Memories of Aaron
- Aaron my friend and mentor part two ‘The Best Year and the Worst Year’ – by Derek Dwilson
Aaron my friend and mentor part two ‘The Best Year and the Worst Year’ – by Derek Dwilson
I knew a man named Aaron. He died at age 35.
Aaron was a religious fanatic. Aaron was a health fanatic. And Aaron was very very smart.
Aaron was so smart, that he got a scholarship to college. Aaron figure out that the scholarship paid for all the classes you want, but only for two years.
Not wanting to waste money, Aaron took twice the number of classes at a time. He still graduated at the top of his class.
While Aaron was blazing a trail through college, he also met and married an upperclassman beauty of his choosing. This was all the more impressive, because as he would readily admit, he was not an attractive man.
Aaron was that rare nerd who exuded confidence.
Aaron was brilliant, but he was also often misunderstood. Sometimes Aaron made people uncomfortable. Sometimes it was on purpose.
Aaron did not respect anyone’s right to be comfortable. He would ask uncomfortable questions. Say inappropriate things just to see how you react. Aaron had the habit of being a little too honest. All that mattered to him was getting at truth by any means necessary.
That is because Aaron idolized another guy who died in his early thirties. Aaron thought, rightly so, that Jesus saw truth as a universal good.
But Aaron took it further than that. He thought that seeking truth with sincerity is the most important endeavor in life. He thought the niceties that stood in the way of true understanding should be done away with in favor of the greater good that is truth. Even if it became uncomfortable. Aaron was a steadfast and committed adherent to the principle I would come to know as “Intellectual Honesty”. And Intellectual Honesty became something of an obsession with him.
Aaron was an idealist and a determined man. He was a father already by the time I met him. And he would go on to father another nine children with his only wife by the time he passed at age 35.
If that sounds like a wild ride, then just you wait. It gets weirder.
While Aaron was winning at life – living with his new wife and wrecking house in college, he also volunteered at church. A lot. Well not at church, which he attended several times a week. WITH church.
Because he was a Bible Quiz coach. Bible Quiz is where you memorize books of the Bible, and then go to competitions to test your knowledge vs. other people. It’s an amazing sport and because of Aaron, I was in it.
Aaron had us practicing 4 hours twice per week and going to every tournament in the nation. Cramming into his tiny car and driving to Pennsylvania or Houston or Las Vegas – this was not uncommon. In the one year that Aaron was my coach, we must have gone to a dozen tournaments or more. And we were also developing a deep and lasting friendship that would last our entire lives.
I looked up to Aaron and I wanted to be like him.
Aaron finished his degree and he knew what he had to do next. He had a scholarship to grad school, and he wan’t going to let that pass him by. Aaron was planning to become a professor at a Bible college, and advanced degrees were required. He moved to Missouri to prepare for school.
But he also took me with him. Me and my teammates. The Bible Quiz season was a month from being over, and he couldn’t just abandon us right before the big tournament. He let us move in and sleep in a guest room. We did this for an entire month.
We also gave up sugar for that month and fasted for 8 hours a day, but that’s a story for another time.
We went to the national Bible Quiz tournament, and my teammate tore it up. Hundred of participants, and Michael was the very best. Me? Not so much. Nothing like Michael at least. Our team took fourth place, though we were very close to winning it all.
We said our goodbyes and Aaron began his master’s degree coursework. This was the last time I saw Aaron on this trajectory, because tragedy was about to strike.
You see, Aaron’s body had been trying to kill him for a long time. Aaron had a strong will to live, and his internal organs didn’t want anything to do with it.
He suffered from intestine afflictions from the time he was young. In response, Aaron became very smart about medicine and food and nutrition. He was forced to experiment and analyze and study – just to stay ahead of it.
For a long time, he was ahead of it. But in graduate school – it got the best of him. It hit and it hit hard.
Aaron went to the hospital to be treated, and ended up staying there for quite some time. It nearly financially ruined him. And in the process, his doctors made a huge mistake. They made it worse.
And Aaron, ever the optimist, told me that he was really glad they made that mistake. Because he was going to benefit from it.
You see, as it turned out, the hospital knew that they made a mistake. And in an effort to avoid liability they had decided to fly in another doctor. A better doctor. One that Aaron could never have afforded. And the hospital was going to pay for it.
Aaron counted this a miracle, and if I’m being honest I have to wonder if he may have been right. Were it not for that new doctor, Aaron’s life may have ended then and there. But this time in the hospital took a toll on Aaron in more ways than one.
Aaron’s struggle with Opioid withdraws are a matter of public record, and this was where that started. His doctors, in an attempt to ease his suffering, had inadvertently cause Aaron to have a debilitating addiction. One that he would eventually defeat, but not before suffering a great deal.
