Row Boat Man

In the Spring of 1976, I told my dad that I was thinking about quitting school. I was not asking permission. Back then, a 16 year old in Illinois could quit without parental consent, no signature required. My older sister quit every other day. Okay, just once a week, on average. She’d stomp into the school office on her way out the door, slam her books down on the counter and declare, “I quit!” And, on the very next day, mother would march her right back into the office to re-enroll.

Sis was emotional, so her quits were always in reaction to something, a tiff with a teacher or whatever. Mine was different. My quit would be an action, not a reaction. Much consideration needed to go into my decision, which is why I wanted to talk my dad. It never occurred to me that my parents may object. But, like I said, I wasn’t asking.

He did not tell me no. Dad never tried to control me, at least not in my teen years. I didn’t even have a curfew. I was expected to be courteous, to let my mother know if I would be home for supper, to call if I was going to be out late. At the most, he’d say, “think about what you’re doing.”

Oh, he did firmly ask me to stop trying to sign my sister up for the Army. That’s about as close as I can recall of him ever telling me no on anything, and that was just because they were getting tired of recruiters coming to the house. Yeah, every time my sister ticked me off, I’d fill out one of those military postcards in her name, get her a free pair of socks or whatever incentive was offered for requesting more information. Do they still do that? Maybe it was a 70’s thing. Those postcards were in about every scholastic magazine.

When I told dad that I was thinking of just not going back the next year, he knew it was my decision. I would be 16 in July. All he did was ask me why, and then he told me a story about a man in a rowboat.

Yeah, a man in a row boat. This poor sap set out to row his little boat all the way across the ocean. It was a long and perilous journey, months and months at sea. He was almost there, but he didn’t know it because he could not see the shore. Just another day or two, and he’d be there. But, he was tired, so he told himself that it’s too far away, he can’t make it, may as well give up. So, he turned his boat around and rowed all the way back.

It made a lot of sense. I already had 11 years of schooling, so what’s two more? Even if I did not graduate, I’d still have a 12th grade education.

Still, it was my decision. I opted to sign up for Graphic Arts at a vocational school for the next year to give myself a change of pace, with only a half day of High School classes. I was back in regular classes for 12th grade, as we moved to Ohio just before my senior year and Graphic Arts was not an option at the vocational school there. And yes, I graduated at age 17.

This is on my mind tonight… not exactly sure why. Maybe it explains why I don’t give up so easy, or why I hang in there far longer than I should at times. If it is a relationship, I don’t want to start over with someone new. If it’s a goal or a project, then it’s a “what if I’m almost there?” Maybe I’m just lazy. I don’t want to row my boat all the way back across an ocean.

Thanks for reading!

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