

Merle was about to take his jeans off, in anticipation of putting on the pants of his rented tux. Was he going to change here, or go to the bathroom? I would have liked to crawl into his head and watch the gears turn on that one. And they turned quite a while. Finally he said, "Just how far do you guys take this?"

Tim said, "Never any farther than somebody is comfortable with. You don't have to go to the bathroom to insure that nothing will happen. But you have to go to the bathroom to insure that we won't look."

"Hal, I know Tim and Charlie are gay. But you're dating Sue. I thought you were going to marry her."

"I am. But after you spend a lot of time with Tim, Charlie, and the others in this Gang, you learn that everyone is a little bit gay, even if they are a whole lot straight. But you have to let yourself go."

"Does Sue know you play like this?"

"Of course. Someday we'll tell you the story of me and Franklin on the bus."

Tim moved over to Merle and asked, "Would you like me to help you with your jeans?"

Merle certainly understood the implications of the question.

I decided that it was time for me to go to the bathroom and take a shower. Merle was a junior, seventeen or possibly sixteen, with unknown parents. It was one thing for these kids to play. Quite another for me.

Before I got out the door, I heard Merle say, somewhat hesitantly, "Yes."

About ten minutes later Tim joined me in the shower. He said, "No orgasm now, I want you hot all evening, and we'll do our thing tonight."

"What did you guys do to Merle?"

"Put him on the bed, pulled off his jeans and shorts, tickled his balls, and asked him if he wanted more."

"And he answered?"

"He said, 'Yes, oh God, yes.' And he got it. But we limited it to hands, we weren't sure that he was into being sucked."

"You guys are too much."

"It's fun, Charlie. I know why you came in here. I'm sorry you missed the fun, but I understand."

"Do you think that Merle's going to want to play again?"

"I have no idea. My guess is that he will feel a little guilty, and may not want to go again."

"Are you going to tell Tina?"

"No, we told him he had to."

"That will be harder than taking off his clothes."

"It's a good test for him with Tina. If he can't handle that, he can't handle Tina."

"You're right. Well, we need to get dressed. I didn't need this shower, but I had to get out of the room."

Carl put on his tux at the dorm and drove over to our house. Similarly, Mike arrived already dressed. We had white orchid corsages ready; the limo arrived-a huge stretch affair-and we all got in. At each girl's house all six boys tumbled out of the limo and went up to the door to escort the girl back to the limo-first Carol who was at her dorm in St. Paul-our arrival created somewhat of a stir!-then Sue also in St. Paul, then back to Minneapolis for Tina, then Myra, Helen and finally Ginny. I don't know what their parents thought as six boys called for their girls, but we at least looked good, and treated the girls graciously.

We were going to dinner, the prom, the after prom party, and then for breakfast at Tim's and my house. We had made it clear to everyone-including Tim's parents-that if we fell asleep at Tim's it would be in the living room, not upstairs in the beds. With newcomers, this wouldn't be a sexy evening-despite the little adventure with Merle.

We had a private dining room at the Western. Mike insisted that he was the host for dinner. "Listen guys. The money from my pictures was a pure gift from you. This is my thank you dinner. And believe me, I have made a lot more than this dinner will ever cost me."

Shrimp cocktail. Salad. Filet mignon with baked potato and perfectly done asparagus. The most delightful fluffy lemon pie with meringue crust. Some thought it was perfect, without wine-especially the Coke drinkers. Wine would have suited some, but all but me were underage, and I certainly had no intention of testing the restaurant. We seated ourselves around the table boy, girl, boy, and we put Helen and Myra on both sides of Tim. We were going to be absolutely certain that they didn't feel left out.

On to the dance. Some kids had rented limos, but that was before it had become the "thing to do" on prom night. Nothing on wheels that evening was as big as ours, and we made somewhat of a splash as twelve of us got out. We easily paired off as our tickets read and moved inside. The gym was lovely-the decorators had outdone themselves. Then we moved over to the bandstand and almost passed out. Right in front was a huge orchid arrangement in the shape of a trophy. It had "TIM" woven in red among the white flowers. Below it was a copy of the Yearbook, with a blowup of one page-a picture of Tim with the caption, "Voted Senior of the Century." Next to it was a blowup of the cover of Sports Illustrated. Tim was the honorary grand marshal, grand poohbah, or grand something or other of the prom. The music started, and Tim was expected to lead the dancing. The band was playing Chubby Checker's "Come on, Let's Twist."

I have rarely seen Tim so nonplused. He wasn't expecting any of this, and neither was I. We immediately suspected Tina, but she swears she was as surprised as any of us. The Prom Committee-mostly kids that Tim knew only slightly-had done it all. But they had now put Tim in a very awkward position: Who to dance with?

