How Smart?

“No, I’m not crazy. My mother had me tested.” -Young Sheldon

Curious about their withdrawn intelligent child, our parents had Jon take the IQ test in fourth grade when he was ten years old. He did very well, missed just one, and that was due to context. Our homeschooling mother said it was her fault for not yet schooling him on who Anne Frank was. We never knew Jon’s exact IQ, because about three quarters of the way through the test, he got up and walked out of the room. “I’m tired of sitting down,” he announced, “I’m done.”

The proctors reviewed his results and time, guesstimating Jon was in the 160 range. So? How smart is that? I had to look it up. Guess who else got a 160 on their test? Albert Einstein. And someone you may know named Stephen Hawking. Jon was in the genius sub percentile at just ten years old.

People with exceptionally high IQs like that often process information differently. Jon used to tell me he didn’t want to get a driver’s license because it was too exhausting having that information thrust at him, too much momentum in the possible equations. (Variables such as, damage report if that man steps into the road, if that car swerves now, if it swerves two seconds later, at a 13 degree angle, at a 20 degree angle etc.) His mind was reeling trying to keep up with the math, his eyes couldn’t stay on the road and notice if light was yellow.

Once, in a kitchen in Kihei, Jon explained to me the math he had been working on – quantum mathematics. Looking at String theory in a new way to prove the Big Bang theory using matrices — rectangular grids of mathematical expressions that describe the properties of the universe, and dimensions upon dimensions within the universe built of subatomic particles. He tried to explain it to me, and define quarks in simple terms too. I will be honest, I could follow for a few minutes, but the theory and math built upon themselves so many times that my mind started to loose the beginning fringes of it. “Basically, Sis, it’s as though all possible outcomes are happening simultaneously in each moment and in all moments of the past, interwoven. And all of that, all of this,” he picked up a jar of honey, “is really just a hologram, it’s not real.” I could wrap my mind around that. But I was too attached. Even if I’m in just one of the infinitely exponentially expanding universes, which is all holographic, perceived as real solely because my mind assigns meaning; I like the joy I find in thinking this is real, that I can affect it positively in some way. I hugged him, thanked him for being so brilliant and told him if this was all a hologram, I was happy to have him in mine.

Last week, my husband and I had dinner with the man who was Jon’s dive buddy in his Advanced Open Water Scuba Class and Rescue Diver course, Joel from Las Vegas. We cried, we laughed, remembering how Jon wasn’t forthcoming with anything about his mind’s innerworkings to Joel. Jon was not what you’d call a morning person, we have that in common, and he was silent as we set up gear. So Joel would say, every morning of the class, “Now Jon, you’ve got to quiet down. I can’t get a word in edgewise with you.” Jon would just look up and smile. And say nothing.

“He was how smart?” Joel asked, when I told him the story about my brother walking out of the IQ test.

Then Joel told us something we, as instructors of the classes did not know. He would wait for Jon to do the skill, and watch how he set it up, before copying him, because Jon always had good ideas, and a thoughtful approach.

I told Joel about this blog. About my idea to spread kindness, to make a positive difference in the lives of others, especially those down on their luck in Jon’s honor. I told him how Jon saw everyone as humans, as an extension of himself, and would not make fun of anyone downtrodden, not even a raving lunatic having a episode on the side of the road because “we all slip from our personal best sometimes.” I told Joel about Alex, the sad stranger I had seen on the side of the road and felt moved to offer conversation, hope and chocolate to. I shared with Joel that I intended to be on my game, open to feeling out where my donations of clothing, food, time, coffee, or assistance could best be received, acting when I felt drawn to help others.

Joel sat back, pointed to the sun setting over Napili Bay. I thought immediately of how Jon often walked down here to snorkel with sea turtles as Joel announced, “I’m inspired. I’m gonna go home and take your idea with me. When I see the homeless guy who frequents our area, I’m going to take him to lunch.” Now, Joel is a good man of his honor, I know he will.

There go the ripples. Put goodness out there and it extends out. They say we never truly know how far our actions radiate. Perhaps, like souls, like the dimensions upon dimensions exponentially expanding, that I really couldn’t show you mathematically, they are infinite.

Obituary and Remembrance Ceremony

Jon Ethan Bartlemay

December 2nd 1986 – February 18th, 2021

Jon Bartlemay, “Jon E. Ternity,” 36, of Napili, Maui passed on to the next step of his journey Thursday, February 18th, 2021.

Jon lived in Oregon, Idaho and Maui during his lifetime.  True to himself, he created a unique life filled with beauty and many passions. He was a Rescue Scuba Diver, a cook, an artist, poet, mentor, son, brother and friend.  All who knew him wished they had more time together.

