Sunday, November 26, 2006

Stories of my family

In high school one of my teachers, social studies, recommended that we read a book by Barbara Ward called ‘The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations”. He said that, ‘there’s probably only one other copy in our town.’ I went home and mentioned this to my parents. My dad said, “I think I have a copy at the office” and my mother said, “I’ve got a copy downstairs that your aunt sent me and one upstairs that I bought at a conference.

My parents were also responsible for another social studies teacher having problems. I went into class one day and the teacher asked us, “What would your parents do if someone came to the door and asked for food?” Since my dad had been in charge of ministerial emergency funds in more than one community I put up my hand and said, “Give them food and if they needed lodging get them a room at the local motel.” So my teacher tried to make the situation worse and described someone dirty, ragged, and with a noisy car. I started to raise my hand and was told “Roger, don’t answer the question”. One of my brothers had the same class at another period and was told as he came in the door, “Don’t answer my questions today.”

This sort of story isn’t that unusual in my family. We have stories of my grandparents taking in people during the depression. Or in more recent years one of my cousins was working with some migrant workers. The boss put off paying them one Friday so he could get them back on Saturday. They had planned their money so that they could go back home on Friday and return on Monday. My cousin showed up at her parent’s house with several extra men at dinnertime. I might not always say that my relatives are nice, but I will say they set a good example.

I get some stubbornness from my family as well. One of my uncles got into a conflict with the college where he worked, or so I heard the story, and they thought they had him over a barrel. He quit. From teaching mathematics he went to tuning pianos. He made more money. A few years later he was teaching again – this time how to tune pianos.

At a recent family reunion one of my aunts mentioned that they didn’t know where the red hair in my uncle’s beard came from. I mentioned that my mother said it came from our great-grandfather K. She was surprised; my uncle – whom my mother had called her favorite brother – was surprised. Family stories get passed down different ways.

I sometimes wonder why all the criminal shows have people running up stairs. Don’t they know that they’re trapped there? Then I recall where my twin brother and spent many summer hours. We were up on the roof of the garage eating peaches. We were up on a limb of the locust tree. We were climbing the TV antenna to look at the purple martin house. Perhaps it’s not so strange that people flee to the heights.

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