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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Passage

"You should have seen the grin on his face as you walked across that stage!"  Doris was herself smiling broadly as she told me this news.  He had flown to Iowa to watch the ceremony.  That same ritual was being repeated all over the country at that time.  I was only one of thousands that marched, meditated, and majestically moved from one chapter of life into another.  That sunny afternoon across Iowa, across the Midwest, across the entire Republic young men and women, and even a few old folks, donned gowns and tasseled mortar boards and took from deans or presidents diplomas signifying a completion of studies.  A rite of passage....  And, Dad was there for me.

Mrs. McD probably never knew how much that information meant to me.  Combined with remarks made to me by my father's good friend and family mechanic, I knew for a certainty that my father was proud of my achievement.  Dad never graduated from high school and to see his youngest son, then another of his sons a few years later, complete the rigors of a degree program, perhaps gave him the satisfaction of knowing that all the years of hard work, including an extraordinary amount of overtime, was worth the effort.

I find it interesting that volumes have been written about the relationships that exist between fathers and sons.  From Freud's nonsense about sexual rivals to the old chestnut that a boy never becomes a man until his father dies, much has been said about our relationships.  All that I can confirm is that for most of my life I interpreted what I felt as a lack of a loving relationship to some failing of mine or his.  I never understood him.  I am certain that he never understood me.  Yet, as too often is the case, it was only in the remaining years of my father's life that I realized how wrong I had always been.  Forget the psychobabble.  Especially forget that crap about "absent" fathers and domineering mothers as a cause of male homosexuality.  Dad loved me.  He nurtured me as best he could.  He prepared me for the world of work by his example.  He taught me generosity of time and resources by his example.  He taught me to reject prejudice by his example.

I can only hope that during my 25 years in the classroom I inspired just one boy or girl to believe that he or she could attain their dreams through hard work and determination.  Yes, a bit of luck and money would go a long way to assist them, as well, in these difficult days.  Having loving parents that support their dreams is crucial.  Not once did my father discourage my dream of going to college.  Not once was I criticized for reaching for more of the American Dream than what poor folk could expect to obtain.  Dad never pushed me.  He plowed the road ahead of me.

I am grateful that God gifted me my Dad.  I am the man that I am today because my father and mother loved me.  And, I miss them both...



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