It was as if they had known this would be a problem for him. The Prom Committee Chair, who would be the Master of Ceremonies for the evening, walked out on the dance floor where Tim and I and a couple of the others from our group of 12 were standing, more or less transfixed. He took Tim's hand, took my hand, and said, loudly, over the music, "Let's see you do the twist."

Tim snapped out of it before I did, and said, "Come on, Charlie, that's for us." OK, if that's what they wanted, that's what they got. Tim and I really could do the twist, and twist we did. After a couple of minutes we stopped, walked over to Helen and Myra, and brought them into the dance. Tina grabbed Merle, Hal joined Sue, Carl paired with Carol, Mike took Ginny, and we all "Did the Twist." Then the dance floor filled, and everybody joined in. We've kept tabs over the years. As far as we were ever able to determine, it would be 22 years before another boy-boy pair danced at a high school prom in the Twin Cities. But the force of Tim's personality, and his extraordinary athletic skills, and his pure guts, enabled him to dance with me at his Senior Prom in 1965-to enthusiastic cheers.

Every girl at the prom wanted to dance with Tim, and most seemed eager to dance with me as well. It wasn't long before they figured out that Hal was someone pretty special as well. We were worried about Myra and Helen feeling left out. I danced with Tina a while and asked about the two girls. Tina replied, "They're having the time of their lives. Every girl's so totally jealous of those two coming with you and Tim, that they're just glowing. And, Charlie, you and Tim have been so kind to them-starting with the first dance, and including them regularly as you whirl around on your merry-go-round. Myra and Helen are having a night they will tell their grandchildren about. Don't worry about them."

All good things come to an end and so did the prom. The after prom party was at the YMCA. It was the PTA's way to try to keep the drinking under control, and especially the drinking and driving. It started at 12:20 and you had to come by 1:00. If you came, you had to agree to stay until at least 4:00 a.m., and they insured that no alcohol got into the party. The group naturally divided in two-one group interested in the entertainment-the best part was a really good magician. The other group moved toward a huge, very dimly lit lounge, good for "making out" but not dark enough for serious sex. Tina and Merle headed for the lounge; the rest of us for the entertainment. By three we all headed for the lounge, and Tim and I found a huge overstuffed chair in a corner that would hold the two of us as well and Myra and Helen on our laps. We sat for almost an hour, and probably dozed a little in that time. The girls clearly enjoyed kissing us, and hugging, but nothing more. That clearly wasn't anybody's expectation, and nobody even hinted.

At four we headed to our house for a huge breakfast, and more lounging in the living room. Betsy and Norman served breakfast, but then headed upstairs leaving the twelve of us alone. I knew that Carl and Carol, and others, might have headed upstairs for the beds, but that wasn't on the program. By seven it was time to take everyone home. Rather than six boys, each girl was escorted to her door by her date-I took Helen and Tim took Myra. Both girls enjoyed a good morning kiss, thanked us profusely, and-except for a thank you note or two, and a couple of casual conversations as graduation approached-passed out of our lives. Tina reported that they walked on cloud nine till well past graduation, and had the best time in the world answering questions from almost every other girl in the school. Tina said that sometimes their answers actually matched reality, but who cared. Tim's and my reputations could only be enhanced by stories that suggested that we really liked girls!

At 9:00 a.m. Tim was diving in the Southwest High pool. I'm afraid that I wasn't much use as a life guard-I slept poolside.

Tim had an appointment with Dr. Olafson for Monday morning, now about a week before graduation. He had a simple request. "Dr. Olafson, I have been the center of too much attention around here for too long. This graduation cannot become the Tim show. I decline being the valedictorian, the honor must go to Mike-we have equal grade point averages. There are about six or seven other prizes that probably have my name on them. Thank you, but I decline. But there is one award I would like to know about. The PTA gives an 'Others First' award. Honest, am I going to get it?"

The kid had balls. How many times have I said that. How many more times in my life would I say that. By now, Dr. Olafsen was used to Tim. He replied, "Yes, of course. We'd give it to Charlie, but he isn't a student-he's the one that has to put up with you. I don't know how he does it."

Tim wasn't phased. He was on a mission, and wasn't going to be deflected. "Dr. Olafsen, please let that be the only, and I mean only, special recognition for me at graduation. I would be honored by that award. It's enough. Please."

"Tim, how can we not give you awards that you have earned. You and Mike are scheduled to be co-valedictorians, both of you speaking. People want to hear you. You're the biggest thing to ever hit Southwest High School. We're losing you. We want to say goodbye."

"The prom was enough. The cheering at my final swim meet was enough. Please."

"OK, Tim, I'll agree to your request, if you will agree to mine."