Jon is survived by his mother Micki, father Charles, sisters Sara, Alicia, and Rebecca; brothers David, Chuck, and Michael. While Jon had a couple close relatives, his chosen family extended over oceans. He made a huge impact in the lives of so many, and will be remembered for his kind heart, strong light and gentle soul.

A Remembrance of Life ceremony will be held lovingly for Jon at his favorite camping spot on Maui, Tuesday, March 9th.

A Unicorn with a Hibiscus and a Man Named Alex

Today was rough. Jon and I had plans to be together today. I have a gig every Tuesday. Last Tuesday he was my official assistant. He was wonderful, and so helpful. And when I dropped him off I gave him a big hug and said, “I love you.”

“I know. I love you too.”

“So much.”

“Goodbye, Sis.”

I had no clue then what kind of goodbye that was. At the time, I thought I’d see him today.

I had a hard time getting motivated this morning, getting moving. He was supposed to be with me. He was supposed to be here.

Then the alarm on Jon’s phone rang – telling him it was time to get up to meet me. He’s not going to get up again. But I like to think he’s awake. He was always so present.

I mustered what I could to honor my gig and went in. I put on a smile for the little kids, and there were so many happy faces, feeling the magic and wonderment. But my heart was aching, I was fragile, holding it together for them.

Then this guy came over. He had flowers in a lei around his neck and on his head, and a big smile. I could tell right away this was a person who was comfortable with himself. He sat down and said, “Boy, aren’t you magical?”

I looked at him and said, “You seem pretty magical yourself.”

He laughed and told me that he had a unicorn horn. He’s a zipline guide, and he taped the unicorn horn to his helmet with galaxy tape. Galaxy. Jon loved that print, his wallet, his facemask, his shirts, so much in Jon’s world was about the universe. I felt a twinge. The guy got up and returned with a bright red hibiscus flower.

“This is for you. Can I take your picture? A polaroid? I’ll give you one too.”

He was just enough crazy to be fun, so comfortable to be around, and kind. He reminded me so much of Jon. And I told him, trying not to burst into tears. I said, “I lost someone close to me this week and you remind me of him so much. Thank you for being here.”

“Thank you for being here,” he insisted.

Our polaroid popped up and with a quirky smile, this fellow introduced himself.

“By the way, I’m Zon.”

Jon couldn’t be there today. But Zon was. I was comforted by the serendipitous connection.

Later today, I drove to Kahuluhi to see my ear surgeon for a post op check up. Afterwards, I went grocery shopping. As I was driving to Whole Foods, I felt the pull, the opportunity to give was clear. Against a store wall with a bank of windows, facing the street, with his face mask down and a very forlorn sad expression sat a man wrapped in a blanket.

I knew this was it. I should go to him, ask what he wanted from the store. But it was getting late and I wanted to make it back over to my side of the island before dark so I just went to the store. But I couldn’t stop thinking about him.

What cheers me up when I’m sad? Chocolate. XOXO brand dark chocolate sea salt almond, to be exact. I added one to my cart.

I drove back to his building, and parked the car. When I walked over, he was gazing out at traffic and looked surprised to see me. He tried to get up, to move, to be out of the way like an eyesore, allow me more space to go by, although there was already ample sidewalk.

Instead of walking past, I crouched down to his level and introduced myself, “Hi. I’m Sara. I couldn’t help but notice as I drove by that you looked sad. When I’m having a rough day, I find that chocolate helps, so I bought you my favorite type. Dark chocolate almond, I find it is a pretty good combo. But I know, we just met, I’m not even sure if you like chocolate.”

“Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“Oh good!” I passed the bar over to him.

“You live here?”

“Yes, on the other side.”

“What do you do?”

“I’m a scuba instructor.”

“Oh, that must be fun.”

“It really is. When did you get here?

“I landed in September. and now…I’m…sorta…in between. I’m….”

His voice trailed off and he looked out into space a moment. I wanted to finish the sentence for him because I felt the next work would be “…lost.”

“You know,” I told him, “I’ve heard that’s normal. A lot of people land here and it takes them a few months to get into a groove. Find their footing.”

He gave me a hopeful smile. “It does?”

“Sure.” I nodded. “I hear that from people all the time.”

His eyes were earnest.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“I’m Alex, ma’am.”

“Hi Alex.” I shook his hand.

“Thank you. You don’t know,” he took a measured breath, “what this means.”

I did know. Or I’m getting a sense. A purpose. I think Jon would have loved what I did today. Or at least loved the chocolate.

So there it is. The first one.

And so it begins.