My father was a self-made man. Like many children of the Era, he had to leave school at a young age to go to work and then serve in the military. He was amazing even without the benefit of higher education. If it was mechanical, he could fix it. Electrical, no problem. Plumbing, he had that too. After his time in the military, he became a Chrysler mechanic and was one of the best in the area.
I loved elementary school. I could not get enough. Junior high is when I started to take some wrong roads, by high school I was totally off the rails. At 17, I found myself in a severe deficit of points to graduate and also pregnant. So I dropped out of school and was not concerned, at the time, of the future ramifications.
A few years of partying later, my mother set me up to get my GED. I never studied, got high before the test and went in without reading a question and completed the two hour test in about 20 minutes. By the grace of God, I passed. But it had nothing at all to do with me.
I finally settled down and decided to take a few college classes here and there. I actually enjoyed doing that. I began to realize just how much I did not know. I came to the realization of all the years I had wasted. I began to work harder to make up for the lost time.
No matter what anyone says, I thoroughly enjoyed community college. I gained practical knowledge that I was able to use in every aspect of my life. I went to school with adults who wanted to better themselves. There was a sense of community that I enjoyed.
As I tended to do when I was younger, my ego ran the show. The more classes I took, the more good grades I got, the bigger my ego. My thought at the time was how I pulled myself up from the bottom and I was finally moving forward.
My life started to become very small as my knowledge started to enlarge. I wanted to experience life from a perspective, not of a small town, but of a worldly person. Circumstances, at the time, were such that I felt I really could not go anywhere. Honestly, there was no way that I was ready to explore on that level. So I stayed where I was and became more bitter by the day.
One evening, after a very successful night of watching Jeopardy with my parents, ego at full mass, my father took my aside and said something I will never forget. He said that I should never get smarter than him.
I took those words with a perceived hostile intent. I could not believe my ears. How dare he insinuate that I was not worthy or maybe able to educate myself. I went home that night and fumed about those words. That night a chasm formed between us that just continued to grow.
Not long after that night, I had gone to the grocery store with my mother and when we returned we found that my father had passed away in his chair from a heart condition. This man had raised me by himself after the divorce. He was hard on me but also, albeit, a bit too lenient. Our relationship was strained but now it was done.
I eventually graduated from college and decided to pursue my bachelor degree at a local liberal arts school. There I found a different type of class work. We dealt with theories and conceptual ideas. Not as much real life experience and I floundered. I ended up leaving a few credits short of my degree.
My father’s words never were far from my thinking. I still could never rationalize why he said that to me. I have since gone on to be a student of my own college. I learn by reading and on line work. I ask more intelligent people questions. My ego got the point, finally, that I was not the smartest person in the room nor would I ever be.
As I tend to do, I repress those moments in time that present me face-to-face with some of my low points. One day, my father’s words came to my forethought and I had to come to some sort of term with them.
As happens so often, over time things do become clearer. False contexts seemingly disappear. I realized for the first time what may father had actually meant.
He wanted only the best for me. That is why he gave me a hard time about some things. He also wanted me to get the wildness out of my system early so I could move on. Those words he spoke to me that sad night had nothing to do with how much or how little I learned. The picture was much more personal.
My father wanted not to hold me back but what he wanted was for me to throw my arms around him and tell him that no matter what that he would always be my hero. Plain and simple. He did not want me to move on without him, which I basically did. I think I broke his heart that night when I abruptly walked away carrying all the indigent emotion that I could hold.
He has been gone quite a while now, but my life was forever changed by his legacy. Some good, some bad. And now always clouded with those words I never uttered. Dad, you are and always will be my hero.