THE PARENT FILES: History Repeating itself (again)(sort of)
Some of you know a little about my past, in particular, how I graduated high school only because my math teacher, instead of failing me, was kind enough to give me a D, which allowed me to avoid repeating my senior year. I suspect she was pressured by the school district superintendent to improve my final grade so that I would not return to high school.
Such pressure wasn’t personal – I wasn’t a behavioral problem. I was taught never to embarrass my family, which meant never getting caught, and I always made sure that any mischief for which I was responsible could be backed up with plausible deniability.
So it wasn’t personal. My teachers and their superiors hardly knew I was there. But my illiteracy was a problem that could only be solved with time and distance. There is a de facto practice in American k -12 education commonly referred to as “passing the trash’ – i.e., moving academic failures through and out of the system to make room for others who might do better, and upon whose coincidental achievement administrators could claim responsibility and point to as proof that they were doing a good job.
I was one of those who could not be used to ensure job security, so, as a purely pragmatic alternative, I was allowed to graduate high school.
But I did not go on to university. My guidance counselor, Dean Rothy, told me bluntly and often that I was not “college material.” There were probably hundreds in my senior class like me, and untold thousands over the years. Like me, they were unsuited for university because, like me, they could barely read and write and needed the fingers on both hands to accomplish simple math calculations.
My long-absent father appeared and offered me an alternative. He offered me the chance to accompany him as he drove from Amsterdam through Europe and the Middle East (he lived and worked in Saudi Arabia, and would pay for his trip by selling the car once he arrived back in Dhahran), to be left on the Jordanian/Israeli boarder to then make my way wherever I wanted for as long as I could afford to stay.
I jumped at the chance. I stayed seven month, primarily in Europe.
That alternative – the opportunity my father provided – was the first in a series of events that ultimately lead to community college where I learned how to read and write (math still escapes me), to university, to law school where I met my wife, to a home and family and now a son who has graduated high school and on his way to attend university in Montana.
Even before my son was born, I resolved to travel with my son, or daughter, as my father once traveled with me – even if for a shorter time. I arranged such a trip, but my son could not go with me because of unforeseen and unplanned for pre-university examinations. So I cancelled his plane ticket and cut my trip short, returning when my lecture tour was finished.
Now, those exams are over. At the end of August my wife and I will be loading up our van with my son’s stuff and driving across the Rockies to move my son into his dorm room.
Which gives time in the middle to take my son to Europe.
It will be expensive, but what the hell? The cost of my regret for not doing it will be greater than the cost of the trip, which will, in time, be utterly forgotten.
So a few hours ago I booked the flights. Like last time, we will arrive in Dublin, take a train to Galway, see some friends, travel back to Dublin, see some friends, then to London (to see some friends and visit with Jeremy Bentham) then the Eurostar to Paris and on to Caen to see some friends and to visit Omaha Beach – which will fulfill one of my son’s dreams.
Desire is destiny.
NEXT: My awful experience with Travelocity trying to cut expenses by obtaining a credit for the tickets (my son’s round trip and my flight from Paris to San Francisco) to subsidize the cost of this new trip. To make a long story short, I gave up on the idea of a credit and booked our flights through Orbitz for half of what it would have cost me using my credit through Travelocity. I will never, ever use Travelocity to purchase anything.