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.

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Father’s Day

It is Father’s Day. I’m flipping through the Sunday newspaper and whoa, the familiar face of a man I used to work with in the obits, dead from cancer at the age of 52. Damn.

My dad once barked at a telemarketer, “What do you mean my friends? All my friends are dead!”

Not all… but as time passes, the unwritten list grows.

My father is an old man now with hair so snow white that it caught me by surprise to see that in a recent photograph, like whoa… how could I not notice, when I saw him just a couple weeks ago?

I am, as they say, a “daddy’s girl” as I have always felt close to my father. We share common interests and a simular sense of humor. We can talk for hours about anything and everything. He has a unique perspective, an understanding in a way others miss, occasionally shares an insight on something that make me think or ponder over for awhile. He has always encouraged me, guided me, and loved me unconditionally.

On this Father’s Day, my heart breaks for those whose fathers have already passed. Farewell Mr. Wargacki.

Little Story

Once upon a time, this dude set out to row a boat across the ocean. He got almost there but he didn’t know it because he wasn’t quite close enough to see land yet. All he knew was that he was tired of rowing. He told himself that he’d never make it. The other side of the ocean was just too far away. So he turned around and rowed all the back home.

Okay, that’s it… the end.

That’s one of little stories my dad told us when we were kids, paraphased a bit as I know the story but forget the exact words. I don’t know if he made it up or heard it somewhere. He had a gentle way of guiding us, giving us things to think about while letting us make our own decisions at the same time.

I don’t remember him ever telling me a flat out “no” about anything over the age of twelve, although he did tell me to stop trying to enlist my sister. He was tired of military recruiters showing up at the house.

The art today has nothing much to do with the little story about the row boat. Its a scanner image of a 4×6 colored pencil drawing, not sure if I posted it before.

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