13 March 2017

Karate Chopped Michael

Hebrews 12: 5-11

I was learning karate in 2nd grade.

I do not recall the particular subgroup of martial art.

A karate instructor was teaching the art for free at the local Elk's Lodge where my dad was a member.

The sensei didn't believe in profiting from forwarding the art to others.

He had received his first degree black belt and I recall him sharing how he'd have to travel to Japan for the second degree.

As a thank you, my dad took him (and I) up for a flight in a Cessna for his birthday out of Compton Airport, where my dad had a hangar and was building his first RV-4.

He was grateful for the journey overlooking southern California.

The karate lessons didn't last more than a year.

My sensei received a job offer that had him move out of state.

One rule of his was that the art was never to be used in an offensive manner, but only in defense.

If he were to find out we were exploiting our training, we would be excommunicated and expelled.

So when I found myself one an early morning in the middle of an insult match with a fellow schoolmate, I failed to obey this very simple rule.

Michael was one of 40 students in my grade at the Catholic school (St. Matthias) I attended.

I don't recall being physically attacked by him, but when he mentioned my mother in a slanderous joke, that was enough to trigger me to violence towards him.

I wasn't afraid of Michael, and this was partly the motivation in responding as I did.

Some of the other boys in the class I was intimidated by, so even with my 'training' I wasn't confident with the thought of being in a fight with them.

The moves were swift, quick and about three in count...and Michael was on the floor.

Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Brunetti the 4th grade teacher witnessed my momentary rage.

Mr. Brunetti was a giant of man in the eyes of any 2nd grader.

He was a college athlete, having once played football.

Out of all the administrators and teachers at that grade school, Mr. Brunetti was (to me) the most authoritative.

Only the priest (Rowdy Gorman) and perhaps the principal (sister Mary Lucy) were scarier to me than him; the elderly nun due to her old age, position and religious dress and the priest due also to his dress and position.

I figured if I disrespected these individuals my eternal fate may be in jeopardy.

And by 'scarier' I mean I respected them possibly more than I did my own parents...maybe only my grandparents did I respect more.

So when Mr. Brunetti grabbed me with his index finger and thumb behind my neck (as was his custom with any rowdy and undisciplined child), I was afraid for my life.

My 2nd grade teacher was his wife, Mrs. Brunetti.

My perception of her was the complete opposite of her husband.

My experience with her was one of kindness and patience.

I recall her not giving me a failing grade for a workbook that happened to have been doused in pancake syrup.

I thought surely she would have to grade me for the missing work, but she was sympathetic to my distress from the ruination of that workbook, and I didn't receive a mark for the workbook's absence.

I had a large wooden chest full of toys in which I also would occasionally place some schoolwork items.

Not sure how syrup ended up being poured into my toy chest; perhaps a vengeful sibling or some freak accident, I don't fully recall.

The morning I hurt my classmate Michael with the art of hand-to-hand combat, I was tossed into the classroom of my 2nd grade teacher Mrs. Brunetti by her husband Mr. Brunetti and his two fingers.

I'll never forget the confused look on her face, and the manner she rested her head on her hand with elbow planted on her desk while looking at me and the manner her husband handled me.

The verbal exchange between the two of them I don't remember, only the particular visual highlights from my frightful experience and me most likely crying in fear.

The thought of me sharing any of that day's events with my parents was out of the question.

I never did share it with them.

I feared for my dad's life if he were to confront Mr. Brunetti, thinking my dad was no physical match for Mr. Brunetti's six-foot stature and 350 pounds.

I also knew my dad had quite the arsenal at home and I couldn't have Mr. Brunetti's blood on my hands.

Unfortunately, I had a negative perception of Mr. Brunetti from the outset, most likely due to his authoritative demeanor, ominous voice and grand presence.

I know I was an undisciplined child that would do any and every thing to undermine any teacher's authority.

My misbehavior was why I was made to be an altar boy.

Church service was something I did take seriously.

My continued misbehavior was why the 6th grade teacher, a first-year nun, scheduled an appointment with myself, my parents and the priest.

And when the priest recommended military school to stamp out my waywardness and rebelliousness, it is no wonder I had a certain view of some individuals who desired to reign in my bad behavior.

I can only imagine the likes of Mr. Brunetti having to handle several dozen brats like me on a daily basis.

God bless Michael, Mr. and Mrs. Brunetti, Mr. Gorman, sister Mary Lucy and sister Mary Francis.

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