The story about how Aaron finally kicked his addiction is an amazing one, and one worth telling in Part three.
- Aaron my friend and mentor part one ‘The Smartest Man I Ever Knew’ – by Derek Dwilson
The Smartest Man I Ever Knew -Part 1-
I would’t lie to you or exaggerate. I’d never want to deify the dead. But Aaron wasn’t just some guy. He was the smartest man I’ve ever known.
Now that sounds like a funny way to begin a record like this. What I aim to accomplish is to record my memories of a man who meant a heck of a lot to me. And who left this world far too soon.
But I know that some of you may not have known the man. And my first introduction to Aaron was that this guy is exceptionally smart. So maybe that’s a good place to start.
When I first met Aaron, I had already known him by reputation. He was involved in my church. He attended a local bible college, Southwestern Assemblies of God University (aka SAGU my alma mater) and was running the Bible Quiz team. I knew him because he knew everyone by name. Just tell him your name once and he would never forget it.
But that’s not what made him so special. What made him special is that he could recite everyone’s phone number as well.
I recall as he approached my cousin and I. My earliest memory of Aaron.
“Lesley Capehart? Right?” he said.
Before my cousin could answer, Aaron began to recite his cell number “617-8456”
My cousin Lesley, impressed but wary, “I told you that like two months ago”
Aaron “I remember everyone’s number. (looking at me) What’s your phone number?”
The other thing I learned about Aaron before I met him is that he had figured out a way to buy large Little Caesars pizzas for just a quarter. His trick was having an exceptionally large brain.
You see, the Little Caesars in Aaron’s town had a video game installed. It was just like the popular game Simon. Several buttons arrayed on a row. They light up in a sequence. The contestant must wait until the entire sequence was shown to him, and then reproduce it perfectly. Sometime the sequence will be quite long.
The game had various prizes for achieving a high score. If you score a certain amount, you get a coupon for a few dollars off your pizza. If you beat the game on its very hardest level, you get a free large pizza.
Of course these things are designed to make money, not lose money. But they did not design this model with Aaron in mind. Because Aaron was capable of beating the machine on the hardest setting every. single. time.
As I got to know Aaron, I would become aware of many more reasons to admire his smarts. As a 17 year old, Aaron had become the top credit card saleman to work for JC Penney in the entire state of Texas. He made so much money, he was legally able to get himself declared independent. This he did to maximize the federal aid he received in college. And boy did he maximize.
When Aaron got to college, he lived on federal loans to finance his day to day living. But his college was paid for in another way – by scholarships.
You see, Aaron had two years of “full ride” scholarships.
Because these paid for every credit hour – no matter how many or how few – Aaron made a choice. He was going to take as many classes as he can until time ran out.
At a college where the average load is 15 hours per semester, an overachiever might attempt 18 – and struggle to keep up.
So when Aaron attempted 29 credit hours in a single semester, it immediately set a college record.
Of course his grades suffered from the large load.
Kidding. The man had the highest grades on campus. Straight “A”s across the board.
Not for pride but for the practical sense of it, Aaron decided to take on his own record and attempt 31 hours. Which he later tells me was a mistake because he got a B in one of those courses.
Before college, Aaron had been in Bible Quiz – a high-school teen competition. To compete, students will memorize a section of the Bible – sometimes hundreds of verses – and then answer questions about it.
Sounds slow and boring. It is very much not. Bible Quiz is fast paced and exciting. At these competitions, most people have memorized the verses. Perfectly. Not a single mistake, and they can quote them quickly. It’s amazing.
So when everyone knows the material, what sets apart one quizzer from another? Talent. Brains. Aggressiveness. Either team can answer any question, and speed at the buzzer is a deciding factor. The most clever you mind is, the faster you can “interrupt” the question and answer it correctly.
So Aaron took to this competition with vigor. And in short time was able to climb to the top. Aaron ended up in the individual competition at the national level and played all the way up to the championship match. He was bested in that match, barely, by a man considered by some to be the greatest quizzer of all time. In a field of hundreds of quizzers every year, this is saying a lot.
So by the time I met Aaron, he’d been the top salesman in Texas for JC Penny, he’d set school records and memorized books of the bible, and to even his own surprise, he’d managed to convince a woman much more attractive than himself to marry him. And if Olivia was not already with child when I joined Aaron’s Bible Quiz team in the year 2001, she would be soon.
Aaron was living his life at breakneck speed. And that amazed me all the more because he spent a ton of time with us, his Bible Quiz team.
And that is a good place to end what will be a multiple essay series. The next part will pick up where Aaron and I became close – when he was my Bible Quiz coach the year the towers fell.
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