Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My father's day

May 1975 Shippensburg State College

Has anything like this ever happened in your days
or in the days of your ancestors?
Tell it to your children,
and let your children tell it to their children,
and their children to the next generation.

Joel 1:3

We have all seen the TV dad thoughtfully leaning back with his arms crossed behind his head, his eyes closed, remembering—and his kids scurrying to get away before he launches into a long, drawn-out tale from his past. However, sharing our stories is important. When we tell our stories we pass on faith, values, courage, love, respect, and so much more.

My child, pay attention to my words. Open your ears to what I say. Do not lose sight of these things. Keep them deep within your heart because they are life to those who find them.
Proverbs 4:20-22

I remember one story in particular that my dad told me many times. Daddy was in the army during the Korean Conflict and qualified for the GI Bill, funds granted by the government to veterans for college. However, when he got home from Japan, he had to immediately start providing for my mom and me, so he went to work, thinking he would attend college later.

Daddy never did get to college. He often talked to me about wanting to be a teacher and regretted that he hadn’t taken advantage of his GI Bill. My desire to go to college grew from the seeds of his regret.

When I enrolled at Shippensburg University, I thought I would like to teach, like Daddy had always wanted to do. During my junior year, as part of my education courses, I was required to pre-student teach. I was assigned seventh grade English at Shippensburg Junior High School. I can still feel my blood pressure rising, my palms getting sweaty and my stomach knotting up when I think about that semester.

It was horrid. The kids were totally disrespectful and I had no idea how to earn that respect. I recall distinctly longing for lunch so I could escape to the teachers’ lounge. How could my dad wish for a career in this profession? To me it would be torture!

One especially exasperating day I was trying, and not succeeding, in quieting the kids so that we could begin class. A curly haired boy who was well liked among his classmates came up to my desk and volunteered to get their attention. I told him to go ahead and try. He simply shouted “Hey! Listen up! Let’s give the lady our attention.” Then he turned to me and smiled. I could have kissed him.

At the end of that semester, I knew that, no matter how much I loved Daddy, I couldn’t handle a classroom day after day. Although I wanted to fulfill his dream, and become the teacher he never got the opportunity to be, I withdrew from college at the end of my junior year. Daddy never criticized me or berated my decision.

During the summer, I decided I still wanted to get a college degree, but not in education. I switched from a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education to a Bachelor of Arts in English. I spent my entire senior year cramming in literature courses and writing papers. I loved it!

Daddy came to my graduation, his pride in my achievement undiminished, despite my lack of a teaching certificate. The afternoon I received my degree, I truly felt it was my father’s big day, as well as my own.

The sad truth is, I never told him—I never let him know how much his words inspired me to further my education. So on this Father’s Day, I hope he is somehow aware of how thankful I am for his encouragement. College prepared me for many situations in life outside of a high school classroom—including becoming a writer. Thanks, Daddy, for sharing your story! Happy Father’s Day in Heaven!

©2014 Pamela D. Williams