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Silver Linings

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Most people I know take many greatly sought-after things for granted, such as having a family, having money, having free time, or getting too many presents at Christmas to count. These are all dilemmas my grandfather once faced. He was placed in an orphanage when he was two years old, and lived there until he was thirteen. The first family to take him in did not actually want a kid, they wanted “basically a slave to help run the farm”, he says, thinking back. After running away, back to the orphanage, another family took him in: the Scotts. They never really adopted him, but it was close enough for him to look back with fondness and thankfulness. My grandfather had to put himself through college, and to do so he worked at a grocery store all year long. In addition, he worked for Mr. Scott’s construction company throughout the summer. During high school, he worked two summers at a cemetery, digging graves with a shovel and mowing the grass by hand. After college, he was given the choice to either join the military or be drafted. He joined the Air Force, and was on the Reserves list until the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even though he was faced with many obstacles in life, he overcame them and went on to be successful and secure, which is why he is my hero.

Life presented Papa with many challenges, just as Odysseus was, but he was always able to look on the bright side of things. Through it all, he has kept a positive disposition and learned from his experiences. Looking back at the orphanage, he thinks of it as a big, loosely connected family. “We had lots of brothers,” he recalls. “We lived on a large farm, and everyone had their own chores to keep it going… Everyone got along pretty well.” For nine years of his life, one of the best parts of Christmas was receiving an orange, as only a sparse amount of fresh fruit was served. To this day, he loves fresh produce of all kinds. Weaker people would have been set back by his past here; however, he views it as a satisfied time. He had joy and friends there.

However, he knows that his time there made his experiences completely different from most, and he accepts them for what they were. He admits that though he probably missed out on some things, such as close family connections, he also had some times that most do not get to experience. Odysseus was also able to testify to events, people, monsters and divine encounters, which very few can relate to or understand. My grandfather had different experiences, though they taught him life lessons as well. With everyone living in such close quarters, he learned how to be diplomatic and self-reliant. “There were no parents to guide us, so it was just a big pile of all of us kids’ ignorance grouped together.” He says, laughing. “There were some great pranks, though.”

After graduating from college, Papa became a gym teacher at a local middle school. He had always liked playing with kids, and he was very athletic. Odysseus himself was extremely strong and athletically gifted; he was also quite smart. The Scotts were both teachers, as well, which influenced him greatly. Growing up in Muncie, he was around many Ball State professors, and they always seemed to be pleasant, with decent lives. He wanted to be a coach of some type, as well. Throughout his career, he helped others realize their potential as an enthusiastic, encouraging teacher.

While he was teaching, the Air Force activated his unit for the eruption of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was part of the military now, just as Odysseus was in the Trojan War; however, Odysseus yearned for battle and Papa resented being taken out of the classroom. He conducted many practice runs with the Air Force, dropping bombs and supplies out the back of his C119. He was only gone a month, but he was totally prepared to go die for our country, to fight for our people and our freedom.

Though he encountered many obstacles, possibly the hardest to overcome was his speech impediment. The summer before he went to fourth grade, he went to IU for the break, where the professors helped him learn how to truly talk. Before this time, people had to “interpret what I was trying to get across,” he laughs, remembering. He attacked this difficulty with determination and dedication, and went home from IU with perfectly pronounced words. Odysseus never had a speech impediment, but one of his greatest obstacles in the Odyssey was his self and his inevitable character flaws, including his pride and distrustful nature.

Everyone changes over his or her lifetime, and people develop defining characteristics. Odysseus left Ithaca for Troy with an enormous amount of cunning, but throughout his travels, it eventually matured into wisdom. My grandfather identifies his defining traits as self-reliance and hard work. If he is going to do something, he is going to do it one hundred percent. He has instituted these values in his children and grandchildren; consequently, those are both high on our family’s standards of behavior.

Papa is not the classic superpower hero, but he is my hero. He had a life that was different, and possibly more challenging, than most anyone else I know. He faces life with courage, dedication, and determination. My grandfather is a great inspiration to me, which is the real discerning quality of any hero. If you look around, you will probably find that there are heroic qualities in everyone. They just need to shine through every now and then to put the person in the true hero category. So, try to let your own heroic qualities shine through, and take a good look at everyone around you. “Find the silver lining in life.” This was one of the first life lessons he drilled into my head. If he had not always followed that philosophy, where would he have gone in life? Where will you go, if you only see the storm clouds?





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FAST Tiger said...
Sept. 17, 2008 at 12:12 pm
Great job, Emily! Very well written and I enjoyed the article.
 
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