Editor's note. From Fatnathan's Greatest Hits - here is a speech I gave at my old man's church for Senior Banquet the year my sister graduated from Ouachita Baptist University. Get your hankies ready, this one is a real tear jerker!
Jennifer Lyn Greer as her Brother Remembers
Jennifer was born November 6, 1978. She most likely weighed somewhere between six and nine pounds and was probably about 20 inches long. I don’t remember, I was two years old. Looking at her now, you can tell that she was born healthy.
I hear from Mom and Dad that she was a bit of a fussy baby, providing long, colic fueled nights of squirming and screaming. This fostered no resentment from the family however, she was a baby girl and she was beautiful. Really she was, if you do not believe me, then go take a look at the pictures on the poster board.
This brings us to the theme of the story. When I look back over what I remember about Jenni’s life, the one thing that strikes me as the underlying motif is success. Sitting here, right now I can not think of anything that she has attempted that was not a total success. This was no lucky streak though; the explanation for success is hard work and perseverance. Jenni is a hard worker who figures out what her goal is and works toward it in a straight line. Except when it comes to selecting a major, but that is beside the point. Back to our narrative.
My first memory of our childhood might seem random, but here it is. One of the older girls in my Dad’s youth group at church had aspirations of hair dressing. My parents being the encouraging mentors that they were volunteered Jenni’s head and mine for the purposes of science. Cutting my hair in those days was certainly no challenge. The only variables were the size of the bowl that was placed on my head and what was used to trim around it. Jennifer on the other hand knew exactly what she wanted. This was about 1984 and every female in the room knows where this is going . . . the Dorothy Hamil. To make a long story short, our friend from church was not yet a professional and Jenni is the one that ended up with the bowl cut.
About year or so later God moved us from the big city to Caney, Arkansas. While I was outside discovering seed ticks and BB guns, Jennifer was inside cultivating her musical talent. While she always had a beautiful voice, and I can recall many heart felt renditions of “I am a Promise,” the tune that sticks in my head was her two fingered piano rendition of “I Dropped My Dolly in the Dirt” She learned it quickly and rehearsed it regularly. I mean she played it over and over again. It was the last thing she did before she got on the bus in the morning and the first thing that she did when she got home n the afternoon. I dropped my dolly in the dirt. I begged her for mercy, I threatened bodily harm, I appealed to Mother and Father, but the only thing that saved me from certain mental break down was when one of her friends taught her to play “Heart and Soul.”
Jennifer moved on from music to softball. First with Sassy Scissors and later with Al’s Angels she played catcher, outfield, and second base. In the batter's box she hit the ball a ton (I can remember several inside the park home runs, and this from not the fastest girl in the mid-south) but mostly they won. I think that my simple city family had no idea that in the country, 10 year old girls were not only allowed but rewarded for playing in softball tournaments until three o’clock on a Sunday morning. Ashdown, Salem, Malvern, Pine Bluff, the dreaded Paragould, these girls saw them all and left with trophies. If Dad ever seemed a bit rambling or incoherent on a July Sunday morning about 1989-1993, it was because we had just gotten back from the softball complex in Fort Smith or perhaps Sheridan a few hours before church time.
When fall rolled around softball season was over, and Jennifer needed a new sport to excel at; enter cheerleading. I feel bad now for all of the times that I aggravated her by saying in my best valley girl voice “Hi, My name is Jenni with an I, and I am a cheerleader, and I am so popular.” But she was. Without the silly voice. She was a great cheerleader, eventually working her way up to captain in college. Besides, anyone who volunteers to stand on the sidelines in Mountain Pine Arkansas in a tiny little uniform when it is thirty degrees outside with a stiff wind and look happy about it, deserves better than a lazy non-athletic fat brother making fun of her.
Jennifer Greer is one of the best students I have ever seen. She is smart, and always made good grades. The most impressive thing to me was how well she plays the school game. She always did her homework, (all of it) she studied for every test, and when she got to college and it became an option, she still went to class. I was not any good at any of these things. When we were young, our parents told us that if we studied hard and got our college paid for; they would buy us a car to drive to school. I took the cynical pessimistic approach and figured that I could ride a bike at college, I’d rather not have to do my homework now. Jenni took them up on it and in 1997 graduated Bismarck High school a governor’s scholar, having never tasted even a B grade in her entire public school career.
Here we are four years later and she is through with college. Did you hear that, through with college in four years. I spent parts of six or seven years at college and am no where close to being through. When Jenni was little and she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, her standard answer was “a doctor.” Here she is at 22 years old and she has finished her undergrad with a degree and grades that might just get her in to medical school if she decides that she wants to go. No matter what she chooses as the next step for her I am sure of one thing, she will succeed. She will succeed because she will work hard and persevere. She will succeed because she has a loving family and church family and great friends that will support her. Mostly she will succeed because she will trust God and follow him. History shows us that Jennifer Lyn Greer is a sweeping success, and we are more proud of her right now than ever before.