“Where are my books?” I was irritated that I had to come in from outdoor play to do homework. My books weren’t where I’d left them.
“In here.” It was dad calling from another room.
I found him in a bedroom reading my sixth grade history and geography books.
“Sure is interesting. I love reading history and geography, don’t you?” Chuckling to himself, he handed me my books.
Are you kidding me? No one reads school books for fun! “I have homework,” was all I said, failing to appreciate that my love for learning came from him. He was just dad, and a bit of an embarrassment sometimes, I might add.
His name was Samuel, born in the early 1900’s. He was small in stature, with a head of jet black hair, a product of his Irish/Scottish heritage. He was born with a club foot, a deformity that did little to slow him down. Then when he was fifteen-years-old, he used that foot to push the hay down into the hay baler, where it got caught, mangling his foot further. That leg quit growing, causing it to be two inches shorter than his right leg. He walked with a pronounced limp that he tried to compensate for by padding the sole of his left shoe
He was one of thirteen children. There was never enough money for necessities, and certainly none for the luxury of medical care. He was treated with home remedies, and he healed the best he could. Properly fitted orthopedic shoes would have done wonders, had he ever owned a pair. He would live and die wearing a shoe he built for himself by taking the sole from another shoe and gluing it to the bottom of his left shoe to add height for that leg.
He was very intelligent, loved school and soaked in education like a sponge. But alas, children were expected to help the family financially, at least it was thus in poorer families where education wasn’t important. He had to quit high school after two years and go to work. Although a high school dropout, he never lost his love for learning.
His parents were good Christian folk, simple and hard working. They loved God, each other and their children, and did the best they could to provide and survive. They were of an evangelical movement where just about everything was considered worldly and a sin. He met my mother, Naomi, at church. She was also a dropout with only an eighth grade education, from a similar family background - one of eleven children born to simple, poor, hardworking Christian folk.
Dad was thirty-five-years old and mom was eighteen when they married. I am the second of their five children, the oldest daughter.
Dad’s legs would always be undersized and cause him great discomfort and pain. His arms, however, were something else. He had bulging, rippling muscular upper arms from years of heavy lifting and hard work. It was as magnificent as any body builder.
If there was such a thing as welfare, medical and food programs during my childhood, I wasn’t aware of it. It never occurred to us that the government should take care of us. We learned hard work, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and knew that survival depended on those abilities.
My dad worked in construction, which was not a booming industry when I was growing up. When work was slow or non-existent, my parents found other ways to generate income. Because it had been expected of them to help their families, they were not going to have those expectations of their own children. If we did any work, we were allowed to keep the money.
Cotton - I remember pulling a gunny sack beside my parents’ large canvas bags as we picked cotton. “Here, sis.” Dad would say with a twinkle as he dropped coins into my hand. It was hard work, though, and not something I volunteered for very often.
Fruit – Citrus, peaches, grapes, berries…you name it, if it was a summer fruit, we worked it, usually traveling to another state during summers to do so.
Scrap metal, rags, paper, cans, bottles – anything that could sell, we collected it.
Dad’s been in heaven since 1976 and mom just recently went into a care facility. Why is it that we seldom fully appreciate our parents until we are older and wiser?
Yes, my parents were dropouts, but they taught us lessons that couldn’t be found in textbooks. Thanks mom and dad!
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