May 20, 2019-
A book of memories and reflections, written by my brother (5 years my junior), came in the mail today. It set me thinking, again, about my own lessons learned, over the years. My book may well be written with the same tools he used, but it will wait until I have made a fair amount of progress in a good friend’s archival project, on which I embarked today.
Dave is one of the lions in my life, and seeing our childhood through his lens is a sublime treasure. He’s gone after what he has wanted and not been deterred by setbacks-whether imposed from within or from outside forces. He has also set me to thinking, hard at times, about the direction of my life- usually when I least wanted it, but always when I needed it.
My late father-in-law was another lion-and had a roar to prove it. He nonetheless had a loyal and loving spirit. Norm was made in the crucible of World War II, in a mixed Prisoner of War/Concentration Camp. Those lessons left him at first shaking his head, at what Penny and I thought of as “life challenges”, then compelled him to stand behind us, when the life challenges became all too real.
As an educator, I have learned as much from the students who gave me comeuppances, as from those who were my cheering squad. David B was a full-on lion, seeing exactly what needed to be done, who was keeping it from getting done and how to cause the riot necessary to get the human barriers out of the way. In school, it got him in trouble-sometimes with yours truly and more often with the more conservative school principal,Peter Webb. In life, David’s leonine bent eventually got him killed.
Mr. Webb was a lion in his own right-and arguably the only reason I was able to keep my job for a full two years, before Mr. Nixon’s ax cut Title I funds, in 1978. He saw my work ethic, though, and when I took a job in rural southern Arizona, Mr. Webb was a key reference.
I had a rough and tumble time, whilst working in some of the neighbourhood schools in the barrios of Phoenix’s western suburbs- and in a few of the more “upscale” areas, as well. Had it not been for Robert T., and his fiery tongue, I might have stumbled, unchanged, through the five years of balancing being Penny’s primary caretaker with earning money by substituting, and been a good deal less useful.
I was not the finest of classroom instructors. My presentation was only a slight notch above Ben Stein’s character, in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. Robert had seen the movie, and did not mince words about his needs as a student not being met. I didn’t last long in that setting, but I drew the needed lesson. I’ve often thought of Robert T, and would not be surprised if he has made a fair success of his life-learning difficulties aside.
Lightning enters our lives, when we don’t listen to the lions amongst us. There were a few such strikes in my life: You have read of the worst of them, the last few years of Penny’s disease. There were cars wrecked, all but one, by other people, and that one had been compromised by someone’s tampering, in the night. There was a financial wreck, directly related to our struggles with dis-ease. There were jobs lost, to political wrangling and my own stubbornness.
The lions, if we listen closely, can steer us away from the lightning.