"When you get your award, you give an acceptance speech. You were scheduled for five minutes as co-valedictorian, take the five minutes to say thank you then."

"It's a deal. And I march through the line in alphabetical order, under T. Agreed?"


"And the diploma says, 'Tim'. And only 'Tim'."

"Agreed. But your transcript has to have your legal name."


"Tim, there's one thing more. After you speak I have to tell the audience about this conversation. For Southwest High School to graduate you without recognizing the honors you have earned would be unacceptable. I will just say that I wanted the audience to know that Tim had declined to receive any awards but 'Others First.'"

"No, Dr. Olafsen. I'll say it in my speech. It should come from me, not you. But I'm not going to mention anything specific, including valedictorian. I will not have Mike's honor diluted."

"OK, Tim. That's fair."

Mike didn't think so. When he heard of Tim's plan he flatly refused to accept the valedictorian title. Tim worked on him. I worked on him. Dr. Olafsen worked on him. It would be co- or nothing. Dr. Olafson was stuck with an impasse. Three days before graduation, with the programs going to press that afternoon-they are printed at the last minute, because they need final grades to see who graduates-Dr. Olafsen got the two of them into his office and said, "You're not leaving until you tell me who is the valedictorian or co-valedictorians. No food. No water. No going to the bathroom. Make up your minds." Dr. Olafsen left. I was outside, and we sat together waiting. In about fifteen minutes the door opened. Mike said, "I'm the valedictorian. All alone. I promise to give a good speech."

The Gang had decided that trying to go to everyone's graduation was simply going to be impossible. Besides, there was no need for the kind of encouragement that we provided at marathons, wrestling matches, and swim and archery meets-graduations celebrated past achievements. Tim and Hal would attend each other's. The Michigan trio would attend each other's. Ronnie and Franklin were already in college. Franklin and Phil decided to come to Tim's.

Hal's graduation was two days before Tim's. Much was made over his athletic achievement, including his 9th place in Boston-even though that wasn't a school achievement. He was almost as much of a hero at Como Park High School as Tim was at Southwest. At the family party afterward his father had a huge blow-up picture of Hal on the wall. It was of his Junior High School completion ceremony-they reserved the term graduation for high school completion. This was just before the summer of Camp White Elk. It was the old Hal! Stooped, long hair, couldn't look at the camera. He just had the aura of a loser. Hal took one look at the picture and simply laughed. "Did I really look like that?"

His father said, "Yes, Hal, you did. Cameras don't lie. We loved you then and we love you now. But before all the honors at the ceremony today go to your head, we thought you ought to remember where you've been."

Tim walked up to Hal and kissed him, right on the lips. "Hal, it has been wonderful knowing you, seeing you change, loving you all the more."

Hal's eyes were moist as he whispered "Thank you," and kissed Tim right back. Then he came over to me and said the same thing just before he kissed me. Then it was Sue's turn, and she and Hal showed that while others may love him dearly, Sue was his true love!

Two days later at Tim's graduation, his "Others First" award was given early in the ceremony. At most graduations this is one of a list of insignificant awards given out, perhaps one of the least significant-something that changed dramatically that day. In his acceptance speech-unheard of for most awards-he said that he had insisted to Dr. Olafsen that this was the only award he wanted at graduation-that his athletic achievements had been honored elsewhere and this honored what he thought was most important in life-love of others. That as he went through life he would be most proud if people could say that he helped others before himself-whether diving, vaulting, studying, or just living life. Then he told a story of a young man at camp who had told him, "My greatest joy is doing nice things for everybody. I go to bed at night reliving the pleasure of seeing other people happy. You think I'm being unselfish. But I'm terribly selfish. It's what I like to do. I thrive on it."

Tim had asked "But don't you have ambitions for yourself?"

The young man had answered. "Yeah. I do. I just told you. Weren't you listening?"

Tim then pointed to a seat in the audience where a head extended above all those around him (but one). "Franklin, stand up. I want everybody in this room to meet the man I most admire; the man I would most like to be. And not just because he stands more than a foot taller that I do. He stands taller because of an inner sense of love for mankind. Thank you, Franklin, for being my friend and my guide." Franklin was flabbergasted. Tim looked as serene as a bird on a nest. Finally Franklin sat, and Tim did as well.

It wasn't long before the valedictorian was to speak. Tim was visibly upset when Dr. Olafsen started telling the story of deciding who would be the valedictorian. Finally, Tim figured out that if Dr. Olafsen hadn't told the story, Mike would have.

Mike started his speech, "No one but Tim and I know how this thing was settled, but I'm going to let the cat out of the bag. There we were in Dr. Olafson's office, staring at each other, each determined not to give in. But we knew that Dr. Olafsen was serious, we had to produce an answer. Finally Tim broke the silence with, 'Let's arm wrestle.' I think that it may be the only time in history when a valedictorian was picked by arm wrestling. My answer to Tim was, 'Two out of three, OK.'


