Thursday, June 2, 2011

I never knew how much family can mean, until I lost part of mine. My father died when I was 2, and my oldest sister died when I was 12. She was taken suddenly, and rather violently, I never got a chance to know my Dad but I was real close to my sister.

In the 3rd grade I could never read the blackboard because looking at the board always made my eyes hurt. I remember sitting in the back, over on the right hand side. And one day there was this particularly difficult question. It went something like this “Richard, what is the sum of these two numbers?” I didn't know this at the time but it was 40+35. I learned afterward. If anybody here has ever taken a test you will know that with multiple choice you at least had a chance. You had a 1 out of 2, or 1 out of 3 chance of getting it right. But what could I do with that encouraging look 3rd grade teachers give bright but unfocused students? Today there is a saying that goes like is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, then to speak, and remove all doubt. I didn't know this saying at the time but I was employing that tactic. I was just too scared to say anything.

I was HELD BACK, or as some called it..I Flunking Out. When this happened, I didn't even know what flunking was, and here I had gone and done it. That turned out to OK, because that’s what led my parents to the eye Doctor. And they found out I had really bad eyesight. They took me to the optometrist and had me look thru all those lenses, and find out which ones were going to work for me. I'm leaving out a lot of the good parts, otherwise we would never get out of here. but when I got my glasses, (anybody remember those big black framed ones?) On the way home I remember hanging out the back-seat window and staring at the trees and the grass and the sky and anything else I could look at. It's like I could SEE now, and that was the beginning of the world opening up for me.

But seeing the world was only half the solution, being able to understand it was the other half. And that's were my sister Kathy came in. She gave up her nights and weekends to sit beside me on the couch and take my hand in her's and move my finger across the page as she read with me and for me on the bigger words. So when I close my eyes and SEE Kathy sitting beside me on the couch, it reminds me life can be short. So we do all the good we can, to all the people we can. When I was at school, when the other kids went to recess, I went to the resource room and got out books and cassette tapes and a tape machine, and put the headphones on and listened to the narrator read the story while I followed along in the book. It felt like cheating, but I had a lot of ground to make up. Here I was in the 3rd grade (for the SECOND time) and I was not going to do this again.

That year my sister Kathy started me on a journey that isn't over, not by a long shot. I still read. I read for fun, I read to learn. I found out that like my sister I have a knack for teaching. Now when I teach, or when I share a viewpoint, somewhere in the back of my mind, it's as if I'm sharing space with Kathy. And so when I teach, the knowledge isn't GONE from my head. It doesn't drain out just because someone else has it now. I'm not diminished by what I give away. It's like I'm a candle, and I light other candles, and when I do the whole room becomes brighter.

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