Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thanks, Mom & Dad

I thought of my parents yesterday, my mom still with me and my dad gone for six years now. 

They raised five kids and worked full time, but that never stopped Mom from losing herself for a few minutes every day in a novel.  My dad got home from work each day covered in soot from working in a metal shop, and, after washing up, he would sit and read the newspaper, cover to cover.   Later, he’d retreat to his room and devour any and all nonfiction books on the subjects that interested him. 

This is where my love of reading and writing came from.

This past week I started tutoring at a local community college.  It’s been an eye opening experience.

On my second day, an older guy walked in.  He was probably in his late forties, his hands were calloused and scarred from years of hard work.  He carried a briefcase full of books.

When he sat down, he didn’t know where to start.  He fumbled with his papers, his syllabus, his textbooks, a writing journal.   We sorted through each assignment, but he still couldn’t put into words what exactly he needed help with.  He asked me to look at an essay he had turned in, but didn’t have it with him.  He asked me to look at his journal, which had received high marks, though he didn’t know what – or if – he should change anything in it.  Then we looked at his syllabus.  He wasn’t sure which assignment was due on which day and which book he needed to look at first.

After about fifteen minutes, he sat back with a frustrated sigh and said, “I’ve been working with my hands for thirty years.  I drove a truck my whole life, so I only listened to the radio, I never had the chance to read before.  I have a lot of thoughts.  I just don’t know how to get them out of my head.”

It made me think of my parents.  It made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up in a home where reading was important.  My parents taught me how to get my thoughts out of my head.  Not everyone gets that chance.

There’s a popular bumper sticker that reads, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”  I think it should say, “If you can read this, thank your parents.”

So that’s what I’m doing now.

Mom & Dad, thank you.


  1. Dad and Sis, thank you.
    My dad was a blue collar man of action as well but so often after a hard days work he would sit in "his" comfy chair and recite epic poetry and prose, "I must go down to the sea and the lonely see in the sky..." He was prep schooled before having to work with his hands to put food on the table.
    My sis,she lived for books and being six years older, she read to me constantly when I was younger. A teetering pile of books in the bathroom renamed it The Library. Thanks Amy, you are still the water mark I aim for.
    There is a book on reading aloud that culminates by stating what to so many of us is obvious, the single most important thing you can do for your child, save immunization, is read to them.
    Oh, yeah, and thanks ma for fanning my creativity and not reading as many books as you'd like while you were keeping it all together.

  2. I love this entry, Shelagh! My dad would often tell me to be grateful for my schooling, because he always felt himself shortchanged. He'd left Ireland with an eighth grade education, but always sat at the table and did his best to work with all of us at night. He opened his paper too, and read it from front to back everyday. He was a big fan of Reader's Digest and anything else he could get his hands on as well. He was most proud that he was able to take the Civil Service test and work the counter at our local post office. He craved print, saw education as the way up and out, but most of all, never stopped seeking more learning for himself. And that is what made him such an incredible role model for me!