"I have six inches and 55 pounds on this little shrimp. And he beat me, two in a row." The audience roared. Mike continued, "So I have to give a speech. But how do you follow Tim? There are gymnasts, divers, scholars, and lovers all over Minnesota trying to answer that question. Perhaps my job as valedictorian here today is to try to answer that question. Tim wouldn't give this speech, but I'll share what I know would be his answer. Everyone that knows Tim, spends any time with him, competes with him or against him, teaches him, coaches him, or loves him knows his answer: Love. Tim truly knows how to love. Not just Charlie. Not just his family. Not just his close friends. Tim loves everybody. He truly does. And for those of us that have shared in that love, and learned to love back, the answer to the question of how to follow Tim is easy. Love everybody, and the rest will take care of itself."

Mike sat down. Then Dr. Olafsen pulled his surprise of the day. Tim may have thought that declining a few awards would take him out of the limelight, but Dr. Olafsen would have none of it. Actually only Tim was surprised. He had a specially printed graduation program that showed the main speaker to be a Dr. Julien Hansen, of the University of Montana. What Tim did not know was that there was no Julien Hansen, and that his program was different from everybody else's. And all those everybody else's had been warned not to let him see their program and learn what it said. Dr. Olafson began his introduction of the graduation speaker by saying that he was a graduate of Rockford College, and had a reputation of being one of the finest camp counselors that Camp White Elk, in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, had ever had. He then noted that the speaker had the unusual habit of only using a single name, like a certain Southwest High diver. "That name is Charlie."

I got a standing ovation. Tim was in shock. I just chuckled. I started my speech by saying that I was delighted to be here, and thanked Dr. Olafsen not just for the invitation, but for one of the few chances that I ever had to get one up on Tim. I'm not really very proud of that speech. I rehashed a lot of truisms that I had shared with the Gang, and especially their parents. About asking questions. About honesty. And loyalty. And love. And about becoming a "new" person. I told some stories, including my own, in that regard. I hinted at Hal's but I didn't have time to really tell that story. And I concluded on Mike's theme about love. I thanked Tim from the bottom of my heart for his love, of me and of everyone. I'm embarrassed to say that I got another standing ovation. Dr. Olafsen walked over to where Tim was sitting, and guided him up to the podium with me. We hugged and kissed, briefly, exactly as Dr. Olafsen had choreographed the whole event.

Giving out the diplomas was an anticlimax. Dr. Olafsen insisted that both Tim and I stand with him. I handed each student the diploma and Tim gently hugged each one of them. When he got to the "T"s, Tim was ready. He got his diploma right after Jerry Tillman. Just as Dr. Olafsen handed him the diploma, Tim jumped up, grabbed him around the neck, and gave him a huge hug. Tim whispered in his ear, "I ought to kiss you just like I did Charlie." Dr. Olafsen just smiled, leaned over so Tim's feet hit the ground, and sort of handed him to me. We shook hands, to a laugh from everyone, and we went back to handing out the rest of the diplomas.

Norman and Betsy's party afterward was huge, joyous, and filled with everyone laughing at Tim's shock to learn who his graduation speaker was. Norman came up and said, "I'm not sure I really wanted to be credited with the comments about haystacks and the back seats of automobiles. However, a lot of parents heard that today; maybe it sunk in for some of them."

Dr. Olafsen was at the party as well. Tim engaged him in a heated conversation almost immediately. "Dr. Olafsen, you knew I didn't want to be the center of attention at graduation. Why did you do all of that?"

"Tim, Southwest High wanted to. I talked to faculty, parents, school board, everybody I could think of. Everybody said something like, 'You have a straight-A student, outstanding athlete, nationally prominent, universally loved and admired in the school and the entire Twin Cities area, how can you not make a fuss over his graduation?'"

"But to bring Charlie in as speaker. That was pushing it."

"I talked with a lot of people, and everyone agreed that Charlie had to be part of it. He isn't a student, he's a college graduate, and an outstanding one at that. He's an established author. And he's part of the team of Tim'nCharlie. He had to be there. I got only one raised eyebrow among the school board when I suggested it at a closed meeting-and that was from one of the people that was outvoted when they adjourned that special meeting a few months ago. So there it was. Unusual, yes. Appropriate, yes. And, Tim, getting one up on you was a true delight!"

Tim jumped up, grabbed him around the neck as he had on stage at the graduation, and this time he did kiss him, right on the lips. Dr. Olafsen didn't even seem surprised.

An incredible high school career was over.

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